The Monster Hunter series has been around for quite a long time and has a huge following of fans. The traditional Monster Hunter game has always been pretty much the same at its core, with additional things added to the mix. Equip your hunter, weapons, and items, join up with some friends, and slay huge beasts across a map marked by different areas. Some battles can take very long, upwards of 30 minutes plus, so it was always an epic adventure when playing a Monster Hunter game. The formula was tried and true, and still, people love those games.
Monster Hunter Stories isn’t a traditional Monster Hunter game though. If anything, it’s far from it.
Monster Hunter Stories is essentially more of a traditional JRPG than a Monster Hunter game. The game starts out and you realize very quickly that this is something very different. A lengthy, well-animated cut scene gets things going, and the first thing that will catch your attention is the bright and colorful visuals. Monster Hunter games usually have a bit of a drab color pallet using darker tones, but Stories goes in the complete opposite direction.
The story of Stories starts out with a bang. You and 2 friends have goals of becoming a “Rider”, which is one who tames monsters and makes them allies. After discovering an egg, you become the first on the path to being a Rider. Tragedy quickly strikes your village though, as a force known as the Black Blight comes and destroys it, including the death of one of your aforementioned friend’s mother. After time goes on, you then become a Rider and seek out destroying the Black Blight. Your friends also set out on their own adventures, which end up intertwining with yours along the way. The story is pretty solid for the most part and enjoyable, and does help keep you moving along.
As mentioned earlier, the graphics are one of the biggest differences between this and a traditional Monster Hunter game. Stories uses bright and colorful visuals with a cartoony style, avoiding a more realistic style. This results in a positive spot for the game, as the 3DS is obviously running low on power that can be tapped. The characters are very detailed, the world is vibrant and rich, monsters look great, and the game has some of the best cutscenes I’ve seen on the Nintendo 3DS. There is one noticeable area of graphical decline though, and that’s in the open segments of the game. Some pop-up and low res textures are evident, that get clearer once you get closer to the area. For the most part, though, Stories is a treat for the eyes.
The main goal in Stories is monster collecting. You do this by locating monster eggs within a nest in the game. The game features random monster eggs within the nest too, so all because a certain monster is near that nest doesn’t mean that you will get that monster. When you acquire an egg, you hatch it and have a new monster to your stable. The thing about the monsters that I really liked was just how different they are in all forms of the game.
When you are in the open battle areas, a monster walks along with you. You can mount this monster and ride it, and that’s where the fun begins. Each monster has their own unique ability. For example, some can jump, some can use a sensor to locate items, some can use a sensor to locate enemies, and more. So trying out different monsters is always welcome because they have an immediate impact on the game. Need to reach a certain area that requires a jump? Better equip the proper monster!
Obviously, an important part of the game is combat, and once again, it’s very different from the traditional Monster Hunter game. Instead of real-time combat, the game uses a turn-based system with a twist: a Rock-Paper-Scissors battle system. You choose between a Power, Speed, or Technique attack, with each one being able to trump another. Speed goes over Power, Power over Technique, Technique over Speed. Each monster you battle has a pattern and preferred attack style, so learning their patterns is crucial in order to dominate them. It can be a little off putting at first, and some may not like this battle system, but I found it pretty refreshing for the most part. The battle system does get deeper with tandem and Kinship attacks that you build up in bigger battles as well.
Rounding things out are some positive and slightly negative aspects of the game. One thing I really enjoyed was how the game incorporates the Monster Hunter universe but still remains its own game. Take for instance the Whetstone, which is used in a traditional game to sharpen a blade or weapon. In Stories, Whetstones are still an item, but instead, they increase your chance of doing a critical attack. Monsters and items from previous Monster Hunter games are littered throughout which helps keep the game familiar, but still very fresh. A negative aspect, however, is the load times, which can be pretty long and mess with the flow of the game. They aren’t super frequent, but when they come, like switching from one area to another, you know it.
Monster Hunter Stories is a delightful game that surprised the hell out of me. It’s pretty, it’s fun, it’s fresh, and a real departure from the original series but still retains elements to keep it familiar. If you like JRPG’s or monster collecting games like Pokemon, Monster Hunter Stories is a must own. Just don’t go into the game expecting a traditional style, and you will be surprised with how good it is.