More than a decade ago, in a lifetime before The Verge, Monster hunter on PSP was my commute. I would spend a couple of hours a day tackling solo missions as the train winds my way through the Japanese countryside, then comparing swapping with friends late at night as we teamed up to take on the monsters we couldn’t beat alone.
2018s Monster Hunter World could not hope to recreate that experience. World tried to imagine the series as a primary online adventure that utilized powerful hardware – and it was a great success Monster hunter to a far larger western audience than it ever managed before. World was a great game, and Capcom moved clearly Monster hunter in the right direction. But for me something was missing.
Monster Hunter Rise is not quite a new idea. Last time a big news Monster hunter the game first came to a home console – the 2009s Monster Hunter 3 for Wii – it came from the huge success of a previous PSP release. Monster Hunter 3 brought a lot of progress to the series, but a straight port to the less powerful PSP would not be practical for technical reasons, so Capcom adapted much of the elements and content of a new PSP game called Monster Hunter Portable 3rd. It ended up being the best-selling game in the series, at least for now World came, and it was the version that ate the most time for me on those train rides.
That’s really what Capcom has done Monster Hunter Rise. It is not a switch gate off World – That’s better. Almost everything that did World a big leap forward for the series is here, and Ladder develops the formula further while operating within a scope that makes more sense for Switch. The result is a brand new game that feels at home on the laptop instead of being compromised to fit.
Monster Hunter Rise may be the most technically impressive Switch game I’ve seen to date; it is certainly the most impressive is not it made by Nintendo. Running on Capcom’s RE Engine, the character models and monsters look very close World – especially on the small switch screen. Capcom has done an excellent job of preserving Worldessence and style of less powerful hardware.
The biggest concessions are the environments. The stages feel more like old-school Monster hunter games than they did in World, with less elaborate design and fewer graphic blooms like dense foliage. Unlike the older games, the subsections are not split by loading screens, which helps Ladder play in the same way as Worldis more fluid style.
Actual, Ladder goes even further in that regard. Crossing environments is faster than ever thanks to two new elements: a pet dog called a Palamute that joins you in battle and lets you ride on your back, and a tool called Wirebug that can be used to slide up walls and jump on monsters, some times even control them in major confrontations with other animals. What LadderThe stages lack complexity and add verticality, and while your goals are marked on the map from the start of this time, you will often find out how to meet them at their level.
Ladder feels even better suited for portable gaming than previous games, since you will never find yourself wandering aimlessly in search of a monster. Other changes save seconds that will add up to hundreds of hours – now you can, for example, empty the resource supply from a mining operation or a bone stack with a single push of a button.
Else, Ladder is a typical Monster hunter game. It’s a rather complex action RPG where you choose one of several weapon classes to hunt for ever more dangerous animals, and harvest them for materials you can use to make new weapons and armor to take on more dangerous animals. The game is certainly an acquired taste, and I’m not sure that the constant barrage of training windows explaining obscure mechanics will be as useful to newcomers as Capcom seems to think they will.
What can help, however, is that Monster Hunter Rise is just not very difficult compared to other games in the series, even World. I found the “village” quests that promote the story and get you to the playoffs unusually easy – it’s as if they are the guide itself. I have experience with the series, but by no means an incredible player, but I sent most new monsters much faster than usual on my first try. The mission of the village is never the true flesh of anyone Monster hunter games, so I think it’s okay for them to serve as a fun campaign that anyone can blow through.
There is also a series of more challenging “hub” missions available from the start, and they should remove the notion of it Ladder does not focus on existing fans. But it is difficult to review something Monster hunter game before launch because I have had very little time to test it online, let alone see how the player base takes the most challenging content. LadderLongevity will largely depend on the design of the endgame and how Capcom handles future updates, and none of them are known at this time.
At least for now, Ladder looks like a more solid package in terms of content than World was at launch before the major Ice-borne expansion. There is absolutely no shortage of monsters, and the variety is wider than what World offered, with several old favorites and some imaginative new designs.
Monster Hunter Rise is the most accessible game in the series to date, and it may well prove to be the best. I’m not willing to call it yet, too much will depend on how the support after the launch turns out. But Capcom certainly has the legs of a classic here already. Almost everything that was good with World is also true for Ladder, unless you want to run it at 4K / 60 frames per second. If you do (and I do), there will be a PC version next year.
It feels like Monster hunter comes in full circle with Ladder. The series started on PS2, of course, but it only became a cult phenomenon when it moved to laptops, and that’s where it’s back now. World led it to an even larger global audience. You do not have to have a long commute to appreciate how Monster hunter take advantage of a portable format.
One of the joys of Switch is that it allows you to record playing time when you would not otherwise be able to, even if it is such a basic situation as your living room is occupied. Monster hunter has always had the only one-more call for comic book fans, and with the airy new design and portable form factor, Ladder should look much more converted to the cause.
Monster Hunter Rise is available for Nintendo Switch today.