We’ve always assumed that, in the world of Monster Hunter, monsters were just there for the hunt. But what if you could befriend the monsters, ride them, and take them into battle. Believe it or not, there’s actually whole societies who have hidden themselves from the rest of the world for many years, and in those societies there are Riders!
In Monster Hunter Stories, you are the Rider whose solemn duty is to form bona with monsters and get to the bottom of the mystery of declining populations and the Black Blight. Will Monster Hunter Stories fly with pride like your trusty Ratha, or will it not even digest into Monster Dung? Find out in our review after the break!
Monster Hunter Stories
Nintendo 3DS Family Systems
Developed by Marvelous
Published by Nintendo and Capcom
Released: 8th September 2017 (NA and Europe)
Review copy provided by Nintendo
Monster Hunter Stories takes a rather different approach to the regular Monster Hunter formula, giving a fresh take on the franchise. Rather than being a RPG where you take quests one at a time with real time combat, the title is a very story driven JRPG with turn based combat.
Your story begins with three younger children, Cheval, Lilia, and you, playfully looking for monster eggs. What’s this? You actually found one… unguarded too? WHAT? YOU HATCHED IT AS WELL?! AND BONDED WITH IT? Yes, without any sort of riding training or a proper Kinship Stone, you have already bonded with a young Ratha. Back at Hakum Village, you get a bit of a scolding for venturing too far away. If you thought that was tragic, wait to see what happens next.
Out of nowhere, a very menacing and strange looking Nargacuga appears and trashes Hakum Village, and the results could easily make the butches of Felynes cry. Even worse tragedy causes Cheval to grow a vengeance against monsters, and your very own Ratha becomes separated from you. A year on, you have become a fully fledged Rider, one who is synced with monsters, allowing you to hatch eggs, bond with the monster, and take them into combat. Though it is against code, you are pardoned to be able to leave the village. From here on out, it is up to you to grow your bond with monsters further, and get to the bottom of why populations have been declining, all with your faithful new Felyne companion, Navirou.
For the first time in a Monster Hunter game, stories allows you to befriend a range of different monsters, ride them, and take them into battle, you can even name them too… kinda like a particular RPG franchise. The monsters you ride are called Monsties, Monster cross between besties, super cute! The whole idea isn’t that you control your Monstie, rather you are in harmony with them and help each other out, just like any friend in real life (or so I’m told). Riding them is super cool too, and make transversing the large world go by more quickly, especially when you start to hatch flying monsties. Don’t worry though, if you want to travel really quick, you can use Catavan stands to fast travel, assuming you’ve activated them of course!
Some monsties have special riding abilities. For example, a Velocidrome can jump, and when on specific pads, it can leap huge distances. Just how do you befriend monsties though? It’s simple enough, really. While roaming around the world, you’ll find these rock mounds which are randomly generated whenever you re-enter the world. These are Monster Dens. Once you have travelled through the short cave, you’ll enter a monster’s nest. If you are lucky, there will be no monsters protecting the eggs. All you have to do, is go to the nest, grab an egg, then walk out without getting eaten. Once you have done that, return to any settlement, then hatch it at the stable. If you’d like to try and hatch a specific monster, you will want to make a monster retreat to a den after you defeat them. Some monsters are more likely to retreat depending on specific actions, such as being retrained by an item. This probability is increased further when you throw a paintball at them when they are close to defeat.
What’s pretty cool is that each monstie have their own genes which give them special abilities like flame breath. If there is one particular monstie which you don’t think will be very useful, instead of just letting them go, you can perform the Rite of Channelling. Each monstie has nine gene slots, and performing the Rite of Channeling means you can actually take a gene from one monster and give it to another, as long as that slot is free. This means you could get a Lagombi, who primarily uses ice attacks, also use fire breath. You could technically genetically modify a monstie to make it a master of all abilities!
