Unlike mainline Monster Hunter games, Monster Hunter Stories is a turn-based RPG with a colorful world to explore and a vast amount of content to keep you entertained.
Monster Hunter Stories
MonsterVine was provided with a 3DS code for review.
The Monster Hunter series is known for action combat and fighting powerful monsters. Monster Hunter Stories takes a different approach with turn-based combat, a storyline to follow, and a main character who is not a Hunter, but a Rider. While it’s not traditional Monster Hunter gameplay, it is a successful venture into a new genre.
Riders raise monsters and form bonds with them, but you still fight a lot of monsters, too. It’s implied that you don’t kill them, although it still feels jarring at times when you prove that befriending monsters is good by battling other monsters. The combat system is turn-based with a basic Rock-Paper-Scissors setup. You have three types of attacks: Power, Technical, and Speed. Power beats Technical, Technical beats Speed, and Speed beats Power. If you and an enemy attack each other, you initiate a head-to-head in which the type match-up determines who deals the most damage. There are also skills that do not lead to head-to-heads, as well as elemental weaknesses.
One monster fights alongside you at a time, and you can switch out any monster from your current party. Monsters attack on their own, although you can command them to use skills, and successful attacks build up your Kinship gauge. Once the gauge is full, you can ride your monster to perform more powerful moves and eventually unleash a special attack. After each battle, you receive a grade, which grants you additional items. It’s a simple system that can get repetitive, but there is something satisfying about learning enemies’ patterns to win successive head-to-head attacks.
Unlike many monster-collecting games, you don’t capture or befriend the monsters you fight. Instead, you enter Monster Dens to take their eggs, which you then hatch. In addition to leveling them up in combat, you’ll also want to pay attention to their genes. A monster’s genes can grant powerful bonuses, and you can “channel” genes from one monster into the corresponding slots of another. It’s a neat system that adds an additional layer of complexity, because you gain special bonuses when you line up three genes. For example, any three genes lined up gives that monster an HP boost, while lining up genes of the same type or element grants a corresponding attack bonus. It adds extra incentive to search for monster eggs with more genes and gene slots.
Finding new eggs is only part of the appeal of exploring. Monster Hunter Stories has vast, colorful environments to explore, with monsters to fight, materials to gather, and secrets to discover. You’ll also visit plenty of towns during your journey, all of which are filled with side quests.
Unfortunately, the majority of side quests simply ask you to gather items or defeat monsters. The main plot sometimes feels like a series of fetch quests as well, since you spend much of the early story helping people out to prove your trustworthiness, while the overarching plot—the spread of a dark corruption known as the Black Blight—has a much slower progression. In general, the plot is lighthearted and geared toward a younger audience, but it’s entertaining enough with its story of good vs. evil and discovering the world. Your companion Navirou is another matter, as players will likely be divided on whether he is cute and funny or obnoxious and cringe-worthy.
Nevertheless, Monster Hunter Stories isn’t a game to be played for a deep plot or complex systems, but for its exploration and monster-collecting. It struggles with frame rate and texture pop-in on original 3DS systems, but overall it’s a fun turn-based RPG.
The Final Word
Monster Hunter Stories isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s an enjoyable adventure for fans of turn-based RPGs and it provides a unique look into the Monster Hunter universe. If Capcom decided to continue this spin-off series, it will be welcome news.
– MonsterVine Review Score: 4 out of 5 – Good