Monster Hunter: Rise – Understanding The Hunt

Monster Hunter has been a popular game series for some time now, starting in Japan after its beginnings on the PlayStation 2 in 2004 and eventually becoming more and more popular in the West as time went on. And what’s not to love about a game that tasks you with hunting down dangerous monsters with oversized swords and axes, along with an assortment of tools and potions at your disposal? It wasn’t until very recently that I could say I finally began to see the level of enjoyment to be had in Monster Hunter after it failed to sink its claws into me in several previous attempts.

My first experience with Monster Hunter was on the 3DS. Shortly after trading in my original, “fat” Nintendo DS towards a 3DS XL, the newest iteration at the time, I happened to look through the eShop and decided to download the demo for Monster Hunter IV: Ultimate. I had known of the MH games for quite a few years, primarily from seeing the original PS2 as well as Monster Hunter Tri on the Nintendo Wii, but had never attempted to play any of them. I remember playing a few of the quests in the MHIV demo and having a fair amount of fun, but there was definitely a learning curve there. My initial perception of the series was an interesting game that seemed to require a certain level of commitment to fully grasp the game mechanics…along with other friends to play the game with. The fact it contained an overwhelming amount of items and resources that were difficult to access due to the game’s UI and inventory system feeling a tad on the counter-intuitive side(for me, at least).

Cat puns were never the difficult part of understanding Monster Hunter

A few years later, Monster Hunter: World was released and after hearing the amount of praise for series’ newest release, I decided to make another attempt to run around and hunt some monsters. Unfortunately, the same learning curve hindered most of my progress in the game. I had a difficult time getting the hang of the game’s slow, deliberate movement and controls, along with the crossbar inventory that still felt very difficult to navigate while avoiding ferocious monsters. Compounding this was the fact the matchmaking in the game is likely the most obtuse, counterintuitive process I’ve seen in a modern video game. Most of the time spent playing the game with my brother was simply trying to get paired up in the same quest. I did play MH:World a few times by myself and felt like I made some very slight headway, but still felt like I didn’t “get” the game yet…or if I ever would.

Earlier this year, I spent a fair amount of time watching a few bloggers within the WordPress community play Monster Hunter: World on Twitch(shoutout to Frostilyte and DanamesX) and had hoped to learn a thing or two. I had also been paying loose attention to Capcom’s updates after announcing Monster Hunter: Rise, which was to be released as a timed-exclusive for the Nintendo Switch(a PC port is expected early 2022). A release date for Monster Hunter: Rise was set for March 26, with Capcom releasing a demo on the eShop a couple weeks prior. Once again, I decided to download the demo and see if something would finally click – it didn’t. The Rise demo played well enough, but it still felt in many ways, like the intimidating wall of weapon sharpening, traps, and endemic life previous games had been.

Monster hunter in training…

Monster Hunter: Rise received a great deal of praise after its release and was one of the most-played/talked about games on Twitch and Twitter. I don’t know whether it was a greater amount of sheer determination or FOMO, but I decided to give MH yet another chance and picked up a copy of the game. Due to it being a little more streamlined than previous entries, I kept hearing Rise was the most accessible and best point of entry into the series. I had already been toying with the idea of playing it, when my brother happened to buy two copies of the game and give one to me with the intent(again) of playing some co-op Monster Hunter. You ever have a game that it seems like you just wake up and inexplicably feel like playing? That’s all it really took this time around…

I’m don’t know precisely what it is about MH:Rise that finally started to make sense of the series for me. It might be the fact that the game has been scaled down in size, making it a little less of a daunting task to play through, or the in-game tutorials seemed a little clearer than they had in the past(?). Another possibility is that I simply exercised a bit of patience and restraint in not charging into every monster encounter so….recklessly, which I could point to playing through Bloodborne a few months back as an example of learning not only what to attack, but WHEN to do so…

It only took me a few hours of playing and I started to feel as if I could confidently take down every menacing behemoth in the game all by myself, as I learned some of the ins-and-outs of not only the general combat, but utilizing the endemic life around the area for attribute buffs, along with your Wirebug maneuvers and the array of tools and traps any competent hunter has in their repertoire. Since first playing it a mere month ago, Monster Hunter: Rise has been the game in which I’ve spent the most time. The game credits roll upon finishing up the five-star quest “Comeuppance” which finds you facing off against the storied Magnamalo, which destroyed Kamura Village during a Rampage fifty years prior to the main story. The past few Saturdays have mostly been spent playing Monster Hunter, with one particular Saturday being spent doing little else as I worked toward completing the five and six-star Village Quests before I’d consider myself having “beat” the game.

