I would like to introduce you to my Big Horn. His name is Bruce.
Bruce was the companion I didn’t know I needed this month. Bruce’s attributes are simple: he likes music, he plays it pretty badly, and he likes to swing.
Finding a good weapon in any Monster Hunter game, Monster Hunter Rise included, is part of the journey. Maybe poking things with an absurdly oversized stick (read: the lance) is your thing. Or maybe you have some kind of Kratos/God of War anime fantasy and you just want to slash and slash and slash and slash. Want to walk around like a turret with a stupidly oversized gunblade? Sure. It’s boring as all hell, but hey, it’s there if you want it.
But one of the most interesting weapons has always been the Hunting Horn, a giant Hammer-like weapon that belts out tunes as it belts out monsters. It’s been in the series from almost the start, although the mechanics have changed immensely since Monster Hunter 2.
Here’s the basic idea, anyway. Your basic attacks queue up music notes, which gets added to a stave that appears near the top of your HUD. After playing a certain sequence of notes, you create a melody, and then you can play some more music (read: slap a monster around for a bit) to store up some extra melodies.
Once you’ve got all your tunes lined up, you can perform everything in order by hitting the right bumper. Playing those melodies then unleashes a bunch of status effects, like temporary attack boosts, healing, clearing debuffs, elemental resistances and more.
Because of the weird nature of the horn, it’s always been a pretty difficult weapon to wield. You have to remember the combos. Then the combos for the songs you wanted to play. Then you had to space yourself out for the recital animation, and you had to deal with the slower than normal attack speed of the horn.
It’s also a goddamn giant tuba. Basically. Doing precise damage to, say, a tail or a leg is pretty difficult. Your movement is definitely affected, but it’s not such a big weapon that you can guard with it. So it’s definitely not something that new users would generally consider picking up first. Monster Hunter has enough going on with monster attack patterns, let alone learning how to play music on top of that.
But what’s so sweet about Monster Hunter Rise is that a lot of the inaccessibility of the hunting horn has been completely stripped away. Playable in either version of Rise‘s demo, getting the most out of the Hunting Horn is vastly more simplified now.
Perhaps the best change with Rise is that the game just tells you immediately know whatever notes you want to place. While you only have the one Hunting Horn in the demo, the full Monster Hunter Rise will have different songs for different versions of the Hunting Horn.
But that doesn’t matter: the UI tells you what songs you can play at any given time. And playing them is easy as all hell, because all of the songs are now grouped into the same note. So instead of having to remember some three-move combos like it’s Mortal Kombat, you can just do two X presses, two Y presses, or two X+Y presses, and you’re good to go.
Alternatively, you can just play one of each note. That’ll bring up another prompt which you can play with the ZR+X buttons, and that plays all of your songs straight away. And it doesn’t matter what order you play each note, just so long as you hit one of each.
They’re smart, sensible changes. You don’t have a huge amount of space on the Switch for clarity, and less so if you’re playing in handheld mode. And while Rise will ultimately come to the PC next year, nailing Monster Hunter on the handheld is a big deal. The franchise really took off after Monster Hunter G/Freedom, which is when the series hit the PSP, and the release of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on the 3DS helped solidify it in the West.
Rise‘s changes to the Hunting Horn feel like a continuation of that mission. It understands that there are plenty of people who would totally get into Monster Hunter, if only some of the complexity was stripped back a little. The Big Horn is just a small piece of that: it’s always been a brilliant weapon, but now more people will actually get to enjoy it.
Alternatively, just give me Bruce in everything. Violence in video games is often stylised as a rhythmic affair, so more weapons should make music to go with their carnage.