Flagship monster Magnamalo debuts in Monster Hunter Rise on the Nintendo Switch. Capcom
Three years after skipping the portable gaming scene altogether for Monster Hunter World, the long-running franchise makes its comeback with a veritable monster parade on the Nintendo Switch with Monster Hunter Rise.
It’s both a return to form and a marked departure for the franchise, which first started to truly gain steam in Japan after it got ported on the Playstation Portable. The move would prove to be a perfect fit in a country that valued mobility. And while the series typically has its roots on home consoles, there’s something about a Monster Hunter game being on a portable gaming system that just feels right.
At the same time, Monster Hunter Rise represents a significant thematic and technical change for the franchise thanks to a story based heavily on Japanese lore, new mechanics and a horde mode that makes the game feel quite unique compared to past titles. The fact that Capcom managed to squeeze out this much performance out of the Switch is also quite surprising and certainly bodes well for future iterations of the series on portables.
If you can say one thing about Monster Hunter Rise, it’s that the Switch exclusive is definitely a modern Monster Hunter game, complete with all the benefits and trappings that it entails.
The black parade
You start out this time around in Kamura Village, a serene-looking settlement that has an unmistakably Japanese vibe to its design.
While Yukumo Village in Monster Hunter Portable 3rd had a similar feel to it, Kamura takes the Japanese theme even further, not just with the design of the village and its people but its story as well. See, beneath the peaceful exterior of Kamura lies a troubling and violent history known as “The Rampage.” This event is marked by the appearance of a horde of monsters that suddenly swarm the village, leaving a wake of death and destruction in its path. Eagle-eyed aficionados of Japanese culture will notice that the theme behind the Rampage bears similarities to the hyakki yakou or “Night Parade of a Hundred Demons.” This supernatural occurrence from Japanese folklore typically involves a large number of creatures such as oni or youkai taking part in a swarm of monsters under the direction of one powerful demon.
The Rampage adds a new twist to the gameplay that can be quite fun, especially in a group. Siege fighting is something that has been hit-or-miss in the history of the series and Rampage mode, fortunately, falls under the “hit” category for the most part. The mode requires some strategic thinking in terms of what weapons to install, when to use heavy hitters such as Dragonators, Splitting Wyvernshots and powerful villagers, as well as which monsters to target first to prevent your defenses from being overrun. That being said, it’s not perfect. Folks who don’t like tower defense games and want to just focus on hunting, for example, might not appreciate its inclusion, especially during times when you’re required to clear a Rampage skirmish to progress the story and find yourself stuck against a powerful apex monster. Tickets from the Rampage are also important for some types of crafting, so it’s something you can’t just simply ignore.
Kamura Village from www.monsterhunter.fandom.com
The mode can be especially overwhelming when playing solo as you’re in charge of setting up your installations while also being responsible for shooting down flying monsters and knocking down the specialized gatecrashers that can destroy your defenses quickly. This is on top of worrying about regular monsters that constantly press their attack. Things improve immensely with the addition of even just one extra player, however. By splitting roles and having one player man the ballista platforms and another fight monsters straight up, for example, Rampage mode becomes a more enjoyable and manageable affair.
Some of the new monsters especially add an extra Japanese flavor to the mix. While you have series staples like Rathian and Rathalos, you also have creatures that are inspired by Japanese ghost stories, like the hatchet-wielding Goss Harag and the almost Sadako-like Somnacanth, who looks like it just crawled out from a well. The game also sports some of the most creative monster designs, not just in terms of looks but movesets as well. You’ve got the playful Bishaten, who acts like a cross between Master Asia from G Gundam and an Olympic gymnast. The martial arts theme extends to new monsters such as Aknosom who sports some graceful kung fu moves.
The Kamura Village from Monster Hunter Rise on the Nintendo Switch. Capcom
The old-school Asian theme is also carried on to the game’s overall motif. From the use of old brush art for illustrations as well as the grainy movie-style intros for monsters that come with old-fashioned lute and song, Rise goes all-in with the traditional vibe. Even the background music in the village and gathering hub sang by shrine maiden twins Hinoa and Minoto have a sweet and at times haunting traditional quality to it, which further lends to the game’s Japanese flavor. It’s a testament to the great job that Capcom did when it comes to the game’s production values, which are top-notch. Sometimes, I find myself having a hard time believing that this is a Switch game. With the exception of developers such as Nintendo, many games for the portable console typically feature graphics that decidedly look “previous-gen” — something that makes me appreciate Rise’s stellar visuals even more. It shows that the game was not designed as an afterthought while the main Monster Hunter team works on the console follow-up to whatever follows the popular World and Iceborne.
Monster Hunter Rise from www.theverge.com
Monster Hunter Rise also has a more coherent feel to its story, something that the series is admittedly not known for. World and Iceborne tried to serve up a more fleshed out narrative but it still wasn’t a strong point in the grand scheme of things. For its part, Rise is a tad better storywise, especially when factoring in the roles of the Wyverian sisters, which can be eerily fascinating at times. However, it still suffers from the same narrative hiccups of past games, particularly their tendency to play up serious moments that ultimately don’t lead to much of anything as soon as you return to the village and find things to be pretty much the same as they were.
Then again, storytelling isn’t exactly Monster Hunter’s forte. Instead, the franchise’s gameplay has always been its calling card, and Rise is no different in that regard.