Gaming

The Monster Hunter Rise demo incorporates the best of both worlds

Since the PlayStation 2 days, Capcom’s Monster Hunter franchise enjoyed a slow and steady growth in the West upon each release, with a dedicated audience lapping up any excuse to bust up a wyvern. All that seemingly changed overnight, though, when Monster Hunter: World, a title very much developed specifically for the Western market, shot to the top of the charts. It quickly became not only the best-performing title of the franchise, but the bestselling game the company had put out in its long and storied history. Now, it’s up to a Nintendo Switch exclusive, Monster Hunter Rise, to carry on its legacy.

If the game’s new demo is any indication, the latest installment is up to the challenge. A 30-minute monster fight was enough to assure me the return of traditional combat in Monster Hunter Rise is helped, not hindered, by the success of World.

Monster Hunter Rise palamute

Holding onto tradition

In the past, fighting game-like precision generated a heavy learning curve. While that ultimately added to the charm and challenge of the hunt, it resulted in a hardcore reputation that Monster Hunter: World‘s divisive simplifications and alterations were conceived to rip apart at the seams.

For all of Monster Hunter World‘s silver screen-style skirmishes, its success instilled into veterans a bittersweet fear that the baby they’d supported over generations had grown up and found its own identity. Thankfully, the two-team setup over at Capcom’s Monster Hunter division has seemingly found a way for both sides to come together in perfect harmony.

After the recent Monster Hunter Rise developer showcase, a time-limited demo was unleashed on the Nintendo Switch eShop. The resulting stampede promptly crashed it — something that likely never would have happened if not for World‘s success. In the demo, players are tasked with taking down two distinct monsters: aA Great Izuchi, and the returning bubble beast Mitzusune. For World babies, the latter is a wholly new experience, whereas the former is something new for everyone. Players will find other monsters around during your missions, but those are the main targets.

World‘s omission of contrived animation locks, as well as a comparatively small roster of monsters, lack of interchangeable hunting styles, and streamlined items like the clutch claw, all contributed to veterans viewing it as a lesser game compared to the last Nintendo Switch offering. Most of the above has carried into Monster Hunter Rise, yet the amalgamation feels natural, resulting in enough similarities to hopefully bridge the player divide between the two.

Monster Hunter Rise Mizutsune

In with the old, in the with new

In teh same way that World tweaked the classic formula while retaining the core kaiju-killing appeal of the franchise, the Monster Hunter Rise demo highlights how to properly borrow an idea. The grapple mechanics of World‘s slinger and clutch claw items have been mashed together to create Wirebugs — a recharging resource that fuels the game’s lightly sped-up combat system. Rather than slowly rolling out of harm’s way, these consumable slingshots can fling you straight over a monster’s attack, toward a potential weak point, or even up a mountain to chase after a retreating target.

There’s more to it than simply spinning around a boss, though. After sliding, slinging, and teleporting around World‘s vast maps, verticality plays a major new role in getting around — hence the “Rise” name. Locations are by no means as luscious as they were on last-gen consoles and modern PCs, but they’re just as open. The fragmented maps, invisible walls, and loading screens of the last Switch title are no more, and hunters are free to chase monsters across the plains — either by riding a pupper pal or by slinging over mountains and mud hills like Spider-Man.

Even as a seasoned veteran, tghe gameplay demonstration was enough to tell me I’d need that in-game tutorial to figure out the new major mechanic — and I wasn’t wrong. Utilizing wirebugs means using some combination of ZL and R, X, and A, with the effects varying based on whether your weapon is out or sheathed, you’re rolling down a hill, diving off a dog, or attempting to climb a cliff.

It’s a welcome, natural evolution of World‘s wedge beetles and the clutch claw, and I fully expect Avengers-level slam dunks to crop up in YouTube montages for years to come as people practice their newfound powers. It’s a daunting piece of kit, but after a couple of hunts, the possibilities are clear. Fans of MH: Generations may be sad to see it seemingly replace hunter styles and weapon-specific arts, but the two trick attacks each weapon seems to gain in their place do hark back to some of the game’s flashier auto-combos. All is not lost.

Monster Hunter Rise riding

A not-so-sweet ride

What I’m not as sold on just yet, though, is the Monster Riding feature — another byproduct of the wirebug. Mounting monsters has been a thing for generations, and it’s always under review with each iteration. When the Iceborne expansion launched for World bin 2019, the resulting clutch claw allowed easier, rapid access to the mounted state. With it, you could soften monster weak points and send them crashing into walls.

With enough skill, it was easy to exploit the mechanic to stun-lock monsters, trivializing once incredibly powerful foes. Monster riding differs in that you commandeer your target to attack another, but it feels too slow and unresponsive to be worth the effort. I’ll miss the struggle of holding on long enough to stab a mounted monster into submission, and while I welcome the return of the wall crash if it’s harder to come by, the slower pace of a monster-on-monster battle ultimately detracts from the carefully increased pace of Rise‘s traditional battle system.

Voice acting has returned to allow the series’ quirky humor to seep back in while being gruff enough to keep it from seeming immature. It’s best used to automatically call out dangerous monster attacks and ends up sounding like a Saturday morning action cartoon, but it ultimately gives newcomers a way to get to grips with the rough and tumble of the hunt without overdoing it.

What Monster Hunter Rise has cheekily taken from its predecessor sets up an adventure that should keep the vast majority of hardcore hunters from both sides of the gameplay pond pleased. For those who didn’t play into the eventual service game grind of World, you’ll struggle to find much of worth here, especially given the woefully subpar visuals that could have benefitted from a softer style. But for veterans who missed the difficulty and charm in World and the hardcore hunters who just exhausted its content cycle, Monster Hunter Rise should offer enough to entice both sides of the fan base to find common ground. Happy hunting.

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