There’s something incredibly satisfying about hunting and slaying(or capturing) the giant predators terrorizing the lands surrounding Kamura Village, especially when utilizing all the weapons and tools at your disposal. I’ve spent most of my time using the Switch Axe, which opened up a lot of combos to inflict maximum damage once I got familiarized with switching between axe and greatsword form while attacking. Monster Hunter as a series has historically had a greater depth than…let’s face it, a lot of the game I play and love. I’ve put 30+ hours into the game thus far and feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface as there’s many other weapon/armor combinations to try out from here. I want to experiment with some of the other available weapons, such as the Bowgun(s) or Hunting Horn.

the fearsome Magnamalo lies defeated at the feet of Lenny…

My experience with Monster Hunter had always felt like it was bound to be hampered by the fact I have typically spent 99% of my time gaming by myself. I never really had many friends to play games wit other than a younger brother, and any progress playing Monster Hunter: World was greatly affected by the game’s baffling matchmaking setup. I had always had the perception of MH games being closer to an MMO where it’s certainly possible to play the game solo, but the optimal enjoyment comes from playing with others.

I don’t know if I’d attribute it more to a lessened learning curve and greater understanding of the mechanics or sheer stubbornness, either I’ve been loving my time with Monster Hunter: Rise and it has become one of my favorite games I’ve played this year. Some games, regardless of complex gameplay may not resonate immediately, and others may never. I’ve mentioned in the past that it wasn’t until Ocarina of Time that I felt like I finally began to “get” the Legend of Zelda games, but I’ve loved them ever since. Sometimes, all a game needs to finally click is the right time and place…

Thanks for reading!

Knights of the Round

Today’s post isn’t meant to be as much of a review, but rather a simple post sharing a game that I loved growing up – Knights of the Round. Originally released in arcades by Capcom as but one of the sea of beat ’em up/hack ‘n slash games of the early 90’s, it was ported to the Super Nintendo in 1994 where I first played it as a kid. Most recently it was released as part of the Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle in 2018; I spent last night playing through the game again on my Switch grabbing a few screenshots. If you’re at all familiar with the general gameplay of old-school beat ’em up games, you know what to expect – pummeling waves of enemies as you scroll from one stage to the next. The straightforward nature of such games made it very easy to pick up and play as a kid.

Knights of the Round is set in medieval England and follows the legend of King Arthur and his fabled Knights of the Round Table. Under the guidance of the wizard Merlin, Arthur and two of his knights – Lancelot and Percival embark forth on a quest for the mythical Holy Grail to overthrow evil King Garibaldi and unite all of Britain.

Players can choose any of the three characters, each one having slightly different attributes similar to other beat ’em ups of the day. As a kid I would always choose Arthur, having a balanced skill set but no specific strength or weakness. I would quite often play with my younger brother who would pick the slow, but powerful Percival with his giant battle axe, and a neighbor friend who would usually pick Lancelot. One difference from other similar games like Final Fight or Streets of Rage is each character will level up once passing a certain score. Arthur for example will begin the game equipped with standard-looking chain mail , but will gain more extravagant armor as you progress. By the higher experience levels, Arthur will be combating the forces of evil in a golden suit of armor that looks pretty awesome.

The game features seven different levels with a boss battle taking place at the end of each level, there are also several mid-bosses that will later appear as common enemies to strike down. There is a pretty diverse range of enemies you will have to fight as you progress, though in a trademark of the genre, many enemies will simply be a different color than a previous one indicating its higher difficulty or health level. Along the way you encounter different pickups that come from breaking various objects like barrels or wooden ramparts located outside villages and castles. As in other beat ’em ups developed by Capcom in the 90’s, health is acquired by picking up the random assortment of food scattered about the levels, such as turkeys, or salad platters. Video Game Logic: the mental connection to one’s own health and that of their virtual character is indicated by finding milk and turkeys lying on the ground along a dirt path.

There isn’t too much else to say in description of Knights of the Round, it’s a early 90’s arcade beat ’em up game in which you simply mash the attack button(with the occassional jump-attack mixed in) to clear a path through enemies hindering your progress from the left side of the screen to the right. I am mildly embarrassed to admit that prior to playing this a couple days ago and looking through the manual for the SNES version, I truly had no idea there was a block move granting you brief invincibility as you counterattack….you learn something new every day I guess. The difficulty level of the Knights of the Round is pretty balanced, as far as arcade games designed to keep you popping quarters into the cabinet if you wished to see the end credits. Some of the later bosses can do some serious damage and can quickly send you to the continue screen, though perhaps now knowing of a block mechanic it may be ever so slightly easier…you know, pressing the X Button on the controller. It is also a game that benefits in having a co-op partner, not just in difficulty but also the overall enjoyment of the game. I fondly remember many hours spent trying to button mash our way to the final boss of the game, usually right before seeing the Game Over screen. One added bonus to playing Knights of the Round as part of the Beat ‘Em Up Bundle is the added option of playing online, as couch co-op isn’t as prevalent as it once was.

Couldn’t mention the words ‘Arthur’ and ‘Grail’ and NOT think of this…

I still enjoy going back and playing through some of my old favorites like Knights of the Round on lazy Saturdays such as yesterday. It’s also a bit coincidental that in merely five days, the long-awaited Streets of Rage 4 is to be released. Streets of Rage was another of my absolute favorite games to play on my Sega Genesis as a kid and I’m pretty excited to finally play the 4th installment in the franchise. What are some of your favorite games as a kid that you still enjoy playing from time to time? Did you ever play many old beat ’em up games in the arcade or at home? Thanks for reading!