For the first 15 years of its existence, Monster Hunter was a pretty niche video game series that had really only seen modest success outside of Japan. Its combat and variety of massive enemies were nearly unrivaled, but the complexity of the game meant a learning curve that could scare off anyone who wasn’t willing to invest the time and brainpower into learning each and every encounter.
But Monster Hunter World gave the series a more accessible entry point in 2018. Some of the most complex and frictional parts of the game were smoothed out for a more modern feel, and quality of life features made each boss battle-like “hunt” a more fun and less tenuous experience — all while maintaining the tradition of rewarding preparation and research while punishing those who recklessly enter battle. The game and its Iceborne expansion became popular enough that the series joined its Capcom brethren like Street Fighter and Resident Evil in being turned into a loosely-related movie, while previous games also saw a boost in popularity from their award-winning younger sibling.
With Monster Hunter Rise, the series returns to its portable Nintendo-based take on the game, with an all new art style and some very unique features. It’s still the only series in which an oversized anthropomorphic cat (called a Palico) will adorably assist you in battle against massive dragons, lightning unicorns, furious bull-ape hybrids, and much more.
To find out more about Monster Hunter Rise ahead of its release this week on the Nintendo Switch, SPIN chatted with producer Ryozo Tsujimoto about a wide variety of subjects.
SPIN: Seeing as the series has been around for so long but only recently exploded in popularity, how do you balance expectations for both new and veteran players approaching Monster Hunter Rise?
Ryozo Tsujimoto: Whether you’re a newcomer to Monster Hunter or have played previous titles in the series, I think you’ll enjoy the “Wirebug” which is the new feature that lets you traverse the environment with lots of freedom. Also, there’s a new canyne companion called “Palamute” which is another new feature in Monster Hunter Rise. Just riding on the Palamute’s back and running around the field is fun, but it’s also a buddy that can help support during your hunt by attacking monsters. There are also various other elements that have been introduced in this game, such as new monsters, fields, and game system options. There’s plenty of new content that both new and existing players can enjoy.
How much emphasis went into taking what made Monster Hunter World so successful above and beyond previous Monster Hunter games and incorporating it into Monster Hunter Rise?
After seeing World and Iceborne player feedback, we actively incorporated elements that would work well with the gameplay of Monster Hunter Rise. For example, you can seamlessly travel through the map after starting a quest, and we’ve also implemented a weapon forge tree and shortcut controls for items in Monster Hunter Rise. Of course, if all the elements were the same, the game wouldn’t feel fresh. There are still many elements that are unique to Monster Hunter Rise, so we tried to keep a good balance.
Because of the series’ history on Nintendo consoles, is there a certain nostalgia aspect with going back to the Switch and a more portable console?
One of the concepts of this title is “Monster Hunter that can also be played on a handheld device,” so that aspect is shared with the previous portable games. However, because the number of things that can be achieved in the game has increased, we’re interested in moving forward by creating a game that maximizes the new hardware’s characteristics rather than feeling nostalgic.
Since World introduced so many new quality of life features into Monster Hunter, how do you keep building on these new improvements while also making it feel like a classic Monster Hunter adventure?
It’s not just specific to Monster Hunter World or Monster Hunter Rise actually, as each game in the series has its own concept, so we always consider what elements to change and not change. Of course, Monster Hunter attaches great importance to the worldview. Fans expect improvements and new features while keeping that intact. So we try to create a balance between the individual game’s concept and the overarching Monster Hunter worldview each time.
Considering that Monster Hunter is really known for the variety of weapons, monsters, and how unique each combination of the two can be, what goes into ensuring that every monster provides a different challenge for hunters with each weapon?
The first thing we need to do is make sure that each monster has elements that will be challenging for hunters of any weapon type. For example, a melee weapon can easily deal with this type of move, while a long distance weapon that can attack from a little distance is better for that type of move. In this game, there will be a total of 14 weapon types, so multiply that by the amount of monsters appearing in the game, and we’ve had to consider at least that many variations.
For those who have grown to love their Palico companions over the years, what can players look forward to now with Palamutes?
Palamutes have the same elements as Palicoes. They are cute and reliable buddies, while having a comical side. In addition, in Monster Hunter Rise, you can pet both the Palico and the Palamute at the base camp or during quests. You can do handshakes or rub the Palamute’s belly and even do high fives. We hope you find their cute gestures endearing.
How has the increased global popularity of the series changed things for the team ahead of the release of Monster Hunter Rise?
We’re very happy that the game has gained global popularity, and we’re proud to be the developer of a series that can be played by many people around the world. The concept of Monster Hunter Rise is “Monster Hunter, which can be played casually,” “anytime, anywhere, with anyone.” So we hope it will become a title that people all over the world will be excited about, as our concept suggests.