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How ‘Monster Hunter Rise’ transcends the JRPG’s traditional downfalls

Monster Hunter Rise is a welcome addition to the franchise, although difficult. Its core gameplay mechanics are so addictive and rewarding, it’s worth spending the time to get acquainted with.

Before I get into the nitty gritty of this article I’d like to state that I’ve always struggled to approach JRPGs. Most of the games within this category I’ve picked up and then set down a few hours later. A controversial opinion, I know, but please set your pitchforks to one side. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Monster Hunter: Rise and I’m yet to set it down.

My issue with a majority of JRPG titles is that the stories seem to rely on clichéd tropes that I personally struggle to become emotionally invested in. Popular JRPGs too often follow the formula of a morally-driven main character, a goofy sidekick who cracks jokes along the way, a childhood best friend who develops a love interest towards the protagonist, and finally a broody and mysterious antagonist.

There’s nothing wrong with this tried and tested formula, and of course there are outliers who spin the genre on its head in subversive and interesting ways. However, this formula can give a game an oppressively optimistic aura where good always triumphs over evil.

All this is almost always exacerbated be overly expressive voice acting and corny dialogue writing. Every character is overly excited to see you, or incredibly complimentary to your stature, looks, or ability. It can be laid on so thick, at some points it will rip me straight out of the game’s story.

Monster Hunter Rise

So this was my mindset when picking up Monster Hunter: Rise for the first time, and despite my many gripes, I can say I actually enjoyed playing the game.

The game in no way sidesteps any of my criticisms about the genre, in fact, it falls in line with most of what I’ve said above. The campaign in Monster Hunter Rise is fairly simple and follows a well-meaning protagonist who is tasked with defending his local village from the plethora of monsters that inhabit the game’s world.

The voice acting is cheesy and overly emotive, and the dialogue writing is a touch bland. But that is okay, because these aspects of the game are merely adjacent tendrils to what makes this game good, and that is the combat.

Combat

The Monster Hunter series has always strived to fill their games with as few boring moments as possible. The game cuts out downtime between quests, choosing to replace it with hacking and slashing against monsters eight times your size. You’ll finish one quest and get teleported to another one in under a minute, easily.

The addition of the wirebug tool has also made combat and traversing the world that much quicker. The wirebug tool functions as a recharging grapple hook that you can use to scale mountains, hop quickly across plains, or attach to an enemy to pull you straight back into striking distance.

The tool really helps keep up the pace of the game, and this video from u/xxAlphaSapphire perfectly illustrates its combat power; precisely getting off a flurry of attacks, knocking back a foe, then launching headfirst into a finishing move. I absolutely love the wirebug, and long-term fans of the series are hailing it as a game changer.

I love this game from MonsterHunter

Combat is incredibly diverse. The game gives the character 14 different weapons to choose from, each one with a vastly different playstyle. Each weapon also delivers a different damage type, which will do greater or less damage to certain monsters. Monsters are also divided into different parts, meaning different areas of monsters are susceptible to different damage types.

Monster Hunter’s complexity is a double-edged sword; on the one hand it gives veteran players a lot of exploring to do in terms of game mechanics, on the other it gives a new player a steep learning curve to climb before they can really settle into the game and enjoy it.

This brings me to my next point. Monster Hunter: Rise does not hold your hand at all. There is a brief tutorial in the beginning of the game, which is painstakingly long and filled with repetitive tasks. In this hour you actually don’t learn too much about game mechanics, rather you kind of have to figure that out for yourself.

Luckily the game has an incredibly loyal playerbase who have spent countless hours understanding the game and publishing written guides on the internet, all for free.

Monster Hunter Rise

The world

This iteration of the Monster Hunter series was built from the ground up for the Nintendo Switch. The game was built on the RE Engine, which was originally used to build Resident Evil: Biohazard. The improved graphics coupled with a subtle change in environmental art style have really made the game shine. It’s truly impressive the levels of detail that have been squeezed into this portable console.

Monster Hunter Rise also provides the player with over 60 variations of monsters across 19 different hunting grounds. There’s plenty of deviation to keep things fresh, plus exploration feels natural and suitably rewarded through an endemic life feature.

Endemic life are creatures, critters, and plants scattered throughout the zone which provide the player with buffs that will last for the duration of their quest. Having trouble with the bloodthirsty incarnate over there? Maybe go for a stroll and see what endemic life you can find to aid you.

And let me tell you, you’ll be going on a lot of those strolls. Monster Hunter Rise rewards the prepared and methodical player. Before taking on a particularly hard creature, study it by taking a photo, and then gather all the tools you need before taking it down. This is the essential gameplay loop of the series; Study, prepare, kill, upgrade.

It may sound tedious, but the core gameplay mechanics are so addictive you’ll understand why they haven’t strayed far from this format.

Final thoughts

Monster Hunter Rise is an excellent addition to the series, combining tried and true ideas with fresh ones, creating a breath of fresh air for seasoned players. The game’s combat is fluid and zippy, and the mobility offered by the wirebug offers new ways to approach an enemy, whilst giving some interesting options for retreat.

However I’d like to see a better tutorial to introduce new players to the series. The game’s difficulty curve is intimidating for a novice player and I hope to see some improvements there to expand the glorious Monster Hunter community.

 

Monster Hunter Rise is currently on available on Nintendo Switch via the online store or participating retailers.