April 11 is National Pet Day, so I figured there’s no better time to talk about gaming’s pets of the moment: the “buddies” of “Monster Hunter Rise.”

The “Monster Hunter” series has long had side content involving the Felyne race of people in its world, cats who live peacefully alongside humans, and “Monster Hunter Rise” introduced dogs, known in the world as Palamutes. “Rise” now boasts a complex and engaging system of mechanics where you can raise an army of customized cats and dogs to fight alongside you and assist with other tasks.

In fact, “Monster Hunter Rise” offers more player-driven furry friend customization than “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” does. In “Animal Crossing,” you have no say on who gets to be your neighbor. In “Monster Hunter Rise,” you can tailor your cat and dog army to almost your exact liking, and you can personally dress and name them all.

I’ve now raised a veritable platoon of Palicos and Palamutes, and this guide will help you unlock your pet potential in “Rise.”

The “buddy” system

Buddies are the generic name for your cat and dog partners on monster hunts. The “Rise” buddy system exists to give players a deeper level of customization for their buddy parties. A buddy’s main function is to be a player’s partner during hunts. When playing by yourself, you can bring any combination of cats and dogs with you. So yes, you can bring along two cats, or two dogs, and I’ll explain why this is helpful later in the article.

An important reminder: If you’re playing online with any amount of other players, you can only bring one buddy with you, and that decision matters too. Palicos and Palamutes have distinct skills and traits they bring into battle. Palicos have more skills focused on healing, making sure you’re not suffering any debilitating status effects like sleep or stun, and if they’re a “gatherer” type, they have an ability called “pilfer” where they can grab monster parts while you fight, adding to your rewards at the end of each hunt.

Palamutes, on the other hand, are attack dogs, and contrary to their canine nature, they don’t pay attention to humans as much unless you call for them. Palamutes mostly attack your prey.

Arming your buddies

You can create armor and weapons for your buddies with leftover “scraps” of parts from your own armor sets. As you hunt monsters and collect parts to create new weapons and armor, you’ll sometimes be awarded pieces of scrap related to that monster, which you can then convert into new weapons and armor. You do all this at the Buddy Smith, which is always located right next to the human blacksmith.

Giving your buddies properly upgraded equipment isn’t nearly as important as keeping yourself outfitted, but it still matters. Most importantly, you’ll want to consider what kind of weapon you give them. Since buddies don’t often hit hard, even with the strongest of weapons, I recommend equipping them with weapons that come with either elemental or status effects.

Currently, I have my cat and dog both outfitted with sleep-inducing weapons. Their attacks come with a fairly good chance of causing the monster to fall asleep, leaving them wide open for even more damaging attacks or combos. However, if I’m fighting an ice-based monster weak against fire, I might consider giving them a fire-based weapon so they can keep whittling down the monster’s defenses as I go for the bigger damage.

Recruiting new buddies

You can recruit dozens of new cats and dogs, and you can name them and make them look however you want. Sooner or later, you might want to spend more time in the game’s Buddy Plaza, where you can hire or scout for more recruits. For that, you’ll have to visit the Buddy Scout, waiting at the entrance of the plaza.

When you first talk to him, he’ll offer you a random assortment of cats and dogs with different levels, abilities and looks. But if you want him to find buddies that look or act just like you want, ask him to scout for them. He won’t have them ready right away, but after a short time he’ll come back to you with what you’re looking for. For example, I wanted a Calico-coated, short-haired cat just like my sister’s real-life feline friend. So I asked the Buddy Scout, and he later came back with seven Calico cats to choose from. I also wanted this new cat to focus more on gathering, so that’s also what the Scout returned with.

The game offers a tremendous degree of control in creating your pet army, so if you’re into customizing your furry friends, you can’t ignore this option. You can recruit up to 35 dogs and cats each, so 70 buddies total. And don’t worry, you can rotate them in and out of your recruitment at any time.

Training your pets

With dozens of dogs and cats under your command, it’ll take ages to level them up properly. “Rise” has a Buddy Dojo system where you can simply pick which buddies to train, and they’ll level up as you do your hunts.

The cost for training is only a few hundred Kamura points, which is a separate currency you earn by doing optional quests and other side content throughout your hunts. If you’ve been following my beginner’s guide, you should have more than enough saved up to last you a very long time.

Who to bring?

There are benefits to being mindful of which buddies you bring on your hunt. It all depends on what your end goal is. I’m currently focused on getting as many monster parts as possible, so I’m bringing two gatherer cats with me. As I’m fighting, my two kitties scurry around the field, picking up any extra monster parts that might get dropped.

If you’re having trouble just killing a monster, it might be worth bringing two dogs with you. They’ll both be constantly on the attack, and if they’re armed with strong elemental or status effects, they’ll wear down your foe even quicker. And of course, bringing at least one dog with you gives you unprecedented speed and mobility throughout the map. You’ll just be missing the helpful heals and important battle call outs of your cat friends, who actually speak. There’s no right answer on who to bring. It depends on what you need for the hunt — so bring the buddies who will help you the most in the moment.

Be wary of your real pets

Now that the “Monster Hunter” series has introduced dogs, the scourge of this game driving real animals up the wall has only deepened. Palicos and Palamutes sound exactly like the respective beasts they’re based on, so your real life pets will often wonder where the whines of pups and mewling of kitties are coming from.

Pets being distracted or noticing “Monster Hunter” games is a tradition among all “Monster Hunter” fans with pets. Your cat may often paw at your screen. Or if you’re like anything like this Reddit user’s dog Rocko, your friend may not appreciate that they’ve been digitally replaced. It’s a good thing the Switch can be mobile, so you can hunt away from your furry friends without them guilt-tripping you.

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