When it comes to third-party offerings, the Nintendo Switch is a system that often gets overlooked when compared to the competition. Due to factors such as its limited power, the hybrid machine has missed out on great offerings like Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Monster Hunter: World, and Borderlands 3, just to name a few. Monster Hunter Rise, however, bucks this trend completely, as it has been crafted exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. The game just received a new demo on the Nintendo eShop and we were fortunate enough to secure early access to be able to play around with new features like the Wirebug and Palamute.
Within the demo, we were able to hunt down two different monsters, and could undertake tutorials for basic combat and wyvern riding. Something that struck me right off the bat was the changes that were implemented to make the game more accessible. A red arrow now points you in the direction of monsters, and NPCs will often give you hints as to when you need to dodge or retreat to sharpen your weapon. Also, like in Monster Hunter World, the damage you're inflicting is displayed so you can easily hone in on an enemy's weak spot and exploit it. These tweaks are by no means to the game's detriment, in fact they mean that the barrier for entry is pretty non-existent, but it still represents a huge departure from the series' roots.
The two creatures present were Mizutsune, a Leviathan that is a returning face from Generations, and Great Izuchi, a Bird Wyvern that makes its debut within Rise. Great Izuchi didn't seem like much of a threat with it being an early game encounter, but it did have some pretty interesting attacks up its sleeve. The creature has a hook-like tail made out of bone and it often spins it around to knock you off balance. It also spits out debris like a cat coughing up a furball and will often lunge rapidly towards you to deal some serious damage.
Perhaps out of everything, we were most excited to get our hands on the Wirebug. For those who are unaware, the Wirebug is a chargeable item that players can activate to propel themselves up into the air. Using the Wirebug felt so satisfying when timed right in combat, as you can quickly pull yourself to safety in the wake of an enemy's attacks. It can also be used to pull yourself up higher areas when exploring the world and over the top of towering gaps. It's pretty damn easy to use, too. To trigger the Wirebug you just hold down ZL to aim and then use X to move vertically or A to move forwards.
When hunting down Great Izuchi we were also able to use the Wirebug to mount other monsters and use them to attack. Controlling a monster is as simple as inflicting damage upon them by using attacks with the Wirebug. When on top of a monster you can inflict light and heavy attacks, perform dodge rolls, and unleash a special charged move known as a Mounted Punisher. Controlling these other beasts made for an entertaining shake up to the combat and it really helped things from feeling tedious. In Monster Hunter games, enemies often have huge pools of health, so it was fun having a new method to whittle it down.
As well as the Wirebug, the Palamute is another strapline feature for Rise. Players can ride on the back of this canine companion to quickly make their way across the environment, and it can be used to scale walls covered in vines. You can ride the Palamute during combat encounters, too. Here you can attack foes with a blade within Palamute's mouth, and whilst on its back you can use consumables and sharpen your weapon. You can't depend on this mechanic too much, however, as one heavy blow can send you toppling off its back and then it's up to you to fend for yourself alone.
There were a few areas within the demo though that we did feel were a little rough around the edges. Firstly, there was no voice acting present with the tutorials and the characters just annoyingly repeated the same few phrases over their scripted dialogue. We also found some of the animations here to be a little bit sloppy. When carving materials from fallen monsters, for example, our character would just hack away at the air with his blade instead of at the carcass on the floor. These are just minor flaws in the grand scheme of things, but we are hoping that they are blemishes not present within the full release this March.
Monster Hunter Rise looks to be the most accessible entry into the franchise, whilst simultaneously introducing several new mechanics to keep things fresh for veteran players. The Wirebug makes for a fun new evasion mechanic within combat, and the new Palamute companion makes traversal much faster and less of a chore. We were disappointed by the absence of voice acting, however, and some animations do appear pretty sketchy, but this might not be representative of the final product. Be sure to check back for our full thoughts when Rise releases on the Nintendo Switch on March 26, 2021.
The demo for Monster Hunter Rise is now available on the Nintendo eShop. You can read our earlier preview of the game where we got to speak to Producer Ryozo Tsujimoto and Director Yasunori Ichinose here.
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