Purchasing games is always a tough decision for me. Where I live games cost $100. (Actually $90 for Nintendo first-party games, but to me it may as well be the same.) Missing out on quite a lot of recent releases and new games is the norm for me. The last game I had bought at full price was Street Fighter X Tekken way back on the Xbox 360, and with how ghastly the game was, from then on I definitely began making much more informed decisions on purchasing games at launch or for full price.
When the current pandemic started, Animal Crossing: New Horizons had just been released. Many players, especially mates all over, were posting about turnip stalks, decorating their homes, and showing off their detailed terraformed islands. I had no qualms missing out on the plethora of players, as I had to buy a Nintendo Pro Controller around the same time due to the drifting on my Joy Cons.
A full year later, Monster Hunter Rise was starting to drop its demo on Nintendo Switch. Never played the games before. My only memory of the game was watching schoolmates play together on their PSPs in English class. Outside of this, I thought about the Monster Hunter character in Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite looking pretty rad all decked out in her full armor, her usage of numerous weapon classes and types from the series, and an all-around play style ready for any situation the fight demanded. Twin daggers inflicted swift juggle combos, a bow kept the opponent away with stronger arrows covering the screen by charging the moves, and a large greatsword caused massive ground-shattering damage with invulnerability to poke at the foe from quite a distance away..
So I thought, why not try the demo for Monster Hunter Rise? For two years before this, I was playing Dauntless since the day it was released on Nintendo Switch. It’s a similar type of game to Monster Hunter. You hunt down large scale behemoths. The cel-shaded art style drew me in, alongside the season changing events. Most of the time I would be playing solo or online with randoms, which was still a source of great joy.
Having different weapon or armor builds to fight each specific behemoth was always satisfying. Now the game was more like an MMO with its Reforged update, as rather than loading into fight one behemoth like before, you would be loaded on a large map with numerous behemoths to fight.
At first I was ecstatic with all of these quality of life changes, but shortly after Reforged came out I found myself playing less and less of the game. I wanted to be able to easily max out the mastery quests for each weapon class, but it was not doable from what I had calculated. I had hoped I was wrong, and hope I still am, but I deleted the game after thinking about it. At least it was great while it lasted.
The Monster Hunter Rise demo was not the best. The online did not work due to constant lag. The demo could only be played 30 times, and I lost several of those attempts due to the online multiplayer just not working from the get go. I tried playing the game solo offline. It worked how it should have. Yes, I was alone as a player in the grand map of Shrine Ruins, but I had a trusty Palamute alongside a Palicoe—essentially, a dog companion I could ride plus a cat buddy both supporting me in different ways. It was more than enough for me. I had about an hour on this large scale map to get used to everything. There were objectives on specific monsters to defeat, but I was able to understand more and more of the mechanics of Rise. A lot of the time I did not even complete the major “Defeat this monster objective” until the very end of the time limit because I wanted to find everything I could in the Shrine Ruins. I wanted to find all of these secrets, climb as high as possible, and search for various fauna. Defeating the objective monster would end the demo, eating away one of my attempts, and giving me less time to explore. I left the objective as late as I could while gathering resources and finding helpers such as Firebeetles, Mudbeetles, Puppet Spiders, and more secrets—scouring every nook and cranny with excruciating detail.
This one map from the demo felt so expertly crafted, and it got me wondering if this was how the franchise had always been. I tried each of the 14 distinct weapons a couple of times; they are all so diverse and different from each other, really tapping into how the player wants to play any hunt. Use Dual Blade to slash on monsters, while riding on their backs like an elegant dancer. Equip a Light Bowgun, Heavy Bowgun, or Bow to provide ranged damage, a hindrance to monsters to make them fall asleep or snipe allies with projectiles to heal them. Wield the Hunting Horn to club enemies, while providing fanciful, jolly music to support allies. The Insect Glaive uses Kinsects, while you theoretically can endlessly damage monsters by flying in the air like a glider. And a Sword and Shield that can make you initiate a Shoryuken to a monster’s face?! Sign me up! There’s just an immense amount of weapons to choose, or, at worst, try, with at least one weapon type any player would love.
My 30 demo attempts dwindled down to zero pretty quickly. When the game did release on the Switch in 2021, Rise’s online had none of the online issues it did from the demo. I received it as a late birthday present, and the game itself still continually had updates at the time of this writing, letting you dress up your Palamute as Amaterasu from ?kami or having your Palicoe look like Sonic the Hedgehog. It is absolutey absurd, I love it, and Monster Hunter Rise was definitely my game of 2021.
I am only now reaching close to 250 hours in Rise, only stopping when I have to cover other games for work. Coming home to play a quick quest late in the night or spending hours playing Rise with its several disparate maps in the 14 months since release brings me such fond memories. Naming my Palamute after my dog even made my investment more involved. Posting clips of my amazing or humorous feats on Twitter or posting photos of my Palamute with combination outfits is a lot of fun! Getting the absolute best high-ranked weapons, armor, and builds as long as I put the time into Rise makes me feel as though none of what I choose to do in the game is wasted.
Booting it up again recently and being flooded with dozens of updates and quests felt reassuring; it was calming there was still so much more to do in this game, and I hope to continue playing Monster Hunter Rise for years to come. Rise has valued my time throughout. I could not think of a better monster slayer game to yield any of these results, and with the Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak expansion releasing in a few weeks, I don’t imagine I’ll stop playing any time soon. If Sunbreak is as excellent as the base game, then this game will be my game of the year two years in a row—a rare and enviable feat.