Monster Hunter Rise preview: The demo teases beautiful, skill-based play

Monster Hunter Rise preview Capcom Nintendo Switch beautiful graphics Wirebug few quests

Capcom’s Monster Hunter Rise demo should have nearly arrived on the Nintendo Switch eShop by the time you’re reading this, and we were fortunate enough to get our hands on it a little early to preview. If you were hoping for a faithful Monster Hunter experience with a few extra mechanics added and visuals that look terrific even when playing handheld — well, you’re in luck. That seems to be what we have so far.

The Monster Hunter Rise demo offers just a sneak peek

Full and important disclosure: This Monster Hunter Rise demo was my first experience with the franchise ever, so I’m sharing my impressions as an absolute newcomer. Kindly indulge me if I go into detail about some aspects of the game that you’re already intimately aware of.

But let’s just start with the visuals: It’s gorgeous. No, you won’t rub your eyes in shock, wondering if you’re playing a PlayStation 5 game, but the RE Engine is clearly doing some terrific work on Nintendo Switch. In particular, rock walls and mountain terrain glisten beautifully even while playing handheld. And in general, textures still manage to pop handheld, and the graininess I’m probably far too used to seeing in handheld Switch games is not as readily apparent here. Monster Hunter Rise might be pushing the limits of how pretty a game with realistic graphics can look on Switch.

Monster Hunter Rise preview Capcom Nintendo Switch beautiful graphics Wirebug few quests
All screenshots were taken during handheld play (which should make this image look extra impressive).

Ostensibly, the demo offers four quests for solo play, though two are just tutorials guided by the character Master Utsushi. (The demo offers no story aspects.) One tutorial teaches you the basics of the game, while the other teaches you how to pin down monsters and mount them in order to use them to battle other monsters (“Wyvern Riding”). Before choosing a quest, you select from a whopping 14 different weapons that all feel distinct, being the Great Sword, Long Sword, Sword & Shield, Dual Blades, Hammer, Hunting Horn, Lance, Gunlance, Switch Axe, Charge Blade, Insect Glaive, Light Bowgun, Heavy Bowgun, and Bow.

Each weapon type is distinct, even the different ranged weapons. Weapons often vary in terms of attack speed and range, as the Great Sword felt agonizingly slow while the Dual Blades felt more akin to something in a typical action game. The Bow meanwhile played exactly how it sounds, whereas the Heavy Bowgun allowed charged shots or alternatively an automatic fire mode. The variety is so great that everyone is sure to find a favorite.

To help me hunt, I had two Buddy creatures, a Palico (cat dude with a sword) and Palamute (loyal dog/fox). The Palico chipped in some blows against enemies, while the Palamute was most useful for riding around on. Each had utility, but they were unremarkable.

The demo teases aspects like gear collection, loadout selection, and crafting items at camp, but you don’t actually get to do much of any experimentation. You just have your chosen weapon and the really attractive default armor provided to you. Although, as you travel the environment, you will find lots of “endemic life,” some of which essentially act as temporary stat boons. This provides yet one more incentive to explore, in addition to all of the materials to collect and monsters to hunt.

Monster Hunter Rise preview Capcom Nintendo Switch beautiful graphics Wirebug few quests

One of the big new mechanics this Monster Hunter Rise demo shows off is the Wirebug, which lets you zip from place to place faster, especially vertically. You just hold ZL to aim and ZR to zip. In the demo, it allowed upward of two uses of Wirebug at a time, though its associated gauge would immediately begin to regenerate after use. Finding a wild Wirebug in the environment can also temporarily increase your gauge by 1.

Aside from expanding your mobility, the Wirebug also enables a special attack based on your equipped weapon called Silkbind. It seems to do pretty decent damage, but its unique value is that it can bind the monster you’re hunting. Hitting them with enough Silkbinds will pin them down long enough for you to ride them for a limited time. Then you can move around with the monster by holding R and use weak and strong attacks. Attacking with a monster will build a gauge that allows you to use a really powerful attack once filled. Additionally, you can make the monster you’re riding hurt itself by crashing it into walls.

It’s all quite novel, but maneuvering a disagreeable monster can be pretty cumbersome. I have to imagine that’s the point though, so I’d need to have the opportunity to mount more types of monsters to see just how engaging or annoying the mechanic actually is.

Admittedly, I had a pretty difficult time wrapping my head around the Monster Hunter Rise demo’s complex controls as a total newcomer to the franchise. Y will use an item you’ve set (like a healing item), and holding L opens up a spread of carried items that you can select among to use with the right thumbstick. However, you can only use an item if you don’t have a weapon out, and taking out or putting away a weapon requires a button press of its own (X and R respectively). A can be used to mount a creature or do strong attacks if your weapon is out. B is for dodging, which drains a stamina meter. (Attacking also drains stamina, of course.) And lastly, the D-pad lets you cycle through a variety of simple orders or pre-made messages to send to allies.

As a result of every single action requiring some really conscientious use of the controller, battles in Monster Hunter Rise demand a deliberate pace, even though the boss monsters themselves are fast and deadly. I was able to slay a Great Izuchi, a bear-like creature, without too much trouble in the Beginner-difficulty quest. Hunting an Intermediate-difficulty Mizutsune, a sort of aquatic fox dragon(?), was a completely different story. When it attacked, it threw its entire body at me, doing huge damage. It also littered the battlefield with dangerous lingering bubbles. The beast killed me again and again, sending me back to camp, so clearly I need more practice. I have not yet mastered the Monster Hunter Rise demo.

Monster Hunter Rise preview Capcom Nintendo Switch beautiful graphics Wirebug few quests

As for online play, well, we didn’t have the opportunity to try it at publication time. Long story short, online play was not immediately available when the demo launched, and the time at which it did become available coincided with, ahem, unfortunate events in the United States yesterday. As a result, I could not find anyone in the lobby to play the game with at the various times I tried. Fortunately, with the demo now available to everyone, finding a team will be much easier for everyone. We will all find out together how good or bad the netcode is.

Ultimately, the Monster Hunter Rise demo does not reveal very much, but what is here feels like everything I presume fans want out of the Capcom series. It’s, you know, more Monster Hunter. On Switch. And it’s really, really pretty. If you like those things, you’re all set. If you were lukewarm on the series in the past, this might not change your mind. I don’t really know if we needed a demo to convey these things, but it will help other complete newcomers like me formulate opinions about the series.

John Friscia
Head Copy Editor for Enthusiast Gaming, Managing Editor at The Escapist. I'm a writer who loves Super Nintendo and Japanese role-playing games to an impractical degree. I really miss living in South Korea. And I'm developing the game Boss Saga!