It’s been a few weeks since the demo for Monster Hunter Rise gave fans a taste of what’s to come in the series’ next big title for the Nintendo Switch, and if you’ve had a look at our recently-posted thoughts on the demo you would know that fellow WellPlayed writer Eleanore Blereau and I were both quite impressed with what was on offer. You can give those thoughts a read here, but in short, we both felt it hit a great level of accessibility while still respecting some of the older games’ more cryptic roots. Thanks to Nintendo I’ve been given the opportunity to go eyes-on with early footage of parts of the game not yet shown to the public, and while it’s been made clear that the footage is not final, my excitement levels have gone up ten-fold after seeing portions of the game that I’d been incredibly curious about.
Monster Hunter has always been a franchise that’s not taken itself too seriously, which is a part of why so many people love the games. The series’ development team at Capcom has never been afraid of a few jokes and visual gags thrown in here and there, as shown with some of the hilarious weapons in previous games (a frozen swordfish as an actual sword, for instance), but this has never been more apparent than in the village/hub areas. The music is always bright, cheery and welcoming, while the NPCs typically have an accompanying ‘go with the flow’ type of attitude. The first thing shown in this preview footage was Kamura Village, which in a way can be compared to Yukumo Village. It’s a very Eastern-feeling place, whose music consists of thematically appropriate melodies and instrumentalisation. All the usual NPCs were shown and the overall layout definitely seems like a mix between the one-dimensional blueprints of old and the newer structures found in Monster Hunter World which make much more use of 3D space.
While the actual graphical fidelity of Rise is obviously much lower than World, Monster Hunter has never looked this pretty (it’s worth noting that the screenshots we’ve used were captured from b-roll footage, so they’re not as clear as they would be if captured in-game). The art team has done an incredible job when it comes to the balance of colour, utilising a more muted palette where appropriate so that objects that are bright in nature stick out more, like the pink cherry blossoms and rich red in the village’s infrastructure. There’s enough contrast in depth and colour that it not only allows this area to look beautiful but also allows it to more effectively communicate any pertinent information (like map layout). The animation that plays when you order food is easily the most important takeaway here though. It’s super cheery and cute, and there’s a song (with lyrics and all) that plays while it happens now. Big improvement, Capcom, love your work.
I was also able to get a proper look at the separation between multiplayer quests and single player quests. I, for one, am happy to see this distinction exist as the multiplayer scaling for quests in World was problematic. It caused monster health to feel wildly inconsistent and made certain parts ludicrously tough to break once someone else had entered the instance. Iceborne somewhat addressed the issue with more dynamic scaling, but it still wasn’t really enough to stop it from feeling like it was doing more harm than good. The return of village quests being single player and hub quests being multiplayer can mean only good things. Not only does it separate the two but it also affords the player the opportunity to play through the game by themselves and progress in their gear, without actually being ahead of their friends in terms of content unlocked. For instance, I could be through the first few village’s quests and have a little gear, but my friends and I will all need to go through the same hub quests to progress together; separated progression like this respects a majority of the players. We also got to see the new monster icons that show when you’re selecting a quest, and while I didn’t really think they needed to be reworked in any way, I’m also glad they were. The team has taken a lot of the accompanying art in almost an Ukiyo-e direction, similar to that of Ōkami. The result is some incredibly pretty illustrative work which helps the game feel unique in a series that has been otherwise slowly iterating since 2004. I’m definitely not opposed to these new monster illustrations as they bring far more personality to the monsters and give you decent insight as to what you’re about to be up against. The two monsters predominantly shown are Khezu, a returning favourite, and Bishaten, a new Flying Wyvern type monster whose movements seem like something new for a monster of that type.
Khezu’s Area should feel quite familiar to older players. It starts off in the colder environment of the Frost Islands, which resembles Hoarfrost Reach from Iceborne quite a bit, but where it differs is in its cave systems. Rather than the icy caves of Hoarfrost, we see a return to wet, dank caves reminiscent of the older games. Khezu’s moves all seem largely the same as well – no wildly reworked moveset like there was for Mizutsune. The Khezu section of the gameplay video also afforded a better look at how Wyvern riding interacts with the environment and gameplay. In this instance, the Hunter used a Tetranandon (one of the new monsters) to catch up to the Khezu and the other hunters, and then proceeded to use the Mounted Punisher to deliver heavy blows to the Khezu. To be honest I hadn’t thought of seeking out a Wyvern ride like this, and I learned that you can even use the Wirebug to hoist yourself above a monster and throw a Barrel Bomb down onto them, making Barrel Bombs useful outside of when a monster is sleeping. I also learned that I am definitely very bad at Monster Hunter. Side note – Khezu’s armour now looks like something from Assassin’s Creed because of how much whiter it is.
The Bishaten is the monster I was more curious about, as a new Monster Hunter game always brings with it some form of new creature to bash around. It was fought in the Flooded Forest locale in the footage and let me tell you, I am now very excited to fight this monster. Its movements are incredibly unique and strange, with a great mix of attacks that are appropriate for a Flying Wyvern but also others that feel derived from monsters like Congalala and Great Macao. Given the colour of the monster and the environment it is found in here (almost like a rainforest) I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it’s weakest to Thunder damage. A Royal Ludroth is also present in the fight but it only makes a brief appearance. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the Bishaten when we get our hands on the full game!
As for the Flooded Forest itself, I actually really like the art direction. It has two dominant colours – a Mesa-style red as well as a deep green – so the soil and the foliage are at a constant contrast to one another. It’s quite vibrant and I can see it being one of my favourite zones in the game as I’m a big fan of simple visual motifs. The vibe of the Flooded Forest’s aesthetics changed as soon as night came, as well. Capcom has cleverly used the typical blues of nighttime’s lighting to subdue the rich brownish-red colour of the soil and cliffs and make the environment feel starkly different during the night cycle.
In-between the two monster fights there was something shown that I was not expecting – a revamped training grounds. In the footage, the group was beating up a to-scale replica of Tetranadon, with the revamp even going as far as emulating reactions and attacks from the monster. This is actually a great change as it allows players to try new weapons in a low-intensity environment and doesn’t punish them for not knowing how to use the weapon proficiently right away. The old hunting grounds were functional but you were effectively just hitting a log that couldn’t hit back, but this time around it should actually serve to teach you the nuances of each weapon in a fight.
A big shout-out to the lovely people over at Capcom and Nintendo for the amazing opportunity to check out all of this footage ahead of time. Not only was it a cool opportunity in and of itself, but it’s also made me so much excited for the release of Monster Hunter Rise. Bring on March 26!