The Making of Malzeno – Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak

Nov 30, 2022 // Shibata

Hello everyone! Koichi Shibata here, reporting from the Monster Hunter Rise dev floor! For our next Monster Hunter Rise interview, I’ll be talking to Aehwa Shin, who created and supervised the design for Sunbreak’s flagship monster, Malzeno!

An illustration of Malzeno by Aehwa Shin

Q1: To start off, could you give us a quick explanation of what you worked on for Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak?

A1: I continued doing the same work I did on Rise, i.e. being the main monster designer, and I created and supervised the design of the new monsters Malzeno, Lunagaron, Garangolm, and Gaismagorm, as well as the new endemic creatures.

Q2: What were some of the themes you had in mind when you designed the flagship monster Malzeno?

A2: The main theme was “vampire,” and I also gave him characteristics of a “noble baron” and a “knight in silver shining armor.” When we were trying to come up with ways of expressing the “vampire” element, we came up with many designs that were kind of dark and grim, with some looking bat-like, others looking more like a mosquito, and some of them looking very gloomy.

We felt these elements kind of lacked punch for a flagship monster, so when we started thinking about how we could spice it up a little, we came up with the “baron” and “silver armor” themes, while giving it a personality based on key words like “noble” and “cunning.” For its biological motifs, we looked at snakes and raptors, and by giving it a tough exoskeleton, we felt we had managed to give it the power you’d expect from a flagship monster and an elder dragon.

The word “Dracula” originally meant “son of a dragon,” so we actually deliberately gave it some standard dragon features. Also, the area around its eyes looks kind of sunken, which is a reference to the pale faces with dark rings under their eyes you tend to see in the design of vampires. When you see it in motion it’s pretty obvious, but its wings were based on a cape, and the fins on its waist have a tailcoat motif. The Qurio leeching on the area around its neck look like a jabot, and the characteristic fins on its neck call to mind the stand-up collars vampires often have, all in service of giving this monster an air of nobility.

We were also very aware of the contrast we wanted it to have with Magnamalo.

Eastern vs. Western, tiger vs. dragon, samurai vs. knights, dark vs. bright.

The most notable feature of this contrast is its face. We started out with a bat-like design, and we considered laying it on thick by giving it a creepy creature vibe, but we ended up with something more sophisticated. So you’ve got the rugged appearance of Magnamalo on one end, and the sharp, clean-cut features of Malzeno on the other. This doesn’t just go for their motifs and coloring, but for their personalities as well. Magnamalo is wild and brutish, whereas Malzeno is shrewd and elegant. Magnamalo represents strength, Malzeno represents intelligence. We were very thorough in exploring this contrast.

Q3: Malzeno is different from the other monsters in that it manages to function normally in symbiosis with the Qurio. Is there some kind of ecological difference?

A3: This is related to Malzeno’s unique characteristics and its formidable strength. It also ties into the history of the Kingdom and Gaismagorm, so I’ll explain with the help of what Suzuki-san, the Director, has mentioned to me in the past.

Malzeno used to live in harmony with humans, with neither party encroaching on the other party’s territory, but after many centuries, a gigantic hole was opened near Malzeno’s turf by “the lord of the underground” (i.e. Gaismagorm), and lots of Qurio started pouring out, and in the blink of an eye, they started stealing the life force of every creature in the environment. Malzeno looked like it was going to be covered in Qurio and have its energy stolen as well…but before long “antibodies” started to form within Malzeno’s body.

This allowed it to absorb the life force of the Qurio into its own body, creating a symbiotic relationship with these creatures. However, as a trade-off, its latent aggression started showing, and it fell into madness, resulting in it using the Qurio to attack other monsters and absorb their energy, growing ever stronger… This would eventually lead to it going through a morphological change.

Q4: Some of Malzeno’s attacks involve it very suddenly changing position, almost as if it’s able to teleport. How does it do this?

A4: The idea is that it builds up an overwhelming amount of energy in its body, which it then uses to propel itself forward. It derives this energy from the Qurio, and similarly to how it turns darker when it changes shape, it also briefly turns pitch-black when “teleporting.” This ability is also related to the Qurio that have assembled on its chest. It basically uses the energy it absorbs from the Qurio on its chest to propel itself forward.

Malzeno’s movement was designed to contrast with Magnamalo’s movement as well, with Magnamalo “kicking the ground to dash forward” and Malzeno “thrusting forward as if it’s being pushed.”

You could say that Magnamalo’s explosion effects and Malzeno’s wave motion effects are in contrast with each other as well.


Q5: Similar to Magnamalo in Rise, Malzeno has a tail with a very unique shape, Why does it look like this, and how does it use its tail to attack? Did you decide on the design with its movements in mind, or were the movements based on its design? How did you communicate with all of the designers involved to coordinate this?

A5: “Did we decide on the design with its movements in mind, or were the movements based on its design?” We absolutely started with the design first. We had an image in mind of it sitting at a long table with a row of candlesticks, elegantly stirring a glass of wine, so we gave its tail a shape that resembles knives and candlesticks.

The animators then created the animations, We had to make sure its movements didn’t come across as too barbaric though. Both its visual design and its animations had to preserve that image of it elegantly stirring a glass of wine.

– Closing Comment from Shibata:

Thank you, Shin-san!

It’s interesting to know that Sunbreak’s flagship monster, Malzeno, wasn’t just based on a vampire, but that it was designed to stand out in contrast with Rise’s flagship monster, Magnamalo.

The more I find out about how Sunbreak’s themes were incorporated into everything from the base and locales to the monsters themselves, the more interesting it gets!

Next time, I’ll be talking to Sakata-san and Hashimoto-san, who designed the weapons and armor you can create using Malzeno’s materials!