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Monster Hunter Stories Review

Monster Hunter Stories Review

When I first previewed Monster Hunter Stories, I didn’t have much in terms of expectations; this would be a weird Monster Hunter-themed monster capture game aimed at a younger audience which would be fun, but lose its lustre quickly. To my surprise, I ended up really liking it, so much so that I jumped when given the chance to give a full review! Join me as I see if I was just blinded by something new, or if this game can really hold up!

One thing I was spot-on with in my estimation was how Monster Hunter Stories was aimed at a younger crowd; from the setting to the story, this world seems to be much more lighthearted and friendly than the mainline series. Instead of fighting gigantic monsters in deadly action-packed combat, we tame them and use special bracelets imbued with Kinship stones to form bonds with them. Once tamed, our monster best friends, or Monsties, join us on our quest and help us battle foes in the world while loaning their unique abilities.

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And so begins the journey of... OTIS!

Instead of a Hunter, we play as a fledgeling Rider, a cast of skilled monster tamers living away from civilisation and keep the peace in the areas they roam. As we start the game, we are allowed to customise our hero, selecting from body type, hair, and facial details, after which we are given the basics of the setting. As a youngster, our hero and two of their friends went into the forest and found an egg. Lacking Kinship stones, they thought they were not able to hatch said eggs, but tried it out anyway to bolster their friendship! To their surprise, their ad hoc kinship ritual succeeds and out of the egg pops a baby Rathalos, of all things. Thankfully, the flying raptor quickly imprints on our hero, happily following the trio around.

What seems to be a fun beginning to a tale of friendship quickly takes a turn as a monster clad in black smoke attacks the village, knocks your new friend down a cliff, and destroys many homes before being driven off. While casualties are low, one of the lost is the mother of Cheval, one of your friends. Years later, as you ready yourself for the trials one must complete to become a Rider, Cheval shows how much this incident has affected him, as he swears vengeance on all monsters. From here, the story goes on to explore themes of friendship, vengeance, culture clash, and belonging. I’ll not go into further detail here, but I was honestly impressed with how well the game seemed to handle these tones, not dumbing down some of the more mature content, even if they are presented through a filter of kid-friendly humour.

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This game is just too cute

The game itself plays much like a mainline Monster Hunter would: you have a hub village where you can sleep, buy and upgrade armour and weapons, buy items, and take on quests. Once you leave the village, you are set loose in a large free-roaming area rife with monsters to battle and resources to collect. Where Stories differs, however, is in regards to your partner monster. You can have a team of five buddies, with one of them being in the lead, i.e. the one “out of their pokéball”. Whenever you encounter a foe in the field, you will enter a turn-based battle where the lead Monstie and you battle it out. Changing your partner is easy enough and can be done in and outside of battle.

The battles are also pretty simple; you can attack, use skills, command your Monstie, use items, or flee the battle. Whenever you attack, you have to choose the type of attack from the three choices of Power, Speed, and Techincal. While the type does not affect the damage of your attack in most cases, each attack is strong and weak against another, making it a game of rock-paper-scissors — Speed > Power > Technical > Speed. If you happen to be attacking a monster that is targeting you — denoted by a red line with a starburst in between you — you will enter a clash. If you win, i.e. the enemy's choice is weak to yours, you will deal some nice damage, but the same is true for the opposite! If you both pick the same, then you simply bonk each other. It should be noted that even if you pick the stronger option and successfully attack, you still take some minor damage from the opponent's counter. Skills can also have a type, though we’ll get to them later.

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If there is no "starburst" in the middle of the red line, the enemy is using a non-elemental skill!

Your Monstie partner is a bit of a wild card in these fights; you cannot directly decide what your friend does, instead, the game will inform you of their next move, be it an attack or use of a skill. You can order them to use a skill instead, however. While this can be pretty aggravating, especially when your tame velociraptor uses Speed against a Techincal attack for the fifth time in a row, on the other hand, it does give these creatures a sense of independence and wildness that I appreciate! It also helped me grow attached to them, as sometimes I simply trusted their judgement on what attack to use, being immensely proud when it turned out to be the right call!

Skills themselves vary a lot based on the weapon or type of monster in question. For example, the Hero can have one of four weapon types in use: Sword & Shield, Greatsword, Hunting Horn, and Hammer, all with their own unique skills and more to learn. Additionally, the hero can learn some general skills they can use whenever such as cheering your Monstie on for extra damage. Your partner gains exp from each fight (as does everyone in your current party) and gains skills as they grow. These are usually Monstie-specific, but there are some identifiable themes, such as herbivores learning healing or stat-boosting skills. Using skills themselves costs Kinship points, which you can gain from successfully countering an enemy's attack with a stronger one. If you gather enough Kinship points, you can even hop on your Monsties back and unleash a Kinship Skill, which is unique for each partner, often very effective, and assuredly fun to use!

