Imagine a world where humans and monsters can live together in harmony. That is the way of the rider and, as a new initiate, your work may be cut out for you as mysterious pits begin to open up, monsters become enraged, and Rathalos from around the world flee beyond the horizon.

Does Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin have what it takes to ride on, or is it less gnarly than that time Navirou ran out of doughnuts? Find out in our review after the break!

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin
Nintendo Switch and Microsoft Windows
Developed by Capcom and Marvelous
Published by Nintendo and Capcom
Released: 9th July 2021
Nintendo Switch review copy provided by Nintendo UK

As dusk falls over the village of Mahana, a celebratory festival ensues, bringing joy to the quiet rider town. Suddenly the night goes awry as Guardian Ratha, your late grandfather’s Monstie and revered protector of Hakolo Island, mysteriously flies beyond the horizon and the sea turns a rageful red.

While setting out on your first mission as an official rider, you meet a mysterious wyverian, Ena, who claims Guardian Ratha entrusted her with its egg… an egg that could contain an all-powerful Rathalos with the titular Wings of Ruin, a decimating force that could wipe out civilisations if left unchecked. You also meet a very peculiar, yet familiar, felyne who goes by the name Navirou.

With your new buddies at your side, you leave the Island to find a way to control or seal the potential power of your unborn Ratha, but doing so has led to more mysteries to solve. Why are there pits opening up around the world? Why are monsters acting more aggressively than usual? Who are the hunters who are trying to steal your Ratha? Will Navirou ever find the purrfect doughnut? Only you can find out in this pawsitively clawdacious RPG adventure!

Before we dwell on the specifics of Monster Hunter Stories 2, let’s first recap what exactly a rider is. Unlike hunters, riders form close bonds with Monsters, or Monsties when a bond has been conceived, to assist them with keeping their community safe from outside threats… or tedious chores. It has been rumoured that some bonds are so close, certain riders can actually hear what monsters are saying; your grandfather, Red, had this ability long ago.

You can befriend new Monsties by exploring the various Monster Dens and nicking an egg to hatch later on at the stables. Pay attention to what Navirou says about the weight and stench of each egg as that may hint towards a more powerful Monstie than usual.

Similar to the likes of Pokémon and Yokai Watch, any Monstie you hatch can be added to your party to fight alongside you. May I add here that each Monstie is incredibly cute when newly-hatched. You can have a total of five Monsties in your party, not including the slot reserved for Razewing Ratha.

Fighting in Monster Hunter Stories 2 is very similar to the original game, this time with some extra depth. The basics require you to choose a speed, power, or technical attack while your lead Monstie will choose one of their own. These form an attack triangle of sorts where speed beats power, power trumps technical, and technical thrashes speed. Study a monster carefully and you’ll easily figure out their weaknesses.

Sometimes you’ll encounter a head-to-head battle, which is denoted by a line connecting you or your Monstie and an opponent. If you choose an attack that will trump theirs, you’ll do significantly more damage. If an ally assists you with the same type of attack and you win, you’ll deal even more damage and stop that attack from hitting you completely. If you’re willing to spend a little kinship, you can order your Monstie to perform a different attack and alter their target; do bear in mind each Monstie will not be able to perform all attack types unless they have a particular gene… but more about that later.

Any attack you or your Monstie lands, or any time you assist each other, will reward you with a specified amount of kinship. This can be used to perform special skills that either deal a lot of damage or perform special effects, such as healing or buffing up your stats. If you fill your kinship gauge completely however, you’ll be able to ride your Monstie. Not only do your attacks do even more damage, but you can also perform your Kinship Skill (these differ for each Monstie) which causes devastating effects on your opponent. I particularly love how my Pukei-Pukei spews a rain of poison but uses its tongue to shelter me from the downpour; it’s so cute!

Smaller monsters will only ever use one type of attack; for example, the Bnahabra is very fond of dishing out technical moves. Bigger monsters are a little more tricky. They’ll keep using the same attack until they are angered and then they’ll swap to a different type for a few turns, so it’s always good to study and learn from your fights. 

Things get trickier later on when monsters go through multiple stages. Zamitros, for example, will attack using technical as a standard. Once it covers itself in ice, it then relies on speed. Finally, it will swell up with water and start issuing power attacks… if you don’t find a way to deflate the Zamitros, it will also unleash a super-powerful attack.

Luckily for you, Stories 2 introduces a brand new mechanic: weapon types! There are three main types of weapon, each with two sub-types: your sword and shield and greatsword are all bladed types, bows and gunlances are ranged, and hammers and hunting horns come under the blunt category. 

As you fight more types of monsters, you’ll unlock more variations of weapons to forge from the smithy; just bring the required parts and enough zenny and I’m sure you’ll be able to build a neat artillery in no time! You can bring up to three weapons with you on your endeavours, and since each monster has its own weaknesses, it would be wise to get used to swapping weapons around during your battles.

Another mechanic introduced is the ability to attack specific parts of a monster, such as the head, its horns, or the tail. Each part also has its own weaknesses to different weapon types, so be sure to keep an eye on those too. Perhaps a bladed weapon would be enough to puncture that overindulged Zamitros belly! Did we mention that each part can be broken too?

