Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Monster Hunter Rise should let me hunt Pennywise

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Ive been playing a lot of Monster Hunter Rise, and Im far enough in that Im starting

to crave a little bit more variety in my carves.

But when I think about what new creatures Id most like to hunt, I hit a block.

There are dozens of big bosses that seem like a great fit for the franchise: Bowser, the Hydra,

ULTROS?!

But none of them are quite right.

Cloverfield? The Rancor?

The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man?

They will simply not do.

That's when I realized: the only solution was for Capcom to let me hunt, kill, and wear the flesh of

Pennywise the Clown.

(honka honka)

You see, I was thinking of Monster Hunter Rises big blow-out fights all wrong.

They're not like the boss fights in any other game. In fact, I dare to say theyre

not boss fights at all.

In my research, I found that the recommendations on how to make a satisfying boss fight are

pretty standardized, so Ive simplified them into a handy 5-part system:

Big, Unique,

Trapped, Test, and Ssssss-calation.

Monster Hunter Rise throws most of these rules right into

the monster dumpster.

To understand that, we have to understand how Munster Hunter Rise

I said munster. I WILL play Munster Hunter.

We have to understand how Monster Hunter Rise AND how Pennywise betray most of these boss-fight rules.

Staring with the only one that Monster Hunter Rise actually adheres to: BIGNESS.

This is your basic David versus Goliath or child vs adult clown quotient. As humans we

instinctively know that anything larger than us is a bully to be defeated, and anything

smaller, a weakling to be picked on.

Is that how being bullied is? I've never been bullied.

BIGNESS is about setting up player expectations. Video games, like a lot of art really, rely

on visual shorthands to set the stage quickly. Bigness conveys toughness, difficulty, a challenge.

Fundamentally, a hero overcomes obstacles, but if its not tough, is it really an obstacle?

Are you really a hero if your steak is less than 72 ounces?

When bosses do start out small, they usually undergo some enbiggenment for the actual fight.

The idea of a small boss can be played for laughs or horror, depending on how you feel

about the word "gaping." And sometimes!! Theyre just rats!!!

This so-called Tony Vermin is a bit of a prank. A prank... that kills.

Monster Hunter monsters are all big. Sometimes real big. This rule cuts out a lot of small

or distributed guest monsters but not Pennywise. Pennywise adopts dozens of forms in the novel,

miniseries, and movie adaptations, most consistently the dancing clown we all know and want to skin.

But its true physical form on Earth is a giant fuck-off spider.

Ha ha! BIG.

That! Was the easy one. Monster Hunter Rise otherwise flies in the face of the remaining UTTS.

Which is great news for people who want to pancake a clown-spider with a bone hammer.

Pennywise might have a special place in our hearts and in our sewers, but it doesnt fulfill

the next letter in the BUTTS - Uuuuuu...NIQUE.

In most games, the boss fight is a grudge match between two unique individuals:

you, and the boss. The run-up will be filled with copy-pasted grunts with no backstory that

you mow down like so much tall grass. But the Boss will be one of a kind. Theyll

be faster, stronger, have special moves that no other monster has, and be able to interact

with the world in ways that break the game.

Mr. Freeze remembers the attacks you use against him, forcing you to change up your repertoire.

The Walker in Battletoads changes the players POV. And Psycho Mantis breaks the fourth wall

by dipping into your save files!

Which feels like a real violation of privacy! But I guess he is a bad guy, so that kind of tracks.

Not only are the designs of these bosses unique, they also create a unique gameplay experience.

And when you inevitably destroy 'em, thats it. Their story is done.

In Monster Hunter Rise, the monsters may feel unique... but theyre actually quite replaceable.

The first time you fight a beastie, its presented in cutscene as a singular entity.

This ONE. This is the ONE that you're gonna fight!

Buuuuuut we know it represents a larger group of creatures because you kill it and another

one repopulates. Youre never fighting Gerard the Khezu or Ms. Havisham. In comparison,

if you killed and carved Sephiroth, then you better hope you got the one-winged angel orb

because that is it. Hes gone. He was a limited resource.

