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!

Super Mario 3D All-Stars – First Impressions

It’s been a week since the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection was released for the Switch after Nintendo made the suprise announcement only a few weeks prior. I woke up to the social media frenzy caused by the announcement as rumors had been circulating for what seemed like an eternity that Nintendo was planning on releasing Super Mario 64, Sunshine and Galaxy on their immensely successful little hybrid console. Much of the excitement gave way to a mix of skepticism and disappointment as Nintendo revealed that the games were to feature no major changes or improvements outside of upgraded visuals and a few minor tweaks to the control schemes. There was also the rather odd decision to make the collection only available until the end of March 2021, which seemed to confuse, as well as upset many fans(Nintendo announcements and their reception by gamers afterwards could be its own lengthy post). Nintendo is perhaps the only company to rival Disney in its ability to consistently generate HUGE profits by playing on fan’s nostalgia. After catching up on some of the details about the lack of major improvements to the game and it being a limited time release, I questioned whether or not this was something I really needed to purchase right now as I already own all three games on their original consoles…

In what should suprise precisely NO ONE, I pre-ordered a copy of 3D All-Stars. I also decided I would attempt to write out a few of my thoughts on the collection after spending a fair amount of time with all three games.

Super Mario 64

Mario 64 looks pretty nice in 720p, but is unable to be played in now-standard widescreen 16:9 and is only available in a 4:3 aspect ratio

It’s difficult to know where to begin when talking about Super Mario 64, let alone say anything that hasn’t been discussed countless times since it revolutionized video games in 1996 by showing that fully three-dimensional games could be more than a mere gimmick. Mario 64 is a timeless classic and I’ll admit that I was a bit disappointed to hear after the anouncement of Super Mario 3D All-Stars that it was going to be a very bare-bones HD remaster. The game does look nice in 720p, but it’s too bad that the oldest and most important game in the collection didn’t get more improvements.

As I anticipated prior to its release, the biggest drawback to Mario 64 on the Switch is going back to the N64-era “sometimes fixed, sometimes free” camera. Lakitu follows Mario around as the game’s camera person and still ends up getting stuck on various objects in levels just like the N64 version. I honestly didn’t think having non-inverted camera controls in the Switch version of the game would be as noticeable as it has, but I regularly found myself rotating the camera to the opposite direction. I guess my muscle memory built up from playing the game in years past was stronger than I realized…

Super Mario Sunshine

I love Mario Sunshine, as I’ve mentioned the game numerous times and have many, many wonderful memories of those late-August nights playing it on my Gamecube. It may be the most divisive Mario entry this side of the Paper Mario games as some feel the level design wasn’t up to the same standard as Mario’s previous outing, the revolutionary Super Mario 64. Others have stated the F.L.U.D.D backpack simply felt like a gimmick and betrayed the 3D-platformer purity of 64. I’ve spent an hour or two playing Sunshine and feel the game’s controls still hold up well, with the biggest change in the game’s feel being due to the Switch Pro Controller or Joycons not having the same analog shoulder buttons that the Gamecube controller had. You were able to press the R Button completely down and Mario’s F.L.U.D.D pack would spray water in a tighter, more-focused stream allowing maximum distance, press down the R Button a little less and the water would come out in a wider “shotgun” spread. While playing on the Switch, you can only achieve this after holding the ZR Button down for a couple seconds and the stream will eventually reduce down to a sputter. The absence of the Gamecube’s inverted camera controls was easier for me to adjust to in Sunshine than it seemed to be while playing Mario 64.

My biggest disappointment in the HD remaster of Super Mario Sunshine is how the game could have risen to beloved status of Mario Galaxy if Nintendo could have polished up the gameplay just a tiny bit and tweaked the camera control/angles. I still love Super Mario Sunshine, but I was honestly hoping for just a little more of an upgrade…

Super Mario Galaxy

Super Mario Galaxy was a game that I didn’t play until a few years after it was first released in 2007, but I immediately fell in love with everything about the game. Nearly everything about the game is exceptional – controls, level design, music….I LOVE the orchestral soundtrack! Being originally released on the Wii presents its share of challenges as the motion controls must be implemented to Joycons/Pro Controller. For the most part, the game’s controls work pretty well and don’t hinder the gameplay much. The biggest change for me in playing Mario Galaxy is while playing in handheld mode, you need to tap the screen to fire star bits and to use the Pull Stars, having to take a hand off the Switch doesn’t feel very intuitive, but hasn’t hampered Galaxy’s phenomenal experience all that much either. It’s a shame Mario Galaxy 2 wasn’t included in the collection as well, considering many believe it to be even better than the original…

Is Super Mario 3D All-Stars worth it?

For anyone curious about the 3D All-Stars collection and wondering if it’s worth purchasing, I believe this depends on your answer to an additional set of questions:

  • Do you already own these games?

If you don’t own an original copy of 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy it is definitely worth the price as used copies of Mario 64 and Mario Sunshine can cost around $50 each, with Galaxy being less expensive(as with most Wii games, currently). If you already have original copies of the games, it’s a little harder to justify paying $60 for HD remasters running on an emulator unless…

  • Is the convenience of playing all three games on the Switch important to you?

By far, the most appealing aspect of the 3D All-Stars collection for me is the ability to play them on the same console. I’ve spent a large part of my play time lying in bed grabbing a few stars(or sprites) here and there before going to sleep. 3D Mario games like this are still great choices when looking for something to play in small doses.

My ultimate criticism of the Mario collection lies primarily in the fact that there wasn’t any real improvements made to the three games, save for the video quality. It’s difficult not to feel like the old “one step forward, two steps back” analogy is applicable here, especially given Nintendo’s history in demonstrating imagination and innovation. I will point out, however, that this precedent has been set in the past in regards to releasing a “lazy” collection of emulated games as Nintendo released Super Mario All-Stars for the Wii as a limited-time(the same as 3D All-Stars) release of the SNES game that offered simply a chance to play classic Mario games on the Wii console. So, while the most recent Mario collection may cause Nintendo to appear a bit complacent or even greedy…it’s not an unprecedented, or even recent situation. Damn, would I have just angered my 12-year old fanboy self with that (mild)criticism of Nintendo and pointing out their historically conservative business decisions…

Despite some minor gripes about the 3D All-Stars collection, I still love the games as much as nearly any other game I can think of…I was just hoping for a little bit more. Did you pick up Super Mario 3D All-Stars? If so, what do you think of it? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!