During the majority of the story, you’ll have a rider or hunter buddy to fight alongside you too. Unlike your Monsties, you are unable to control their, or their Monsties’, attacks whatsoever. You can, however, still perform synchronised head-to-head attacks and, if you perform a Kinship Skill the same time they do (or if they perform a Hunter Art), those will get synchronised too, so keep an eye on what your buddies do next.

One thing annoyed me about buddies, and that was their AI. A lot of these characters are supposed to be master riders or hunters, yet they will often choose the wrong attack for the situation. Thankfully, for the most part, when this happened, the head-to-head would result in a draw, but it still kinda feels silly considering their backgrounds. It makes sense for Monsties, as they specialise in specific attacks; at the very least let me order my buddies around in exchange for kinship!

Though tough later on, battles in this game are also quite lenient. If you run out of health, for example, the battle hasn’t been lost just yet. Instead, you’ll lose one of three hearts, once all of those have been depleted, then you’ll be running with your tail between your legs. What’s pretty useful is how your buddy (not to be confused with your Monstie) has their own set of hearts too.

As with any other RPG, winning battles will gain you a set amount of EXP to level up your stats. You’ll also get some monster parts too. Depending on how well you performed, such as how quickly you won or how many skills you used, will also determine how many different parts you receive. Finishing fights quickly, effectively, and in style will make it easier to rack up ingredients for new weapons, armour, and upgrades.

Completing a range of sub-quests is another way to earn EXP, monster parts, and even combo recipes so you can craft your own items, such as potions, barrel bombs, and sonic booms. The game also introduces trials. These are special battles where there are specific reward criteria, such as being able to defeat all monsters within a set amount of turns.

If you happened to throw a paintball, or used specific skills, there’s a chance that the monster you’re fighting could retreat instead. This opens up a temporary den where you may be able to nab an egg of that monster. Be warned, sticking around too long may lead to a rather rude awakening!

Another brand new feature, that gets introduced annoyingly late into the game, comes in the form of Cooperative Expeditions. These allow you to explore a range of special dens with another player from around the world, including your friends. Not only are these quite fun, but it’s also a great way to collect a bunch of monster eggs too. Do bear in mind that you have to pay expedition tickets for the rarer dens. These can be bought using bottle caps you find from Everdens in the main game. You can also take on cooperative slaying quests, you may even find monsters you wouldn’t usually find in the main game there.

If you want to beef up new Monsties quickly, you may want to send them on an expedition of their own. You can send five Monsties per expedition to build up their EXP, collect rare materials, and more. These are all done in the background, so it’s a great way to level up Monsties and collect materials and ingredients while continuing the story.

Monsties can also be powered up in a slightly different way, using the Rite of Channeling. Each Monstie has their own set of genes that determine what attacks and skills they can use. This feature allows you to take a gene from one Monstie and give it to another… you do have to release the Monstie you take a gene from, however. 

By performing the Rite of Channelling enough times, a Monstie that can only perform power attacks can now perform all three types. You can also adopt passive skills, such as poison protection or self healing. In addition to this, by creating a bingo of same coloured genes, the power of your Monstie will be boosted even further.

I’m going to be completely honest here. While playing through the game, I cried… a lot! There’s just something about the concept of building bonds with your Monsties that is really heart-warming to me and, after the past year and a half of isolation and anxiety due to COVID-19, it’s something that has seriously tugged at my heartstrings. There were also many moments during the story that had the same effect; I was bawling at the end of nearly every section of the game!

I also enjoyed all the main characters I had the pleasure of meeting during my forty-hour adventure. They all had their own charm and, even though his voice was annoying at times, I still loved the energy Navirou radiates.

The game, for the most part, is an absolute beauty to look at. The colours and lighting is so vivid, I honestly cannot wait to see what this game looks like on the go using the Nintendo Switch OLED Model. One thing which was a bit of a let down however is that the lower frame rate was noticeable during some parts of the game. 

These tend to happen primarily while visiting villages and towns. It wasn’t something that adversely affected gameplay, rather it was just noticeable after exploring other parts of the world. Everything else, including battles, ran pretty smoothly however. I would also like to take a moment to appreciate how you can double and triple the speed of battles, perfect for if you are in a hurry.

Monster Hunter Stories is basically a doughnut. The original was a fantastic take on the Monster Hunter series and brought some of the crucial elements from various RPGs; this is your glazed doughnut. This sequel then takes that pastry staple and stuffs it full of great new features and ideas; that’s your jam, custard, or cream-filled glazed doughnut. I can only imagine what a potential third game would taste like.

What I’m trying to say is that Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin has built on the original to make an incredibly entertaining and heartwarming RPG that is oodles of fun to play. There’s so many cool new features which are clearly inspired by the mainline Monster Hunter games that feel right at home in this RPG title. Capcom have already released some free DLC that add brand new monsters to slay, so there’s plenty more content to come too.. I’m also trying to say that I’m starving and could really do with a doughnut right about now!

Final Rating – 5 out of 5

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is out now for Nintendo Switch and Windows PC.

Leon Fletcher

I am a huge Nintendo fan, hence why NintyBuzz exists. I especially love all things Zelda and Metroid. NintyBuzz was started by me back in the Summer of 2014, it started out mainly as a hobby, though the site has gradually grown, and I hope it grows for many years to come!