Uniqueness, of course, excludes a lot of monsters that seem like otherwise good fits for the Monster

Hunter game, because theres only the one, or because there are plenty, but there's no good, iconic

representation of the group.

After all, its Mothman not Mothmans.

If youve only experienced IIIIIIIT through the adaptations, you might be thinking surely

Pennywise fails this standard! Theres only one Pennywise the Dancing Clown!

He dances alone!

That thinking is exactly why Pennywise does in fact perfectly fit the Monster Hunter Rise mold.

You've fallen into my trap!!

In the original novel, we learn that Pennywise is not just a giant fuck-off spider, but a

FEMALE giant fuck-off spider, one that has a huge brood of eggs!

Wow, sounds like an iconic member of a larger species to me.

Capcom, I would be truly honored to slay this hashtag-girlboss.

Monster Hunters beasties have another thing in common with your favorite Cage Free Grade-C

Organic Clown-Spider.

In most boss battles, you are TRAPPED, physically and emotionally, in an arena of some kind:

a single frame or some colosseum where the door fogs over behind you. This is so prevalent

sometimes you can just look at an area and be like mmm... thats no moon.

In his GDC talk, Blizzard Game Director Luis Barriga says an arena should have three areas:

Control, where the boss is... Direct Threat, where the boss can attack immediately, and

Indirect Threat, where the boss can attack if they move. Youll notice that list does

not include safe areas!

The direct and indirect portions should be roughly 50/50, but no part should be entirely

outside the bosss grasp. Trapping the player turns simple, familiar actions, like dowsing

your bloody stump in magic chemical, into a high-stakes endeavor. Otherwise you could

just sit there shooting spitballs at the sucker until you deplete their health.

Which is, also fine honestly, if the game lets you do it, do it.

But if we look at a MHR map, its mostly safe areas.

Monsters frequently disengage from fights, giving you all the

time you need to sharpen up your... oh!

Hmmm... hammer!?

HAMMER!?

Plus, sometimes other monsters will crash your fight! Which is wild! If I were fighting

Vicar Amelia and the Bloodstarved Beast showed up, I would flip my table!

I'm not here for that!

One at a time! Make a queue!

Almost every climactic battle takes place in an arena, and not just in video games.

The stakes feel higher if Luke Skywalker is trapped fighting the Rancor. This eliminates

a lot of water-locked monsters that I thought would be a good fit for Monster Hunter Rise:

classics like Bruce from Jaws, and Loch Ness, who, gosh, I really would love to ride.

It also eliminates Big Bird and Snuffleupagus because what is Sesame Street if not an arena?

Then... theres Pennywise. Although the final fight happens to culminate in the sewer, it

doesnt have to. It doesnt even happen entirely in one spot in the sewer. It's distributed.

Like in Monster Hunter, the groups engage and disengage, fall back to heal and

regroup. And you dont have to worry about any underwater battle sections because

we all float down here! (Pennywise: YES WE DO!)

Pennywise only ever attacks during summer break, which means schools out on the next letter in our BUTTS

which is TEST.

Bosses often TEST your ability to perform specific skills usually related to something

you just learned or an item you just got. They act as gatekeepers, to prevent players

from moving to a level that might be too difficult. As my living room wall says, If you cant

handle me at my boss, you dont deserve me at the next level of difficulty.

Bosses motivate the player by providing a clear, actionable goal: Find this thing and

kill it. And because of that, bosses also act as a kind of meta-reward. The still-warm

heart of your enemy is an incidental reward compared to the feeling of progress. Just

getting to the arena should feel like an achievement, because it shows youre close to finishing

this chunk of game.

For Monster Hunter Rise, none of this really applies.

Why do I rhyme so much in this script?

I mean, some fights will go better

if youve mastered specific skills: Mizutsunes water blast will test your wirebugging, Barroth

will test your environmental awareness,

and Volvidon will test your fuckin patience.

But its as much about preparedness and endurance as it is about on-the-ground skills.

If you fail, it might be because your skills are weak, but it might just mean you forgot

your asbestos-lined JNCO jeans this morning.

