Monster Hunter has a reputation for its massive weapons; the comically oversized great sword is easily the series’ most famous monster-killing tool. The series also has complex weapons, like the charge blade or the insect glaive.
But Monster Hunter’s weirdest weapon is the hunting horn and, after going through some major changes from previous games, it’s now my favorite of Rise’s 14 weapons.
What is the hunting horn?
The hunting horn is exactly what it sounds like: a massive horn used to beat monsters senseless. But the horn also has a different functionality: As I wail on monsters with my usual combos, I add notes to what is essentially sheet music at the top of my screen.
In Rise, each note correlates with a specific buff unique to each horn, like increased attack power or earplugs that prevent the monster from startling you with its roar. Here’s an example of how it works: Tapping the A button launches an attack that hits the monster and logs a red note in my sheet music bar. If I hit A twice in a row, I’ll log two red notes back to back and activate a buff. Different buttons are mapped to different attacks, each of which has their own buff if played back to back. I could repeat this same process using X or X+A to perform different attacks and activate different buffs.
A new tune
Before Rise, the hunting horn was known for being a niche and relatively unpopular weapon outside of an absolutely devoted group of players, and it’s often been thought of as a “support only” weapon.
There’s no scientific list of weapon rankings, but old Straw Polls and data collecting attempts regarding popular weapons in Monster Hunter: World and its expansion, Iceborne, didn’t offer favorable ratings for the hunting horn. Many players placed the hunting horn very low on their weapon ranking list in World, with at least one poll showing only 1% of voters had chosen the horn as their favorite weapon. Even Arekkz, one of the biggest and best YouTubers covering the series, called the hunting horn “one of the best weapons that you’re not using” in his Monster Hunter: World tutorial for the weapon.
But in numerous polls I’ve seen asking players what they plan to play in Rise — including one with over 2,500 votes from the Monster Hunter subreddit — the hunting horn is number one. Why?
There have always been diehard fans of the hunting horn, but it was always a little clunky, a little complicated, and sidelined by being a “support weapon.” With Rise, Capcom took some of the complexity out — players used to have to combine different notes into a specific “song” combo before they could activate any buffs — and distilled the hunting horn down to its core identity: a musical instrument that also works as a bludgeon, buffing players while damaging monsters. And now it excels in that job even without a full party of hunters.
A noisier bludgeon
I decided to put down my trusty hammer to try out the new hotness after hearing all the hunting horn buzz from the Monster Hunter Rise demo — and I rarely ever put it back down. I’ve hunted each of Monster Hunter Rise’s monsters multiple times, all completely solo, and I’ve used the hunting horn for almost all of them, including the final boss. I never fought a monster I couldn’t defeat using the hunting horn, and I’ve rarely had as much fun with my long sword, hammer, or switch axe.
In Rise, Capcom added a new triple buff combo called the Magnificent Trio that can only be used after placing a red, blue, and green note on the sheet music menu at once — by hitting A, A, X, X+A in a row, for example. By using a standard combo like the one above, you not only enable yourself to use this super powerful move, you also re-up your A note buff without much risk. Once you’ve activated the Magnificent Trio, you can store it forever, even after you’ve moved on to other combos or started fighting a different monster.
Activating this Magnificent Trio inspires my hunter to perform a bunch of flips and gyrations, playing music and dealing a ton of damage all around the monster. And when the move finishes, it plays all of my buffs at once. If that wasn’t cool enough, dealing enough damage with the hunting horn lets me enhance Magnificent Trio with an attack where I spin my horn on the ground, dealing major damage to monsters with my sweet tunes, increasing all of my damage for several seconds, and looking cool as hell doing it.
Rise’s game director, Yasunori Ichinose, told Polygon in an email interview that he wanted to “make a drastic change to ensure the [hunting horn’s] musical performances during combat were more immediate and impactful.” Ichinose succeeded, and with the suite of new combos listed above, the hunting horn is deadlier than ever.
The buffs are helpful, but they aren’t everything I love about my hunting horn. I also adore the weird way my hunter moves with the combos, the range the horn offers over the hammer, and the unique positioning I need for the horn. If I’m actively trying to put notes on the bar, I’ll stay to the side of the monster for a quick escape. But if I’m trying to set up my Magnificent Trio, I’ll move under the monster to maximize my damage. My combos aren’t long or hard to remember, but I always stay engaged while wielding the hunting horn.
If other players are in my hunt to get my buffs, that’s great, but while they’re standing there jamming to my tunes, I’ll be single-handedly wrangling the monster with my favorite weapon.