The Monster Hunter series has been one of the biggest selling titles for CAPCOM. The series initially started as a network focused game for the PS2 in 2004. It sold about 280,000 copies in its lifetime. Although the series was initially made for consoles. It saw huge success for its portable consoles port with Monster Hunter Freedom being the first Western release that launched on the PlayStation Portable and sold 1.3 million copies in its lifetime.
Fast forward today, CAPCOM have released a timed exclusive Monster Hunter Rise for the Nintendo Switch and have sold 5 million units within the first week. It is slightly lower compared to the sales figures gained by Monster Hunter World during its launch week. However, it should be noted that Monster Hunter World was released for both the PS4 and Xbox One. So are the sales figures for Monster Hunter Rise a direct representation for the quality that CAPCOM brought for this Monster Hunter title on the Switch, or is it just the hype train? Here we will discuss the game design, gameplay mechanics, graphics quality and how the game is running on the Nintendo Switch.
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Game Design and Mechanics
Monster Hunter Rise brings the players to Kamura Village. A Japanese themed village where you will be spending most of your time preparing your character before the start of a hunt. For those that have played Monster Hunter World previously, if we compare Kamura Village to Astera (the starting village in Monster Hunter World), Kamura Village feels smaller and lacks the sense of verticality that Astera has to offer.
But even so, after spending countless hours into both games, I personally feel that Kamura Village feels more alive. Even though Kamura Village is smaller, the place feels very dense with Palicoes and villagers walking around doing their everyday (repetitive) tasks. Astera has the same thing going for it, however, since it is comparably bigger, you will often find that there are a lot of empty spaces within it. Compared to Kamura Village, you will always have something to see at every nook and cranny.
For those that are new to the Monster Hunter series, the quests are generally divided into Village and Hub quests. Village quest will help you advance the story within the game. They must be done solo while Hub quests are a more challenging version of the Village quests that can be done with other players online. These quests will further increase your Hunter Rank (HR). Some special quests or gears are only obtainable through Hub quests as well. Making it the bread and butter for resource/material gathering to prepare yourself for the harder content within the game.
In Monster Hunter World, the Hub and Village quests are obtained from the same place which will cause confusion for some players as the list increases in later stages of the game. Monster Hunter Rise fixed this issue by separating the location for players to obtain each type of quests. Each place comes with their own separate blacksmith, canteen, and shop to help players prepare immediately after accepting a quest. The developers didn’t just stop there, now players can even see their progress for both Village and Hub quests at the top right screen. That is to allow players to better decide on which section they would like to progress more at any point within the game.
For hunting, there are multiple types of maps available in Monster Hunter Rise (no spoiler for how many there are). They also each come with their own theme. In previous Monster Hunter titles (except for Monster Hunter World), the game utilizes a split-map system where the large hunting area are split into smaller numbered areas and players will have to enter a loading screen when transitioning to each numbered maps which can be very tedious when you are chasing a monster across the map. This split-map system was removed in Monster Hunter World.
However, many are concerned if the same can be said for Monster Hunter Rise on the Switch since Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate on the same platform had utilized the same split-map system. It is with great joy for me to report that Monster Hunter Rise does not have a split-map. Moreover, the hunting area looks far better compared to Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate. That’s due to higher foliage density, and better lighting. The hunting area also has a better sense of verticality compared to all previous titles (including Monster Hunter World). Which could be attributed to the addition of Wirebug Mechanics that allows the players to traverse and access areas which seemed inaccessible in previous releases.
If you like the combat in Monster Hunter World, then you will feel at home with Monster Hunter Rise. This is because Monster Hunter Rise uses the exact same combat animation from Monster Hunter World. However, a new addition for this release is the Switch Skills. This system allows players to change their move set to better suit their style. It should be noted that Switch Skills are different for every type of weapon.
The pacing of the combat in Monster Hunter Rise also feels quicker and more engaging with the use of Wirebug Mechanics mid-combat as well as the addition of Palamute and Wyvern riding. The Wirebug is quite similar to the Clutch Claw in Monster Hunter World: Iceborne expansion. With it you can quickly get back on your feet once knocked down or quickly reposition yourself when the battle starts getting too intense. As for the Palamute, they are your wolf-like buddies that can help you attack and move around the map quickly by riding them. The best thing is, you can even eat consumables and sharpen your weapon while riding them! Gone are the days where you have to stay still while sharpening your weapon.
