Monster Hunter Stories is a far cry from previous entries to the series, but it succeeds as a charming side story exploring another side of Monster Hunter’s largely untapped world. Instead of the traditional action RPG, Stories is a fully-fledged turn-based RPG about befriending and collecting the usually feared monsters.
Developed by Capcom, Stories certainly isn’t the first Monster Hunter game they’ve released for the Nintendo 3DS. Since the release of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate back in 2011, the 3DS has received multiple mainline entries to the series. However, Stories definitely isn’t a standard Monster Hunter game and marks a major shift for the franchise.
Although it’s set in the world of the previous games, Stories’ 30+ hour campaign follows a Rider instead of the usual Hunter. Capcom seems to have taken some cues from the Pokémon RPGs as many of the game’s mechanics bear a striking a resemblance to the Game Freak series. Hunting is completely off the table as Riders spend their time catching and bonding with Monsties. The word Monstie alone communicates how different the game is from what we’ve come to expect from the franchise, a Felyne explains that it is actually a portmanteau of ‘Monster’ and ‘Bestie’. If you’re looking for the next gritty Monster Hunter experience, it certainly won’t be found here.
However, Stories isn’t trying to be traditional and it certainly succeeds as a kid-friendly RPG. Its attempt to appeal to a younger demographic is clear from the game’s simplistic turn-based battle system. Although it isn’t a direct copy of Pokémon, it uses similar rock, paper, scissors combat mechanics. Each Rider can perform 3 types of basic attack: Power, Technical and Speed. Speed beats Power, but Power beats Technical and Technical beats Speed. However, it isn’t as simple as recognising an opponent’s type. Monsters are able to use each attack, but as they mainly lean towards one, it’s important to learn their attack patterns. Riders fight alongside their chosen Monstie, but it’s basically impossible to control what move they will perform or what opponent they will attack. Although this can be frustrating, it forces the player to catch a wide variety of Monsties to use when necessary. There are some other quirks to the battle system, but it begins to get rather repetitive as the game continues.
Monsties can’t be caught in battle, but Monster Eggs can be found in Monster Dens littered across the overworld. Eggs then need to be returned to the Stables to be hatched. Similar to Pokémon, there’s an option to nickname your Monsties for a more personal touch. Raiding Monster Dens and hatching new Monsties is the best aspect of Stories, it’s so satisfying to watch your Monsterpedia slowly fill up.
In terms of difficultly, it’s clear that Stories is intended for a younger audience than traditional Monster Hunter. When your Monstie’s HP reaches 0 in battle, it doesn’t even faint. Both Rider and Monstie share a set of hearts which can fully restore their HP. Even though it’s possible to lose if these hearts are depleted, it’s pretty rare for this to happen.
As the name Rider would suggest, Monsties can also be ridden across the overworld. It’s a great addition that makes the player’s relationship with each Monstie feel more fleshed out. It also provides another incentive to hatch more creatures as they each have different abilities that can be used when exploring. Velocidrome are able to jump across gaps, but Aptonoth have the ability to locate rare plants. Later Monsties have even more useful skills, Zamtrios can swim and Nargacuga turn invisible.
Graphically, Monster Hunter Stories is an achievement. Fittingly for Stories’ more upbeat tone, Capcom has blessed us with a cheery cel-shaded art style. Characters look incredibly detailed and the majority of the game’s environments are gorgeous. It’s certainly among one of the system’s best-looking games. However, this graphical fidelity is obviously pushing the aging 3DS’ limits as Stories is plagued with framerate problems and other graphical issues. This continues to be a problem whether or not stereoscopic 3D is on. It’s particularly noticeable in populated areas as characters and monsters will often pop into existence as you walk towards them.
If you go into Stories expecting a true successor to previous Monster Hunter games, it may not impress. However, it’s a solid RPG with a younger demographic in mind. This certainly isn’t to say that an older fan won’t enjoy its charming story or gorgeous graphics, but it’s obviously intended as an introduction to the wider Monster Hunter world.