2018’s Monster Hunter World marked a number of firsts for Capcom’s long-running action-RPG series. It was the first installment to feature seamless, open-world environments; the first to cross 15 million copies sold (making it the publisher’s most successful game to date); and the first mainline entry in nearly a decade to skip Nintendo systems entirely. Whereas the 3DS had hosted every proper Monster Hunter game since Tri, Monster Hunter World instead made its home on PS4, Xbox One, and PC, with seemingly little hope that it would ever come to Nintendo Switch.
As it turns out, Capcom had other plans for the hybrid console. Following World’s release, the publisher brought an expanded version of Monster Hunter Generations to Switch, and this fall it officially unveiled Monster Hunter Rise, one of two new Monster Hunter games–along with the RPG spin-off Monster Hunter Stories 2–coming to Nintendo’s system next year. Like World, Rise is a traditional Monster Hunter game that shakes up the series’ formula with a few new gameplay elements, namely a new canine companion and a special insect that lets you grapple around the environment.
GameSpot recently had the chance to speak with series producer Ryozo Tsujimoto and game director Yasunori Ichinose through an interpreter about the challenges of developing Monster Hunter Rise for Switch, the inspiration behind the new Palamute companion and Wirebug item, and taking exploration even further than Monster Hunter World. The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Can you tell us what year development started on Monster Hunter Rise?
Ryozo Tsujimoto: Mr. Ichinose’s last title was Monster Hunter Generations, and he’s basically been thinking about this game ever since, but we had to spend some time thinking about the whole development environment because we’re using RE Engine for this title. So we had to spend a lot of time getting that to work, but we would say it’s probably been a little bit under four years.
So this game was developed concurrently with Monster Hunter World?
Tsujimoto: Yeah, there was some concurrent development with World.
Was it always the plan that Switch would have its own Monster Hunter game while other platforms got Monster Hunter World?
Tsujimoto: Yeah, we’ve gotten a lot of fan feedback from people who wanted a portable Monster Hunter game, and of course the Switch was the most logical option there. But when we make a new Monster Hunter, we always need some kind of fresh new concept, and that’s what we had to come up with for Monster Hunter Rise this time.
During the development of Monster Hunter Rise, the COVID pandemic happened. Did that have a big impact on how development progressed?
Tsujimoto: Japan has been hit very hard by COVID, so it would be a lie to say that it hasn’t impacted development at all. But that being said, we still feel that we’ve been able to create a very solid, fun title that is up to the standards of the series, so there’s nothing to worry about.
During the recent Monster Hunter Direct, you said that the maps in Rise are going to be one big, seamless environment. Does that mean no loading screens between the different areas?
Tsujimoto: That’s correct, yes. Once you go to the quest, the entire map is seamless and will have no loading times.
Was that very challenging to achieve on Switch?
Tsujimoto: Yeah, it was very challenging, but this title is being developed on RE Engine, which is our own proprietary engine, so we have all the engineers right here in the office so we can talk to them whenever we want. If there’s any issues, we can solve them immediately, so that’s been a huge help.
One of the big new features in Monster Hunter Rise is the Wirebug. When I first saw it, it immediately reminded me of the Slinger from Monster Hunter World. Is the Wirebug based on the Slinger, or are there any big differences in terms of how they work?
Yasunori Ichinose: As we mentioned before, the game was developed largely concurrently with Monster Hunter World, so we weren’t really looking at it. My last game was Monster Hunter Generations, and ever since we finished that game, I’ve been thinking of adding some element to the game to make mobility more fun, and that’s how we came up with the Wirebug, because it’s very much focused on getting around very quickly and giving a lot of freedom of movement to the player.
Monster Hunter World already offered a very high degree of exploration, and we wanted to take that a step further. So by introducing the Wirebug, we’re giving the player the option to do a lot more. There’s a lot more verticality to the levels now, so players can climb walls, and you can jump around and fly around. You can basically go anywhere you want. Basically, if you can see it, you can go there, and you might make some interesting new discoveries and find some interesting stuff in hidden areas.
