Monster Hunter Rise is My Feel-Good Game of the Spring
As well as being an immaculately tuned action RPG, Monster Hunter Rise is a jaunty, jovial romp where everyone is your friend and is rooting for you come rain or shine. And shine it does, for this is one of the most upbeat experiences I’ve had on the Nintendo Switch.
It all helps that Kamura Village is one of the most beautiful and enjoyable hub worlds in any video game I’ve played. It’s a rambling hamlet with feudal Japanese architecture and anesthetics, with strong influences from the lovely shrines and temples all over modern Japan. There’s an idyllic grassy area for various palico and palamute-related activities, the gathering hub has a canteen with a variety of indoors and lakeside seating for your pre-hunt dango, and the sun is always shining. Meanwhile the game’s beatific soundtrack plays, with different songs for each part of the village and even special songs for some traders.
It’s Positive Reinforcement: The Game as your chums at Kamura Village lay on the praise and encouragement every time you complete a quest or return from a hunt. They make sure you know they expect nothing less than you becoming the greatest hunter that’s ever defended their village, although since there’s no real time pressure you’re free to be the best around at your leisure. You never feel as if you’re failing or not getting good quickly enough — the game is just happy you’re playing it, and is determined for you to be as well.
There’s a hypothetical version of this game where bitter sarges call you rookie and dispatch you to dreary brown environments to kill monsters with names like The Necrovore, but the escapism of Rise is in its unflappable cheeriness. There’s a palico in the village who’s just doing washi paintings. That’s much better than some gloomy post-apocalyptic stuff.
The armour you craft based on hides and pelts carved from the beasts you hunt tends toward the eye-catching. There are some suits of armour that will make you look a bit like a knight from Dark Souls, but much of what’s on offer range from kitsch to completely fabulous. It’s not just about hunting monsters — it’s about hunting the right ones to get the ensemble of your dreams. An in-game camera and a range of very anime poses will let you appreciate your look to the fullest.
Although the stakes are nominally that monsters are going to rampage through the village if you don’t stop them, other than your hunts there’s no death or bloodshed or tears. If you get knocked out by a monster you just faint as always, and are carted back to your cosy glamper-esque yurt. If your friends encounter monsters out in the world, the worst that happens is they spill their groceries running back to safety. Literally, there are numerous quests where you need to go and retrieve people’s shopping for them.
As you pass the traders, dango sellers and palico trainers busying themselves around Kamura, you sometimes hear them talk about how much they enjoy their job. Everybody’s job is to do the thing they enjoy most anyway — in reality, only a very enviable few get to claim that. Here in Kamura that’s everyone, and it’s infectious — you come to relish everything you do in the game, from crafting to shopping to hunting, to managing your small empire of fluffy companions.
As mentioned, all things palico (your bipedal cat helper) and palamute (your large rideable doggo) can be managed at a dedicated Buddy area, which is the collective name for the up to 70 palicoes and palamutes you can have. That’s right, 70. You can spend hours in this game getting your fluffy friends trained up, sending them on errands to farm materials so you don’t have to, and dispatching them in submarines to find coveted items. This is all accompanied by a range of wonderful animations and cutscenes showing these adorable and largely periphery activities. It all just adds to the joy and whimsy of the game, and you can sink hours into managing all of this in lieu of fighting monsters if you want to.
The rightfully lauded increase in accessibility and faster gameplay, apart from making it the perfect Switch game to play in bitesize chunks compared to World’s more ponderous hunting sessions, means you’re rarely gated off from the fun. In fact there is a breezy campaign that most players should be able to get through, thanks to the single player content being cordoned off in “Village Quests” separate to the Gathering Hub where multiplayer hunts can be found.
It’s very hard to be down in the dumps while playing this, for all these reasons as well as the way Capcom have backed away from the uncomfortable colonialist overtones in its predecessor, removing a major tonal drawback. Overall Monster Hunter Rise is a pick-me-up disguised as a monster hunting game.