Video game review: ‘Monster Hunter Rise’ (Xbox Series S)

Capcom’s latest sequel to its famed action-packed, role-playing franchise, Monster Hunter Rise (Capcom, Rated Teen, reviewed with Xbox Series S, $39.99) finally moves from the Nintendo Switch to Xbox Series X/S and the PlayStation 5 to give new audiences a chance to battle creatures within a wondrous universe.

As typical for the genre, virtual life in any fantastical gaming realm begins by allowing the player to customize his or her Hunter with a large array of options including eye color, face structure and even vocal pitch. One will be reminded of “Elden Ring” here with its equally expansive customization. 

Additionally, and more fun, a player can customize two companions that accompany the Hunter on his journey — a Palamute (a wolf-like animal to ride during adventures) and a Palico (a small feline creature that helps in battles).

Mount the Palamute to travel around destinations faster. While mounted, the player can regain health, use items from his or her action bar, or evade a monster quickly. A Palico is a small feline buddy that will help fight in battles by stunning, poisoning or attacking a monster. 

After completion of a character and buddy customizations, Hunters visit the game’s hub, Kamura Village, and are greeted by an eccentric cast of characters to beef up resources.

The player can buy items from merchants, upgrade weapons from the blacksmith, choose which quest to embark on, eat a meal, upgrade buddies, or connect with up to three friends for online cooperative hunts (visit Senri the Mailman). 

Merchants allow the character to buy potions or ingredients (such as Parashroom, sleepy herb or lightning bug, for example) to allow the Hunter to craft special items such as a shock trap, pitfall trap, or tranquilizer bomb, which aid in capturing or slaying monsters. 

The objective of the game is, of course, hunting. Action is split into different types of quests such as Rampage where a player defends Kamura against a wave of monsters. However, the most important of the quests are the main types, village, training and hub.

Village and training quests involve mainly an introduction to game mechanics. During the village quests, Hunters search for special items (single-player option only) in locations such as the Lava Caverns, Sandy Plains, Frost Islands, Flooded Forest, and Shrine Ruins. One must progress through the game through the quests to unlock maps and the monsters found in those maps. 

Hub quests feature quests to capture or kill monsters within a set 50-minute period. If a Hunter does not complete the quest in the time allotted, the mission fails. Hub quests also include an expedition feature where the player can explore the map and collect items without worrying about time constraints. Before embarking on a hub quest, it is advised that one should eat a meal. 

By going to Kamura’s canteen, Hunters purchase three dangos (delicious-looking dumpling pastries). Dangos provide the player with different buffs, an example of this would be eating a dango that prevents the player from being knocked onto his butt, making the player stunned from a monster attack. The musical animations for the food prep are charming to the point of being laugh out loud goofy.

The game also features an area called Buddy plaza that allows the player to upgrade his or her buddy to make them stronger, give them different weapons, or even add buffs to them.

And, equally important for quests, are those tools, abilities and weapons. The player can choose between 14 different types of weapons such as the dual blades (which I personally use) for short, fast attacks; long sword for slower, more powerful attacks; or the bow for long-range attacks (the bow allows the player to use an arrow to slash enemies for short-range combat). 

A new tool includes wirebugs (an insect harnessed to use its wire-like grappling ability) to quickly traverse areas or hone the “Wyvern riding” technique, which allows a player to actually ride a monster using the bugs’ strands.

The player can also have many different weapons’ builds throughout the game. Once the player has selected a weapon, he can upgrade the arm throughout the action by collecting stuff and visiting Kamura vendors.

The action never disappoints as, for example, an early encounter in the Shrine Ruins with an Arzuros. Known as the Blue Bear Beast Bloodlust Incarnate, the ferocious, turquoise-colored furred monster has claws and bites.

The Hunter can use any weapon in his arsenal to attack the Arzuros, which finally fell after about 45 minutes of slashing and chasing.

Also, to further complicate, once the Arzuros gets attacked and sustains damage, it runs away. The Hunter must chase the beast until it stops again to continue the fight. The hunter will rinse and repeat this until the mighty bear begins the limp (which allows for capture) or until the Arzuros dies from damage. 

Monster Hunter Rise immerses the player in a visually stunning, anime-style adventure that can last a couple of dozen hours or, for the hard-core Hunter rabid for customization, more than 100 hours.

However, it is also first and foremost a role-playing game for the patient player with a sheer learning curve and is best enjoyed by a gamer, well-researched in its mechanics and complex universe.

Fans now playing the game on the latest Xbox or PlayStation consoles should also look forward to the massive Sunbreak expansion pack coming in the spring.

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