Monster Hunter Rise Preview – Raising the Bar for Handheld Adventures

Since the days of Freedom Unite on the PSP, I’ve been waiting for the series to make its triumphant return back on a portable system as a long time Monster Hunter fan. Sure, there have been entries since that absolutely succeeds at offering a fully-fledged albeit now-classic Monster Hunter experience on the go, but not on the grand scale nature of Monster Hunter World. Well, after playing the demo for Monster Hunter Rise, it’s easy to see that classic fans of the series are in for a real treat.

Monster Hunter Rise takes a lot from its last-gen predecessor while bringing new mechanics that enhance the overall experience. The core gameplay remains more-or-less the same, specifically to Monster Hunter World, where you can fully customize a Hunter using one of fourteen different weapon types and accept quests from an explorable hub world (reduced to a simple menu in the demo). From there, you’re taken to scenic, open environments replete with flora and fauna – and of course, the gargantuan monsters that you’re tasked to either hunt down or capture alive.

What differentiates this title from the previous entry is a long list if you wanted to get really deep into it; however, the demo does a fantastic job of showcasing some major additions, being the new Wyvern Riding mechanic. Along with this, we get an introduction to a brand new companion type to the game in the form of Palamutes; appropriately named dogs in the spirit of MonHun that accompany and assist you on your quests, and are even rideable mounts; giving you a faster way to traverse these gorgeous areas in style.

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There’s always the option to fast travel to key locations on the map. However, I strongly suggest not going for that until you’ve explored every nook and cranny of each densely packed locale by yourself.

Wyvern Riding adds a new layer to the already dynamic and in-depth combat, allowing the player to take control of these beasts by mounting them once they’ve been dealt enough damage to be thrown off guard – and using their own strengths to your advantage, whether it’s to engage with other monsters in a clash of the titans or to launch it against a wall to topple it over to resume your own fight with it. This said, there is an on-screen timer that’ll determine how much time you have left riding the dragon – or any other mountable creature.

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On the HUD, there’s a gauge that fills up depending on your performance while Wyvern Riding. Attack and defend well, and you’ll be able to unleash a devastating attack known as a Mounted Punisher. The only downside is that you’ll dismount the monster after execution. Still, it’s a very effective way to deal a great amount of damage.

Another prominent feature of Monster Hunter Rise is the Wirebug, a form of endemic life that replaces Monster Hunter World’s grappling hook for something more fleshed out, allowing for fast and fluid movement across the environment, bringing an incredible amount of verticality for exploration and even offering new options in battle against monsters. While they’re all contextual and depend on whether your weapon is sheathed or drawn out and have a limited number of uses before they recharge, the Wirebug will definitely play a major part in any hunter’s arsenal.

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The final element I want to address is the presentation and performance of the demo build. Capcom has gone above and beyond to bring the RE Engine to the Nintendo Switch. It’s almost baffling as to how they can make such a large scale game like Monster Hunter Rise work so smoothly and look as good as it does, even on the handheld – which is my main preference when it comes to using my Switch.

While only the Shrine Ruins area was available in the demo, it offered quite a beautiful glimpse into this brave new world and a brand new entry to this revered series. Also, the soundtrack to this game brings a traditional Japanese flavor to the grand orchestrations of Monster Hunter, and it’s a combination that fits so perfectly it’s scary. From the handful of tracks I’ve been able to listen to, I feel Monster Hunter Rise’s score transcends that of the already fantastic Monster Hunter World.

Monster Hunter Rise’s demo has done a magnificent job showing off what’s to come in the future, and I, for one, can’t wait to see it all. The full game launches exclusively on the Nintendo Switch on March 26, 2021.

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