‘Monster Hunter Stories’ Review: Ride On, Hunters
There’s something special about Monster Hunter games. The rabid fanbase, the cooperative multiplayer hunts, grinding endlessly for one piece of loot to create a new weapon. Despite these hooks, a lot of people describe the Monster Hunter series as inaccessible. In steps Monster Hunter Stories, a colorful, vibrant spin off that oozes with more charm than any of the main games in the series.
Graphically, Monster Hunter Stories is a heavy departure from previous titles. Bright, colorful worlds and stylized characters help bring everything to life. Because everything is so vivid, it makes seeing monsters in the world easier than before, as well as seeing loot spots to pick up various healing items or random pieces of loot. The story follows Lute and his friends in their journey to become riders. Despite the differences in aesthetics, Stories takes place in the same universe as other Monster Hunter titles, but in a world filled with monster hunters, the riders tradition is a well kept secret. When a monster attacks your village plagued with what is known as black blight, the young riders take it upon themselves to unravel it’s mysteries.
Players will instantly realize the inspiration from Pokemon. As riders progress through their journeys, they come across egg nests. By finding egg nests and taking an egg out of the area, players can raise and fight with new monsties (Stories’ versions of monsters.) Stories plays like classic turn based RPG fare with a slight twist. Each battle is done in a rock, paper, scissors like format. During each turn, players can pick speed, technical, or power attacks as you battle alongside your monstie. Speed wins over Power, Technical wins over speed, and power wins over technical. This is largely a moot point unless you are engaged in a head to head battle with an enemy, which can change every turn. This is notified by an energy beam linking either you or your monsties to the enemy. One turn it can link to you, the next it can link to your monstie. Winning this speed, power, technical battle during a head to head deals extra damage.
Each enemy has different patterns as well, and will generally attack based on what type of creature they are. The faster enemies will generally choose speed attacks, while the slower enemies might choose technical. Behavior is important, and those that have played Monster Hunter titles before might be a little more familiar with enemy behavior on display in Stories. What seems like a cute version of Monster Hunter at first ended up being a deep, tactical RPG.
My biggest complaint with Monster Hunter Stories is that there is no sense of urgency during battles. If both you and your monstie’s HP drop to 0, nothing happens. The characters get back up. This goes on a few times until players just respawn in a nearby town. There wasn’t enough challenge here. That being said, my biggest complaint with Monster Hunter has always been that I die a lot and don’t know what I’m doing, but there needs to be a balance.
Monster Hunter Stories isn’t just a cute spin-off to one of the most hardcore RPG’s available. Despite the aesthetics, it is still a deep tactical RPG with lots of monsters to hunt, find, and raise. For fans of the Pokemon monster raisers, there’s a lot to love in Monster Hunter Stories, and easily 70+ hours of grinding and side quests packed into the forty dollar price tag.
Monster Hunter Stories is available now for Nintendo 3DS. This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher for that purpose.
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