Friday, April 30, 2021

Monster Hunter Rise (NSW) Review

Our final review for the month of April is a big one. It's all been leading up to this for SuperPhillip Central's month of reviews. Monster Hunter Rise launched late last month to equal positive acclaim from both fans and critics alike. Now, as both, I throw my Great Sword into the arena to give my opinion on the latest in a franchise of games that I have a difficult time getting into. Here is the SPC review of Monster Hunter Rise for the Nintendo Switch.

 The thrill of the hunt returns to the Nintendo Switch

I've tried to get into the Monster Hunter series so many times, and so many times I bounce off before even seeing the ending credits roll. I start off promisingly enough, completing quests, hunting smaller monsters, but eventually I get to a wall and just stop playing. Perhaps it's the included quality of life measures added to make the latest game in the Monster Hunter series, Monster Hunter Rise, so accessible that it allows a generally poor hunter like myself to feel actually competent and capable in hunts, but I wound up absolutely adoring this game. With so many new twists on the old, familiar formula, Monster Hunter Rise certainly does rise to the occasion, offering one of the most impressive series of hunts in series history.

Monster Hunter Rise is set in Kamura Village, a blossoming and bustling little burg, which has recently seen a higher number of monster attacks including those known as Rampages. You play as the village's sole hunter, a promising new hunter which is tasked with completing quests and hunting monsters to keep monsters at bay. Though there are still quests where your hunter is asked to gather specific materials like in past Monster Hunter games, the majority of the time you'll be exterminating pests both small and large. Occasionally, you'll enter the aforementioned Rampages, an all-new type of battle in the Monster Hunter series.

Your custom-made character serves as the hunter here at Kamura Village.

Rampages are one of the new features presented in Monster Hunter Rise. These are essentially tower-defense battles where you place and plant a certain amount of defenses, such as turrets, cannons, bombs, and more, in an attempt to slow down and turn away the monsters that seek to destroy the last line of Kamura Village's defenses, a large gate. You can operate the defenses yourself, or you can jump in and attack monsters directly. The former offers the ability to attack foes from a safe distance, while attacking monsters directly delivers a substantial amount of more damage. Rampages not only have resource management to worry about but also micromanagement as well. Some monsters will attack your defenses, while others will charge gates, making them practically required to center your attention on immediately as your number one priority. 

These Rampage battles can get a bit tedious and frustrating at times, especially when you're operating a defense like a cannon or Gatling gun, for instance. It's annoying when you're constantly smacked around by a monster when you're just trying to get on the turret, or worse, in the chaos you accidentally uninstall the defense itself. This results in a mad dash to reinstall it and attempt to operate it without getting smacked on your butt again. Still, despite some annoyances with Rise's Rampages, they're overall a welcome addition and were quite enjoyable to me.

No, thanks, Royal Ludroth--I'm not interested in a bath just yet.

There is more that is new feature-wise to Monster Hunter Rise than just the Rampages, however. The biggest, most groundbreaking addition to the gameplay side of Rise and the Monster Hunter series as a whole is the Wirebug. This tool lets your hunter zip through the air quickly with short, intermittent slings. It's perfect not just for getting around and reaching higher places in a faster fashion, but it also helps in both retreating from a monster's attack and charging straight into a monster to deliver your own hunter's brand of offense. The Wirebug has a short recharge period before it can be utilized again, so you can't just use it freely with reckless abandon. Heck, if you do use it with reckless abandon, you'll often find yourself unable to escape from a monster's clutches in time--possibly resulting in getting knocked out in battle. 

The open, expansive maps of Monster Hunter Rise are the perfect playground for the Wirebug. These areas are all one map, rather than what previous Nintendo-centric Monster Hunter games possessed, which were individual areas or essentially "rooms" separated by loading screens. The level of verticality in these maps is impressive, and they're absolutely packed and dense with content, whether they be places to spawn Great Wirebugs, which launch you a further distance--many times across a large expanse of map--areas where materials can be picked, mined, or otherwise gathered, or find sub-camps to serve as fast travel points in hunts to instantly become transported to them for easy convenience.

