For the Frontier Fans! Reawakening Espinas for Sunbreak

Mar 23, 2023 // Joseph Bustos

Hello everyone! Koichi Shibata here, reporting from the Monster Hunter Rise dev floor! For our twenty-third round of Monster Hunter Rise interviews, I will be talking to Director Yoshitake Suzuki about Espinas, whose appearance in Sunbreak caused quite a stir among the fans.

Q1: First off, could you tell us what led to Espinas appearing in this game?

A1: When I was assigned as Director on Sunbreak, I decided at a very early stage when coming up with the monster roster, that I wanted to have a monster from Monster Hunter Frontier in there.

One of the reasons is that I’m a fan of the game and I have lots of good memories playing it, and I was very sad to see the service ending in December of 2019. It was a server-operated online game, which meant that the fans wouldn’t be able to play the game itself anymore, so I thought: “What can I do for my fellow Frontier fans?” and this is what I came up with.

Q2: Was there anything you were very particular or watchful about?

A2: Since Sunbreak is the follow-up to Rise, I had to carry over the general world design, gameplay, and systems. Within those constraints, I really wanted to add something new to the experience, something fresh for the fans! Espinas fit that concept to a tee, so I was very particular about making sure it was compatible with Sunbreak, while also preserving the monster’s visual image, ecology, and actions from the original game.

For example, Espinas is always asleep at the start of the quest. When the player starts attacking it, it will wake up, and in the original game, it would still just walk around for a while without concerning itself with the player. However, since Sunbreak needed to preserve the quest tempo of Rise, we made some tweaks here, and changed it so that it now immediately starts attacking as soon as the player wakes it up. We made lots of other tweaks as well, such as changes in the thickness of its hide depending on whether it’s angry or not. Everyone on the team was very much aware of having to balance respect towards the source material with the needs and gameplay of Sunbreak.

Q3: How did the series’ producer, Ryozo Tsujimoto, and other people who worked on older MH games respond to this?

A3: I have to say I was pretty nervous when I showed the design doc with all of the new elements for Sunbreak to Tsujimoto-san and Ichinose-san (the Director of Rise)…but they were both very positive towards almost all of the elements I proposed, so I remember being very relieved. Of course, there were some things they ended up shooting down, but I really felt like they were pushing me to make the game I wanted to make, and I’m very grateful for that.

Q4: The third Sunbreak trailer that was shown during the Capcom Showcase in June 2022, and the demo at TGS 2022 really got people talking. What kind of responses did you get?

A4: I got lots of responses from a variety of directions (including from inside the company!), which made me very happy. I was also glad to hear that a lot of people wanted more monsters from Frontier!

However, since Sunbreak was made to be the sequel to Rise, I had to keep compatibility in mind, so I had already firmly decided from an early stage in the game’s design that I was only going to use Espinas, and that I was going to put all of my love as a fan of Frontier into this monster. I hope everyone who played the original game can feel what I was trying to get across.

That said, we went ahead and added Flaming Espinas too, haha.

Thanks for playing, everyone!

– Closing Comment from Shibata:

Thank you, Suzuki-san!

We received a lot of positive feedback to the appearance of Espinas, and “Espinas” was even the top trending term on Twitter for a while after the Capcom Showcase. I’m sure that everyone taking on Espinas for the first time in Sunbreak will be able to appreciate how it maintains respect for the original game, while balancing it with the gameplay and needs of this game.

Next time, I will be talking to Ken Yamazaki about the animations for the monsters appearing in Sunbreak!