Another great addition to the combat mechanics in Monster Hunter Rise is Wyvern riding. You literally get to ride the giant monsters within the hunting area. While riding you can either crash them against the walls to stun them for a while and deal massive damage or use them to attack other monsters. At first, I thought the whole concept was gimmicky, but after countless hours playing the game, I just can’t see myself finishing a mission without riding a monster at least once.
Monster Hunter Rise: Graphical Performance
Now let’s talk about the main concern for Monster Hunter Rise on the Nintendo Switch. The performance of the game as a whole. Which includes texture fidelity, loading times, frames per second during combat/off-combat, and how the game looks compared to other “good-looking” games on the platform. As a sequel within the Monster Hunter franchise, it is to be expected that Monster Hunter Rise will often be compared to Monster Hunter World especially in the graphics department.
When Monster Hunter World launched on the base consoles (PS4 and Xbox One), it had a terrible performance. Which deterred some players from finishing the game. Back then, the game used the MT Framework engine. It is a very old game engine owned by CAPCOM and was dishing out less than 30 FPS most of the time even when out of combat. When the game was able to output more than 30 FPS, it would suffer from heavy stuttering due to the unlocked framerate. The FPS was all over the place. Even after it’s release on PC, the game was still struggling to maintain a steady framerate on capable hardware.
If you have seen the gameplay trailer for Monster Hunter Rise, you would know that the game looks really good for a Nintendo Switch port. Believe me when I say that it does look exactly like that. Also, the game runs much better than Monster Hunter World on the base consoles. Surprised? You should be. Monster Hunter Rise used the RE Engine at its core. The engine has been known to deliver great performance across many platforms. Some games that have used the RE Engine are Resident Evil 2 (2019), Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (2017), Devil May Cry 5 (2019), and more.
Monster Hunter Rise Looks Great On Switch
Unlike Monster Hunter World, the new release on the Nintendo Switch can deliver a steady 30 FPS gaming experience. The exception is during intense combat and even so, the dip in frames is uncommon. I play the game on the base Nintendo Switch. What I can say from my own experience is that the frame drops are less noticeable in handheld mode. Which could be due to the smaller screen size.
The only downside for this is that it drains the battery of the Switch really quick in handheld mode (just like any other graphically intensive Switch titles). If you have played Xenoblade Chronicles 2 on the Switch, I can assure you that the FPS for Monster Hunter Rise is much better than that even in handheld mode. The performance is almost comparable to Nintendo’s own first party title, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild. That is very impressive.
Monster Hunter Rise Had To Compromise
CAPCOM did not manage to achieve this level of optimization without making some compromises. Some things had to be left out for a better gaming experience. For starters, the foliage density is lower in Monster Hunter Rise compared to Monster Hunter World. They still have shadows for each of the individual plant. However, the shadows for the foliage and trees are now static. Even though most of the animations are copied directly from Monster Hunter World. It is quite obvious that a lot of the finer details in animation had to be left out. But it is not as noticeable as you might think. What is noticeable is the clipping that happens from time to time. This can be seen when the characters are walking on an uneven terrain. There you will clearly see that the feet will clip through the ground.
The textures and assets in Monster Hunter Rise are not as detailed as Monster Hunter World. Mainly due to the limited hardware capability which results in a jagged or uneven edge on objects within the game. To rectify this issue game developers would implement anti-aliasing to smoothen out the edges.
However, in most Switch games the anti-aliasing applied are too aggressive and this caused the overall image to look blurry. With Monster Hunter Rise, the game developers managed to strike a balance for the anti-aliasing. Which results in a sharper image. While docked, the game is running at a 1344×756 resolution. Whereas in handheld mode it drops down to a 960×540 resolution. The overall detail of the environment is lower compared to the recent previous entry and some surfaces even look flat. But even so, the game still looks and runs great.
Monster Hunter Rise Switch Performance – Conclusion
Monster Hunter Rise is one of the most beautiful looking Monster Hunter games on a portable system with good performance. It has its own shortcomings to overcome the limited hardware capability, but none are terrible enough to a point where the game becomes unplayable. If you love the Monster Hunter series, then trust me when I say that this game still retains the same formula that makes the series great while offering so much more.