As a series, Monster Hunter has a lot to offer: challenging, punishing combat; fantastical, yet somewhat biologically justified creatures; and a massive selection of armour and weapons to be crafted from their body parts. Despite the games never veering far from these core elements since the first title in 2004, continuous adjustments and mechanical additions, such as Rise’s high-flying Wirebugs, have kept the series from ever feeling dated. However, one aspect of the series that often goes underappreciated is its character creator.
I’ve always loved character creators in games. I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t spent literal hours in these menus, often delaying starting the game itself because I’m not yet completely happy with the character I’m going to inhabit for the adventure ahead. If I’m going to be looking at their back for ninety-five percent of my playtime, I want them to be perfect! While my appreciation of character creators is nothing new, it was only when I realised that I was non-binary that my time spent in them started to make sense. And though character creators are by no means a rare or novel inclusion in games at this point, especially role playing games, I think Monster Hunter Rise‘s creator is a cut above others I’ve experienced, particularly for those experiencing gender dysphoria.
When I say Rise allows you to be anyone, it’s not an exaggeration. The depth and variety of its character creator is absolutely massive—the usual options such as hair style and colour, skin colour and eye colour (with the option of heterochromia!) are all here, with RGB and saturation sliders for each rather than a pre-established, limited colour palette. Rise notably also allows you to modify incredibly granular details such as jaw shape, chin protrusion and nose bridge width. As a result, players have precise control over the exact appearance of their character. A few years ago, when I was essentially addicted to Monster Hunter World, I would use this freedom to create a character that looked as close to my real appearance as possible—I simply couldn’t think of what else to do with it. In the time since, as I’ve come more to terms with my self and my gender, I’ve approached this freedom in the complete opposite way.
Unlike most character creators—including those in previous Monster Hunter titles—which operate on a simple, gendered binary of “male” and “female” options, Rise instead provides two body types labelled “Type 01” and “Type 02” respectively. By itself, this is already fantastic for genderqueer players, as it removes any inherent gender from the body type they exist in. Monster Hunter Rise isn’t the first role playing game to remove gendered body types from its character creator—for example, Runescape designates the two body types as variations on “Appearance.” However, Runescape limits certain aesthetic options to each body type while Rise doesn’t limit any customisation options to either body type. Players are free to give their “Type 02” character a dark, thick beard and a large bust, or their “Type 01” character a high-pitched or traditionally feminine voice and a burly frame. This reinforces the separation of gender from appearance—your Hunter is not bound by the societal norms of gender, instead being free to present themselves however they wish. As a non-binary person, it should come as no surprise that this is a massive deal for me. While other character creators often funnel the player down either “macho man” or “sexy woman” presets—even those that offer extensive facial customisation—Rise allows true freedom to create the person you want to be. Thanks to this, I can live in a fantasy free from real-world barriers to self-expression, and watch my ideal self fight gargantuan beasts and interact with townspeople without judgment.
As a final trick up its sleeve, your Hunter is not a one and done creation. Even with the freedom the character creator offers, it’s still possible that you may change your mind later and wish for an entirely different appearance midway through your adventure. In many role playing games, this would require a fresh new file and loss of progress or items—an opportunity cost simply not worth it for games as grind-heavy as they are in this genre. Rise avoids this by allowing players to change the vast majority of their features, including face shape, hairstyle, eyes, makeup and voice, at any time through the “Your Appearance” menu. More sweeping changes like body type can be changed at any time using “Character Edit Vouchers”—two of these are provided for free, giving the player multiple opportunities to completely recreate their character, following their heart to create whichever kind of person they wish to at the time. However, any full-scale character resets can only be accessed by buying further vouchers as DLC, at $3 a piece. Accidental allegory for the expense of gender assignment surgery aside, this is my only gripe with Rise’s character creator—while it’s somewhat unsurprising considering Capcom’s recent history with add-on DLC, such as Street Fighter V‘s gargantuan amount of paid costumes and colours, it’s still disappointing to be given free rein to change your character in the creator, but then be forced to cough up a few bucks once you run out of tokens.
Despite its unfortunate monetisation practices, Rise’s character creator is still incredibly important to me, and was genuinely a major aspect in helping me to feel valid in my own identity. I am never going to look like any of my pretty, handsome Hunters, and I have accepted that. But I can, and will, enjoy the temporary gender euphoria I experience every time I start a hunt and see the person I could be swinging a sword twice the size of themself.
Harry is a non-binary freelance writer based in the UK. They can usually be found speaking at length about games, film, gender and queer life.
Find them on Twitter @HazeHeavenHazza and reach out via https://harryschofieldwrites.carrd.co/