By Kimari Rennis
I fondly remember the day when I was first introduced to the Monster Hunter franchise. I came home from high school, turned on my PlayStation 4, and my friends were talking about how they were struggling to fight a pink T-rex that sneezed fire. Curious, I asked for a share play so I could see firsthand what they were talking about. And there it was – Monster Hunter World.
Four years later, I have over 300+ hours on Monster Hunter World and I’ve beaten it three times, and 100+ hours on Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate. Half of my music playlist is filled with Monster Hunter original soundtracks. Now, I have my hands on my most anticipated game of the pandemic – Monster Hunter Rise! From the bottom of my Hammer-swinging heart, I feel that this is, by far, the best Monster Hunter game to date.
Rise is about a series’ evolution in the best way possible, especially if you’re new to the series. It combines all of the memorable and loved mechanics of both Monster Hunter World and Generations Ultimate. Designed to introduce new players into the series, Monster Hunter World had a fluidity that wasn’t seen in previous games. With all 14 different weapons, you felt in control of yourself – as if your weapon was an extension of your own arm rather than a burden of a tool that punished you for making positional errors.
Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate was a blast from the past for players who were familiar with the series before Monster Hunter World. With over 100 different monsters to fight and with access to all the DLC in the game, Ultimate was an action-packed distraction – a diversion for the masterpiece Capcom was creating behind the scenes. It had village quest systems that kept players busy and on their toes for hours; whether it was picking mushrooms, catching a Wyvern, or slaying beasts for the Chief of the Village, there was always something to do. Since the series is about hunting monsters with oversized weapons – village quests helped bring order and context to it.
Unlike World, Generations Ultimate had a confusing yet oh-so-satisfying complexity to its mechanics. The gameplay was so rich that an avid fan explaining the inner workings of the game to a new player would look like a psychopath fluent in gibberish with a suit made of black dragon scales. Sadly, I once made such a presentation pitching MHGU to my friends with little success.
The first slide is from my Monster Hunter presentation and below is the meme I received in exchange
But Monster Hunter Rise does the pitching for me! The game teaches the basics in an easy-to-digest manner – imparting things one by one and slowly trickling in the more complex mechanics, and then giving players the freedom to explore them with the subtle guidance of village quests. Monster Hunter Rise sought to combine the rich complexity of the old games and the ease of access for new players to make the Ultimate experience that satisfies almost all players on the Monster Hunting spectrum. They succeeded.
But I wouldn’t do the game any justice by saying that it only combines the praised aspects of the previous games. Monster Hunter Rise has its own flavor that makes it unique.
Allow me to start with the obvious Monster Hunter Rise twist – dogs with knives! Better known as Palamutes, these custom Canyne companions are speedy mounts, and vigorous fighters. Just like your feline Palico friends, you can make your Palamutes armor and weapons to use while they hunt with you. Whether you are on a hunt or simply walking around Kamura, your allies will always be by your side, and yes, you can pet and play with them.
Another major feature in Rise is the addition of wirebugs. They are glowing, teal insects that allow you to launch yourself in various directions in and out of battle via a thin glowing string. When you have your weapon sheathed and you use a wirebug, you can either lob yourself into the air, forward, left, or right in a quick manner, making it easy to dodge massive enemy attacks. When your weapon is out, using a wirebug will make you do creative, unorthodox moves, graceful and satisfying. With the hammer, I can become a vertical Beyblade – lobbing myself into the air while spinning and hitting a monster multiple times. Or I can perform an aerial move that ends with an earth-shattering ground pound.
With all that movement available, there are fascinating places you can explore. Monster Hunter Rise keeps barriers and boundaries in their world to a minimum so it feels like your exploration is limitless. In fact, you get rewarded for checking out areas of the game with ancient relics in the ground or secluded ruins that have extremely rare endemic life.
While I was on a mission to collect cacti in the desert, I took a detour and wound up finding a ruin with small secluded rooms. There was one room in the far back that had a small creature with these gold-colored wings (below) bathed in the sunlight from a cracked ceiling. It was majestic, and with the camera in the game, I cautiously walked up and took a picture of it. I didn’t know what it was but it looked like a domesticated cockatrice.
When you’re as cautious as me in the pandemic, staying indoors all the time and as far away from people as possible, you may become stir crazy playing the same games all the time. Monster Hunter Rise is the figurative breath of fresh air I’ve needed. All the monsters are unique and get stronger as you progress through the game, forcing you to adapt and get better. By this time, all the complex mechanics become second nature to you and they all fall into place during a fight.
The best fight, the most revolutionary fight, I’ve had in Monster Hunter Rise was against Nargacuga (above), a quick panther-like Wyvern with slick black fur and razors along its arms. In previous games, I had a lot of trouble fighting it due to its fast and powerful nature. As a returning, super powerful monster versus seasoned player, we had the showdown of a lifetime. Switch-Axe in hand, we had our duel in the Forgotten Ruins, a luscious green, bamboo-filled forest with mossed-over remnants of a forgotten civilization. Our blades clashed, and whenever my character shouted, “Something’s coming!” I’d stare Nargacuga right in its red eyes and dodge its lightning-fast tail attack. After the tenth time dodging Nargacuga’s sharp tail, I sliced it off and the Wyvern tumbled to the ground.
Seizing the moment I ran in with my Palico and Palamute by my side in order to attack the head. The words “Part Broken” appeared on the right side of my screen and the scarred eye of the monster was proof of that. After that, I dulled both of Nargacuga’s blades and it was furious. Two strong attacks from the beast put me at low health. And I slid across the faded grass, I used a wirebug to launch myself to the top of a dilapidated shrine so I could heal. When I was ready to get back into the fight and finish this, something unbelievable happened – and I took advantage of it.
Rathalos, a ferocious red, fire-breathing Wyvern and the long-lived mascot of Monster Hunter, had arrived and after being tackled by the injured Nargacuga, I sprung into action, wrapping my wirebug around Rathalos’ body and controlling all of his actions. When Rathalos took flight and had his gaze fixed upon the cat-like monster, all it took was one charged-up fireball and Nargacuga was down for the count. “Quest Complete!” Rathalos left without batting an eye at me, and my jaw hung open; I’ve never played a game where I could fight a Wyvern and slay it while riding another.
In Monster Hunter Rise, I realized I can do this all the time with any monster, any locale, any weapon, any armor set, and any companion. For this reason, and because of the palpitating action I detail above, why Monster Hunter Rise is the best Monster Hunter game ever made.
Kimari Rennis is a senior intern at the New York Videogame Critics Circle, and is a game design student at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.