A Monster Hunter spin-off
Since 2004, Capcom’s Monster Hunter series has sold millions of copies, making it one of the most popular in the world. Such success inevitably brought about numerous sequels, particularly on Nintendo 3DS with games like Monster Hunter 3 and Generations.
With this latest iteration, Capcom passed the keys over Marvelous to create a kid-friendly spin-off called Monster Hunter Stories. Marvelous, if you’re unfamiliar with them, have produced some of 3DS’ best life-simulation games like PopoloCrois and Story of Seasons. For Stories, they’ve brought their unique storytelling and art design to Monster Hunter and it works. It works really, really well.
Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
A fresh take on Monster Hunter
For a game with Monster Hunter in its title, it really does shake up the franchise. Stories foregoes the traditional real-time combat in favour of a turn-based RPG system similar to Nintendo’s Pokémon or Yo-kai. That’s not all though as it features an in-depth story that goes beyond what Monster Hunter fans are used to.
Even from a graphics perspective, Stories opts for a softer, more colourful palette and borderline chibi-style characters. After playing so many MonHun games with what feels like incremental updates, this one feels entirely fresh and new.
Become a Monster Rider
Another huge change in Monster Hunter Stories is how you interact with monsters: instead of hunting them, you befriend them. Your character is known as a Rider―a special handler wielding a Kinship Stone capable of bonding with monsters. By collecting eggs and hatching them you’ll grow a stable of friendly beasts to aid in your adventure.
Not all monsters are friendly though, as many that roam the land have been infected by the “Black Blight.” This horrible plague makes creatures extremely hostile, and nobody in the Rider village knows where it came from. One day a particularly ferocious beast attacks the village leaving devastation (including the loss of life) in its wake. Being a brave young hero, you take it upon yourself to venture out and find the source of this epidemic.
Hatch Monstie pals
Once you leave the village, a vast world is waiting for you to explore. Much of your time will be spent visiting Monster Dens, which are essentially mini-dungeons that lead you to a monster nest. Inside the nest you’ll find eggs of various shapes and colours to snatch and attempt to carry out. You have to be careful though because while you waddle out with the oversized egg its guardian may spot you. This will initiate a tough battle, and if successful, you’ll be able to take the egg back to the village’s Stable.
At the Stable is where things get really fun and interesting. By tapping on the egg with your Nintendo 3DS stylus you’ll crack it open and get a new Monstie friend. Remember how I said eggs come in various shapes and colours? Well, each variation corresponds with a different Monstie, of which there are dozens to collect. In a sense, it’s just like collecting Pokémon or Yo-kai, only this time you collect familiar beasts from Monster Hunter.
Grow your Monstie collection
What’s neat is that not only does each Monstie have a unique look, they have distinct special abilities as well. This includes special attacks in battles, as well as a range of abilities when exploring the game world. Some monsters can leap far, others can swim, while others still let you soar through the skies. You’ll soon come to depend on your beastly pals to help you overcome various obstacles in your way.
Each monster also has its own stats and possess special genes that gives them special skills. By using a technique called the Rite of Channeling you can pass these genes from one Monstie to another. This lets the recipient inherit the gene and become stronger as a result. So not only can you acquire a menagerie of friendly Monsties, you can also develop them into more powerful versions.
Battle hostile beasts
As mentioned, Stories features turn-based RPG-style combat instead of the usual Monster Hunter hack and slash gameplay. It’s a big departure but it works well and there’s a surprising level of a depth here.
On the surface, combat is rooted in a Rock-paper-scissors system, or Power, Technical, Speed as it’s called here. Both you and your Monsties use these three attacks types, and so do your enemies. Of course, a weakness triangle is involved, with Power beating Technical, Technical beating Speed, and Speed beating Power.
While this might imply combat is purely random, the truth is you can predict enemy attacks with a level of certainty. All monsters favour a particular attack style, whether that’s nimble Jaggis preferring Speed, or the hulking Brute Tigrex favouring Power. However, enemies can still mix in other attack types to keep you guessing what their next move will be.
More layers of strategy come into play when you discover that exploiting an enemy’s weakness will fill your Kinship Gauge. Once maxed out you can mount your Monstie to pool your health bars together and perform powerful combo strikes. These devastating attacks deal significant damage and can quickly turn the tide in your favour. It’s also possible to chain together specific attacks into combos, which gives you yet another option in battle. The level of combat depth is really impressive, especially when you consider this is a game meant for younger audiences.
Before I wrap up this review I want to mention how much I enjoyed the presentation. The bright, colourful graphics are immensely cheery, and the little details bring this adventure to life. In particular, the Monstie designs look excellent and it’s fun to view details like their feathers, horns, and scales. Rarely do we get to see these monsters so up close and personal in such a friendly manner. Another major highlight are the pre-rendered cinematics that have a high-quality anime vibe to them and shows this world in vivid detail.
Monster Hunter Stories is the most accessible game in the franchise to date. It obviously aims to widen the audience and attract a whole new generation of younger gamers to the series. The approach works and the end result is one of the most memorably Monster Hunter games to come along in years. From its colour graphics, to fun Monstie hatching and training, to the revamped RPG-style combat, it all comes together nicely. Monster Hunter Stories offers a charming story and a light-hearted adventure that’s thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end.
+ Colourful, charming graphics
+ Wonderful storytelling
+ Tons of quests to complete
+ Hatching and training Monsties is very fun
+ Deep and strategic combat
+ Excellent for younger gamers
– A bit on the easy side
– Story takes a few hours to really get going
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5