What also makes Monster Hunter Rise so wonderful is how much more accessible it is as a game. Part of that is due to the ease of use of the Wirebug, but also another substantial part is that so much of the hassle from past Monster Hunter games has been streamlined. For instance, you don't have to craft consumable whetstones just to sharpen your weapon. Instead, you automatically have an reusable whetstone on you that does that itself. The addition of companions in the form of Palamutes and Felynxes that join you on hunts in single player, offer a means to not only distract monsters at times, but also deliver damage and occasionally heal you as well. The Palamute is especially helpful because you can ride on top of it to get around maps quickly. One of my favorite things to do in Rise with a Palamute is ride on top of it, rush towards a large beast, jump off my canine companion, and slam my weapon straight into the beast's back to deal some preemptive damage to it, starting the battle in style.

Here's some Great Sword in your beak!

The amount of hunts and monsters featured in Monster Hunter Rise is quite sizable. You start off with smaller--though still twice or three times the size of your custom character--monsters to hunt, and these have easier patterns to pick up on, simpler attacks to avoid, and deal less damage. As your Hunter Rank increases from completing quests, the hunts get predictably harder, offering large behemoths of beasts to battle, complete with massively challenging and stronger attacks to evade. These are ones that can cause status effects like poison, burn, and weakened stamina, a kiss of death to unprepared hunters. 

One of the new innovations to battles in Monster Hunter Rise involves when two or more monsters enter into the same section of map and engage in a turf war. One monster will usually weaken the other, resulting in the ability to hop aboard the beast and ride it. From there, you can either bash into the other monster, slowly weakening it while chipping off rare resources in the process, or charge into walls, damaging itself in the process. It's a blast to ride one monster, weaken the other, and then luck out by being able to ride the second monster, starting the wyvern rodeo all over again.

Two insanely powerful monsters going claw to claw? Let them fight.

As the saying goes, to the victor goes the spoils, with ample opportunities for monsters to reward hunters with rare materials for battling them, defeating them, capturing them via pitfall or shock traps, or even carving up their corpses (macabre, yes, but it's not THEY'RE going to need their materials anymore!). These materials, like any Monster Hunter game, can be used to craft new weapons and armor, offering stronger attack power, defense, and even elemental advantages (as well as DIS-advantages). Petalaces and decorations are also available, with the latter being able to be equipped in certain weapons and armor to grant bonus abilities when worn. Of course, the rarest and most impressive of weapons and armor require the rarest of materials, and many times you'll need to battle a specific monster to either capture or defeat it multiple times before you ever get the specific material you're looking for. This can be frustrating at times, but I found hunts so fun in Rise that it wasn't that much of an issue for me, unlike past Monster Hunter games.

Getting attacked right now could make my hunter go a bit batty.

There are two types of quests in Monster Hunter Rise: Village and Hub quests. Village quests are solo affairs that are basically the tutorial of the game. That isn't to say the monsters you face are pushovers, but they're but an appetizer to the hunts that occur in the Hub quests. Essentially, the real game begins once you start tackling Hub quests. Monsters have more health, as well as take and give more damage, meaning that those who play alone will be at a bit of a disadvantage. However, those with a Nintendo Switch Online account and subscription can join up with three other hunters for some online hunts. You can either create a lobby to have players join you--this is better for people you know and can coordinate with--or do a Join Request. These Join Requests have you either creating and entering a Hub quest by your lonesome, with players eventually joining in, or have you joining in the middle of another hunter's quest like players will do if you create your own Join Request hunt. Either way, all of my countless hunts online were nothing short of lag-free and immensely enjoyable.

While several familiar monsters from past games return, many possess new moves and attacks this time around.

Monster Hunter Rise is one of the more captivating Nintendo Switch games in the visual department. The RE Engine really struts its stuff and looks incredibly lovely in Rise. Monsters are magnificently detailed and superbly animated, and the environments are full of strong ambience with lighting and shadows that look utterly phenomenal. I absolutely love the short but sweet narrated introductory sequences that play at the start of hunts featuring new monsters. They ooze with personality and charm. The music, too, strikes a sensational chord, bringing with it captivating tracks, awesome themes, and pieces of music that absolutely dazzle and impress. 

All in all, Monster Hunter Rise definitely has risen to the occasion for this player. After so many unsuccessful attempts to fully breach into the series' intimidating defenses, I finally got through with Rise. With its magnificent new mobility options with both Palamutes and to a much greater extent, the Wirebug, I don't know if I'll ever be able to go back to previous Monster Hunter games with the same level of enjoyment. They may just feel like tremendous regressions instead. Regardless, Rampages, wyvern riding, online hunts, expansive maps with not a loading screen in sight, and a robust arsenal of engaging weaponry makes Monster Hunter Rise more than just my favorite Monster Hunter game yet--it's also one of my favorite games of 2021 so far.

[SPC Says: A]

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