I’m a huge Monster Hunter fan with over a thousand hours in the series, but as timing would have it, I never got to review any games in the series back in season one. Well here we are, and I’m around to review Capcom’s latest entry in the series: Monster Hunter Rise.
…I embraced the new wirebug mechanic…
Monster Hunter has always had a very “boots on the ground” type of combat to it, and that includes the latest entry: World. But, knowing adaptability is literally THE primary skill you develop playing this game series, I embraced the new wirebug mechanic in Rise. Early on, I found myself using it very little, and it honestly seemed to increase my mobility too much making hunts far too easy. But I underestimated Capcom: all my worries about all this verticality and mobility were washed away in the endgame as monsters are quite a bit faster in an effort to balance out your newfound agility. This is further balanced out by a better monster health scale with four players making fights still feel just on the edge of getting punitively knocked around, and that includes against some of the popular monsters in the franchise. It’s also used to ride monsters, and while that is admittedly a tad wonky and needs some work, it sprinkles in some chaotic respite. Some small quality-of-life improvements include no more hot or cold drinks and itemless fast travel, but gameplay overall remains steadily consistent and visceral: it’s a slow yet highly action-packed boss fight time and time again no matter what your weapon of choice is. And that leads to the addictive cycle that makes this franchise so alluring. Let’s just say you’ll spend a lot of time on these forging screens building your loadout for various monsters. Find gear you like, see what it takes, grind for it, et voila: you’re ready for the next boss fight. They’ve also changed their big sideshow fights into what is called a “rampage”, and while the limitations of the Switch’s hardware make these a lot less of a spectacle than they could be, it’s also a bit of a shooting, tower defense minigame-respite to keep things from getting stale.
To see the game’s real bosses will take a bit of grinding…
There’s no pretending that this isn’t a smaller overall game than World. There’s also an interesting misstep here where you’ll see these credits roll just 7-8 hours into the solo village quests. Just know that when you see this, you’re actually about 1/4 of the way through the game. To see the game’s real bosses will take a bit of grinding through a smaller (yet still decently healthy) roster. Part of the content is really that cycle of very deep equipment systems that will see you building multiple sets of armor and different weapons to have the right arsenal for the job. Then, you can also hire and use buddies to assist in farming materials for said equipment cycle. Knowing Capcom, though, expect to see DLC grow this content a lot in the future even though it’s already money well spent.
…I instead fault Nintendo for focusing on mobile hardware.
Folks, this is what effort by a 3rd party looks like. While these graphics are still dramatically far behind World which runs on an older, modified MT Framework engine, Capcom has pushed the Switch as far as it can possibly go using every ounce of available power, every trick, and every optimization in the book with RE Engine. The result is THE best-looking game on the Switch, and probably will be for the rest of time… just don’t look too closely at things or it starts to fall apart, and I’m playing it enhanced by an mClassic. This does all come at a predictable cost, though: the framerate. Particularly late in the game when a party beats solo’ing for 30 minutes, you’ll find most of your combat framerates in the 20s… even during said solo’ing. Yet, I will summarily say this on the graphics: I give Capcom all the love in the world because this is more effort than any other 3rd party will ever give the Switch. Thus, I do not actually fault Capcom here, I instead fault Nintendo for focusing on mobile hardware. And why do I blame Nintendo? Because Capcom took the time to do facial animation, create cinematic sequences worth watching, have crazy combat that fills the screen with absolutely joyful insanity, and didn’t hold back a single detail in the process. They made it ALL work. This includes the music being one of THE best game soundtracks to bless 2021, right down to the detail of the gathering hub palicos playing the taiko drums to one of the most sublime songs ever composed for a videogame.
…this is as good as it gets…
The question of what would happen if a 3rd party developer put the time and money into making a AAA Switch game has been answered. This is it: this is as good as it gets, topping even Nintendo’s own efforts. From the classic and challenging gameplay mechanics they maintained to new mechanics they’ve introduced, this smaller, more intimate Monster Hunter adventure punches above its weight on the Switch. That includes on a technical scale to a point where I look at Nintendo for holding this game back from what it could have been. And yet, that doesn’t matter, because Rise is the kind of game I will turn my Switch on for over and over again as more monsters and DLC are continually added.