Bosses are meant to feel different from the normal gameplay grind. But the monster hunts

just *are* the gameplay. Getting to the fight isnt your motivation, and theres no

meta-reward for doing so just the actual rewards you get to beef up your pregame. Youre

going to have to fight a lot of monsters over and over to get that one medulla you need

to make a totally normal-looking weapon. Thats just not what boss fights are about.

Pennywise is the only monster that matches Monster Hunter Rises slow-and-steady, preparedness-forward approach.

Talk about an endurance battle Pennywise takes a whole summer to fight! Theres no

rushing into battle, the Losers take a calculated approach to this combat, just like the Losers

in the game.

Finally, weve arrived at the back end of BUTTS: Sssssss-calation.

You might remember the Pennywise battle ending in a pretty anticlimactic way and thats

just part of why that battle fits so well with Monster Hunter Rise.

Non-controversial statement: most games get harder as you move forward with the story.

Escalation is often linear, as you can see in this graph by game designer Mike Stout.

Difficulty peaks with the boss fight, then the player gets some little de-escalation

tea-time to let 'em find their bearings, and then it ramps back up again.

In boss fights, this escalation expectation manifests in three ways. First of all, each

boss should be harder than the one that came before it. By extension, the final boss should

be the most difficult, which aligns nicely with our expectations for a narrative climax

as well. When its not, its pretty notable.

Second of all, bosses should be the most difficult part of the level. If its harder to get

to the boss than it is to defeat it, somethings wrong with the game balance.

And third of all, there should be some sort of escalation during the fight itself. Bosses

start off easy, then evolve part way though sometimes multiple times. Theyll get a new

form, new moves, a full health bar. Basically, they cheat. But theyre bosses so its

fine. Increased difficulty means increased pressure, means a more intense feeling of

triumph when you finally beat your dad!

These rules apply to nearly every boss fight ever. Unless that boss fight is in Monster Hunter Rise.

Monster battles dont get harder and harder until you win. As the monsters lose body parts,

they lose attacks and range. Sometimes they just leave to take a mud bath. At a certain

point the beast will start to limp, clearly beaten. You just have to finish the job. Its

more a moment of pathos than of triumph. You have fought well, noble Khezu. Now stand down.

Monster Hunter Rise is less linear escalation and more a fun sisyphean loop that eventually

lets you move a little bit further along. The progression is closer to a farming game,

but like, one where you have to fist fight your onions. Gah, that sounds like a great game.

In IT, the Losers defeat Pennywise, and then they disperse, they go off and build careers, and get married,

and send their meowcenaries back out, and then they all have to come back to Derry to fight It again!

Twenty-seven years pass in the meantime. Thats almost as long as Ive had to wait

in a lobby for my team to ready up!

Ha ha, I'm the worst offender!

After all that, you might still be saying, okay, so MHR isnt tapping into the BUTTS.

That doesnt mean those fights arent boss battles, and it really doesnt mean

you should get to wear Pennywises skin like a little jacket, you weirdo.

But I would point out two things to BUTTS-deniers. One, the game does have boss fights. Its

just not these big monster battles.

The RAMPAGE quests fit much better in the BUTTS frame. Rampages are fundamentally different

from the normal gameplay grind and they gatekeep your progression. And two, I know youre

out here wearing ibushi leather and narwa bones so dont get all high and mighty with me.

Capcom, you could add Pennywise to the Rampages. I would accept that compromise. But I hope

youll consider adding It as a standard enemy. Of all the monsters

in the world, none could slip into your game with such ease. You already have a giant

fire spider, so why not add a giant water spider into the mix? Slap a new skin on that skeleton,

drop Pennywise into the flooded forest, and well be eating clown steak by dinnertime!

So tasty!

(tense, repetitive strings)

I wanna fight... an onion...

Why'd you make me cry!

Urrgh!

Pat (distorted, over Zoom): WHO'S CRYING NOW? Jenna: Okay (laughing)

I bet onions hear that a lot.

The Description of Monster Hunter Rise should let me hunt Pennywise