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Sometimes the fight may have sudden clashes where you'll need to mash buttons to win

Monstie Skills are useful in the overworld as well, as certain types of creatures have special abilities to gain access to secret areas or bypass lengthy walks. For example, one of the very first you get, a Velocidrome, can jump from special platforms to ledges, another can ping nearby enemies and crush boulders, and another can swim! These skills are unlocked gradually and organically by finding and hatching new creatures and gaining them. You aren’t able to find a monster with the Swim skill before the second larger area, for example. This works in a few ways to improve the feel of the game, as now you have a reason to revisit areas and are motivated to find as many different types as possible.

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You can find hidden Poogies in the overworld for rewards!

Now, you may have noticed I mentioned hatching a few times now, and yes. These monsters are not put in anyone's pocket, but must instead be hatched from eggs found in dens. When exploring the overworld, you may see entrances to caves pop up here and there; once entered, you will have to face a short dungeon which ends in an egg nest. Once there, you have a few chances to search for eggs in the nest itself, with the colour, patterns, weight, and smell of the egg giving some hints on what it may contain. If you try too many times, the eggs will simply run out, forcing you to take the one you last picked up. Eggs are sometimes guarded by a big monster which you have to battle, but other times there either is no guardian, or they are asleep. In these cases, if you spend too much time in the room, there is a large chance a guardian will wake or appear, forcing you to fight them or leg it, and running with a giant egg in your arms is not easy. Once you reach the exit, you can leave the entire cave, thankfully.

This is how the game progresses; you do quests, gain resources, and slowly open up the world, finding new hubs to work out of and bigger and stronger monsters to fight and eventually hatch. Once you progress enough, you’ll even unlock a Hunter city, where you can perform smithing quests that require you to gather the resources gained from a certain monster and then return with them to craft a weapon or armour from said resources, much like you would in the mainline series. While the battles did get a bit repetitive at length (thankfully the game has the option to speed up combat) and I sometimes felt like I was not progressing, I was very enamoured by the game. It has a lot of charm, spirit, and most importantly, humour.

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That's certainly a face

I do not know if it’s as present in the original title for the Nintendo 3DS, but the way the characters in the game emote and interact is downright wonderful! The faces they make, the way they talk, and simply the little gags here and there kept me interested and really made me love the characters and world. And while it’s mostly humour, the game also gives some of the more mature content time to shine. I also felt like I’d hate the sidekick character, a Felyne calling himself Navirou, due to the overdone “I’m the best ever” thing he has going on… but even he made me chuckle a few times.

Regretfully, the game is not all fun times and Monstie parties, as there are a few features I didn’t quite enjoy. For one, after you are done with a battle, if another enemy is nearby and you’d like to fight them next, you may find yourself simply running through them! I think this is supposed to be a system to avoid back-to-back encounters, but I wish they’d show it on the UI somehow, as it is never clear when I am allowed to attack again. Another major problem I had was with a small clash between the tone and mechanics of the game: you have to keep replacing your Monsties. As you venture deeper into the world and the story, you may notice that the partners you began the game with and may have gotten attached to aren’t quite up to the challenge newer enemies pose. As each area becomes harder and you find newer monsters, they tend to always be stronger, meaning you are almost forced to hatch and use them instead! There are ways around this and the combat isn’t hard, but I still found this a bit weird tonally.

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Ahh, the big city. Civilization, two dimensional, and beautiful

Finally, even though I think the game looks fine and the cartoony graphics fit the theme, the fact that this is a port of a Nintendo 3DS does show itself every now and again, like when viewing the horizon from a mountaintop and realising it’s just a 2D image and a blurry one at that. Not a deal breaker, but noticeable nonetheless. The game also has a limited number of monster “body” types, meaning you will be riding around on palette-swapped versions of the same raptor quite often. Thankfully the Kinship abilities and vibrant colours they have usually are enough to not make the experience stale. Some walk cycles are horrible, though. Either slow, too loud, or just weird. Not an issue, since changing is quick and easy, but still.

To sum up my thoughts, Monster Hunter Stories is a wonderful game. I fell in love with it quite quickly and that fact did not change while playing further into the story. In fact, it made me want to revisit old Monster Hunter games just to see my now-partners in their original, more ferocious, glory. Does it have issues? Yes, and some kinda annoying, but I never felt like I wanted to stop playing because of them. The characters are great, the world is wholesome, and it’s a great game to just pick up and play for a while! If you’ve never tried the series or are a mainline fan, I heartily recommend checking it out.

8.50/10 8½

Monster Hunter Stories (Reviewed on Windows)

This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.

  Monster Hunter Stories is a charming and adorable monster-catching experience. Become engrossed with its characters, hatch some Monsties and have a blast in the humorous world and its weirdly addictive gameplay. Definite recommend!

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Martin Heath

Martin Heath

Staff Writer

Professional Bungler

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