Can you explain a little more about how the Wirebug works? Can you use it anywhere in the environment, and does it get depleted after you use it?
Ichinose: Your player character has two Wirebugs on them at all times, and when you use one, there’s a short cooldown meter, so you can’t keep using them infinitely. You can use two in a row and then you have to wait for them to cool down.
The other big addition in Monster Hunter Rise is the Palamute. What inspired you to add a dog companion to the game?
Ichinose: As you know, in past games we only had the Palicoes, the cat helpers, and we had a lot of feedback from fans who wanted to have some kind of dog companion as well, so this is actually something we’ve been thinking about for some time, and we were finally able to do it. We wanted to add some new element of surprise to this game, so that was another part of the inspiration as well.
Do you expect the Palamute to become a fixture of the series going forward?
Tsujimoto: With each new title, we create new systems and we think about new gameplay elements, so we can’t really say at this point yet if we’re going to reuse the Palamute at any point in the future because it’s going to depend very much on what kind of new games we’re going to make. In Generations Ultimate, for instance, we had the Palicoes as playable characters, which is also not something that’s returning this time, so it’s going to greatly depend on the type of Monster Hunter games that we’re going to make in the future.
While we’re on the subject of Palamutes, I’m not sure if this is something that you’re familiar with, but there’s a very popular Twitter account called Can You Pet the Dog that talks about whether or not you can pet dogs in different video games. Is that something you can do with the Palamute?
Ichinose: Yeah, we have several ways of interacting with both the Palamutes and the Palicoes. You can tell them to give paw, or you can feed them or you can play around with them, so please give them attention.
You’ve really thought this through.
Ichinose: Yeah, that was something that we got a lot of fan requests about.
Beyond the Palamutes and Wirebug, are there any other new gameplay features in Rise? Are there any new weapon types or other things like that?
Ichinose: We have the same 14 weapon types from previous games, but there is one major new gameplay element that we’re not allowed to talk about yet, so you’re going to have to look forward to more news about that.
Tsujimoto: Like we said, we have the same 14 weapon types we always have, but with the addition of the Wirebug, you’re actually going to be able to do a lot of new moves and actions that weren’t possible before, so it’s going to feel very different.
You’ve already shown off a handful of new monsters debuting in Rise. Can you give us an estimate of how many new monsters are going to be in the game, and will there be a lot of returning monsters as well?
Tsujimoto: We get asked that question a lot, but when we make a new Monster Hunter game, we don’t really focus on numbers; there’s not a specific number of enemies that we want to introduce. We just look at the game we’re trying to make and then we find the right kind of volume for the game and that’s what we base the selection of monsters on.
You’ve previously teased that there is going to be some kind of connectivity between Monster Hunter Rise and Monster Hunter Stories 2. Would you be able to go into more detail about that?
Tsujimoto: We’re looking at some extra elements. If you play one game, you can unlock some nice things in the other game.
Will there also be any kind of connectivity with Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate since that’s also on Switch?
Tsujimoto: No, not with Generations Ultimate, no.
Collaborations have been a big part of previous Monster Hunter games. Can we expect the same for Monster Hunter Rise?
Tsujimoto: That’s obviously become a staple of the series, so we’re looking into what we can do with this game, but we haven’t really decided on anything yet, and the team is still very much hard at work on getting the actual main game finished, so that’s our top priority right now.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell fans about Monster Hunter Rise?
Tsujimoto: Monster Hunter Rise and Monster Hunter Stories 2 have only just been announced, so there’s a lot we haven’t mentioned yet, and there’s a lot still to talk about, so we’ll be doing more online events and stuff like that. Considering the state of the world, we can’t really do anything in person, but we’re going to do a lot more online stuff, so please look forward to that, we have a lot more to share with you.