Monster Hunter Stories Review
The Monster Hunter franchise first sprung to life back in 2004 pioneering in the fantasy realm of action RPGs in Japan. While here in North America the learning curve for the games was a bit much for some, that didn’t stop others from jumping in and loving the franchise. Known for its extravagant and ginormous monsters, intense battles, and peculiar world, the Monster Hunter franchise has become the face of the monster hunting genre. So, what happens when you take such a franchise and put its staple formula into a light-hearted, cartoonish, and adorable world? Well, you get Monster Hunter Stories – an ingenious mix of the old and new accessible for anyone and everyone to enjoy.
Monster Hunter Stories follows you, a child in a village who witnessed firsthand how the “Black Blight”, a mysterious disease, infects monsters and causes them to go into an uncontrollable frenzy. With a monster under the influence of the Black Blight attacking your village, you and your friends develop different personal goals and outlooks on the monsters that guide the story a year later. Monster Hunter Stories puts you in a world nearly identical to the ones seen in the main series, but your actual role differs. Instead of being a Hunter, you’re a Rider with a Kinship Stone who befriends monsters to form bonds with them. The monsters you form bonds with are ultimately called “Monsties” who you’ll explore and battle with throughout your adventure.
The overall story and concepts within gives a warm fuzzy feeling of adventure and friendship similar to that emitted by the likes of Pokemon, Digimon, and Yo-Kai-Watch. You’ll interact with the various characters and learn about the world all while doing so. It’s not an extremely far-fetched oddity from the likes of the Monster Hunter franchise, but it’s something quite new with the role of the player being changed and overall world being very chibi and cartoonish-like. It’s done so effortlessly making it enjoyable and undeniably loveable.
A large feature of Monster Hunter Stories is its customization options as you get to create your own personal character nearly from the get-go. Your gender and how your face looks is just what you can alter at the start of the game as the farther you progress you’ll craft various weapons and armor to equip and further customize your character. You can also change your armor, weapons, and main Monstie on the fly which is huge as you’re not forced to return to a specific spot to do so like in the main series.
Gameplay largely stays the same in terms exploration to find monsters, gather items, and craft items, but battle mechanics have been altered. Battles are turn-based with a rock-paper-scissors format utilizing speed, technique, and power moves. In addition, utilizing the Kinship Stone allows you to build a bond with your Monstie within battles to unleash killer moves while being mounted on them. Certain combos can also be performed based on your weapon choice as well as cooperative attacks with your Monstie. It’s such a simple and straightforward structure that is easy to get accustomed to but doesn’t feel dumbed down in a way that becomes boring or mind-numbing. In fact, monsters get pretty tricky and difficult to beat if you venture too far in an area or haven’t done some decent grinding. Luckily, however, you get three chances for your health to fully deplete before you’re knocked out of battle. It’s an enjoyable revamp of the mechanics that gives an opportunity to those who were afraid of the learning curve the franchise is known for to learn about the world and its monsters.
“a game for both returning fans and newcomers to enjoy and seamlessly fawn over.”
The one biggest and new feature in Monster Hunter Stories is Monster Dens that house monster eggs. Monster egg hunting will become an addiction as it is how you’ll obtain more Monsties for your collection. Although eggs, on the surface, will have different patterns signifying what monster they are, they will each have different stats, abilities, and ability slots providing, even more, variation to your Monstie collection. Obtaining the best and raising the strongest Monstie is a key part of Monster Hunter Stories that’ll keep you busy and engaged with its world.
Sound-wise, Monster Hunter Stories mirrors that of the main series in terms of voice-overs, sound effects, and music. Cleverly using its own language to bring the story to life, subtitles is all you need to worry about in understanding what is going on. Meanwhile, sound-effects and music are nearly identical to the main series so returning fans will definitely find joy in hearing some of the classics.
Visually, the game aesthetically embodies elements from the main series like the monster icons, armor design, and even world structure, but the feelings garnered by the actual world is quite different. Everything is chibi and cartoonish-like and has a much more light-hearted feel to it making just a tad bit cuter. With a mix of cutscenes and visual-novel sequences, there’s a lot to see but even more to read which drags on with a bit too much fluff text at times. Nonetheless, it looks great with colours that pop from the armor and monster designs, as well as the animations, feeling smooth and just as lively as the main series.
Monster Hunter Stories is an unlikely alternative to the main series of the Monster Hunter franchise that effortlessly packs a punch. With its adorable cast of characters and art style, it’s inevitable to be drawn by it. With changes in the battle mechanics and role as a player, returning fans might be skeptical with how it holds up, but rest assured it’s a game for both returning fans and newcomers to enjoy and seamlessly fawn over. Monster Hunter Stories is a game for anyone and everyone wanting to learn about the world of Monster Hunter without the huge learning curve or just to revel in its light-hearted alternative world.
*** 3DS retail copy provided by the publisher ***
- Balance of old and new mechanics
- Ease of play and accessibility
- Great art style and charming characters
- Battles/cutscenes repetitive and slow at times
- Dialogue drags on for a bit too long