Combat is another feature which has completely changed compared to previous entries. Instead of real time combat, you now have turn based combat, and it has a bunch of really neat mechanics. It is also great for portable gameplay. Both you and one of your monsties get a turn to attack. Your monstie will usually pick their own attack. There are three types of main attack: Power, Technical, and Speed. Power trumps technical, technical trumps speed, and speed trumps power. When picking your target, sometimes a red line appears, this means that you will encounter a head to head attack with that enemy. This is when the attack triangle will take effect, and can sometimes lead to a more powerful attack. If both you and your monstie is attacking the same enemy with the same attack, and if you both trump their attack, a double attack will ensue which deals some mega damage.
Each type of monster have their own behaviours in battle when it comes down to attack patterns. Some weaker monsters will stick with one attack type, for example a Velociprey will primarily deal with speed attacks, however some monsters use a different pattern which really gets you to strategise your play. For example, a Lagombi will usually alternate between power and technically every turn, or a Nerscylla will perform a power attack to put you to sleep, and if successful will go onto a technical attack, each monster has their own strategy.
While aiding your monstie or when dealing successful head to head attacks, you will gain kinship. You can use kinship to perform skills, change which attack your monstie uses, or, most importantly, ride your monstie. When you deal successful head to head attacks while riding will increase your kinship attack level (with a maximum of three). When you are ready, you can unleash your kinship attack to deal an amazing amount of damage. Oh, if you loose one too many head to head attacks while riding, you’ll get knocked off and your kinship attack level will reset, so try to learn about a monster’s behaviour first!
If either you or your monstie runs out of HP, it isn’t really necessary to become worried. You start off with three hearts, and if you die, you’ll loose a heart but you will also become fully restored and are able to continue the battle, similar to fainting in previous Monster Hunter games. Run out of all three though, and then it is game over and you get sent to the last village you saved in.
There’s also multiplayer, local and online, but this time you can only play cooperatively on a PvP basis. You’ll choose the monsties you wish to battle with, and the aim of the game is to essentially get the other player to loose all three of their hearts before you do. Basic battle rules apply, though you can not directly attack the other rider, only your monstie can.
The flow of progress in Monster Hunter Stories is also different from previous Monster Hunter games. Rather than only going out into the field when you have accepted a quest, you can now roam freely in the world as you automatically progress through the story. There are still quests like the previous games, however these are completely optional and are known as sub-quests. Doing these quests can be very useful for gaining more penny and EXP.
Even the stylisation has been changed a bit. Stories now takes slightly more chibi art style, though, unlike Federation Force, it kinda feels very suitable for Monster Hunter, especially with all the charm from the characters. Some of the cutscenes are almost like you are watching an anime.
Those Stories is very different from previous Monster Hunter entries, there’s still loads of MH tropes than fans know from the series. You will still have merchants, the smithy (where you can purchase and forge new weapons and armour), gathering, gathering quests, monster puns, felyne puns, and even the battle pouch. Whats useful though is that you can use any of your items at any time when in the field so you do not have to worry about gathering too much. You do have to choose which items you bring with you into combat however.
What I really find great about Monster Hunter Stories is that it does a fantastic job to introduce the series to newcomers. Let’s face it, it is likely that a lot of us found Monster Hunter a pretty complicated game which generally didn’t do the best of jobs to teach newcomers the mechanics. I remember getting Monster Hunter Tri and taking a fair few hours to increase my hunter level. The approach Monster Hunter Stories gives offers easy to learn mechanics, and if someone who started out with Stories goes to play another Monster Hunter game, then they will feel like they are playing on familiar territory.
Overall, Monster Hunter Stories is a fantastic new approach on the Monster Hunter franchise. Enough has been changed for it to feel fresh and new, but not too much has been changed that it has lost its Monster Hunter identity. It’s great to introduce Monster Hunter to newcomers, it has great new turn base battle mechanics, and it still contains all the charm from the rest of the franchise. It’s a bit lonely when you realise you can no longer form a group of hunters of cooperative play in this Monster Hunting outing, but other than that Stories is an amazing spin off.
If you don’t really like turn based JRPGs or Monster Hunter, than perhaps giving this title a miss would be best, but if you are a fan of Monster Hunter, or tried to get into it but found it too confusing, then we would definitely recommend Monster Hunter Stories!
Final Rating – 4.5 out of 5
Monster Hunter Stories is out now exclusively for Nintendo 3DS Family Systems in Europe and North America.
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