The Monster Hunter series has brought many hours of fun to me and my friends over the years. The best part is teaming up with three of your friends and exploring locations to hunt down large, monstrous beasts. The goal of this is to obtain materials from the monsters to build better weapons and armor then repeat the whole process. Tamed monsters can sometimes be seen in the different villages of each game. Tamed monsters are usually herbivores used in transportation or farming but I’ve always wondered if a carnivorous monsters could also be tamed. Luckily, Capcom had an answer to my question with the introduction of Monster Hunter Stories.
Monster Hunter Stories keeps the elements that make Monster Hunter what it is and adjusts them to be more JRPG friendly. The first big difference is the art style. The graphics have been changed to look more like a cartoon. The second is you play as a kid this time to coincide with the anime, Monster Hunter Stories: Ride On. You can still customize your character’s face and hair as with previous games but there is also an option to remove the helmet so your character’s face is free of obstruction, which was very useful for seeing the wide range of facial expressions my character made throughout the game. I found it difficult to get my character to look decent with pink hair, which had been a staple of my Monster Hunter characters, so I reluctantly settled on brunette.
The first thing you will find yourself doing in Monster Hunter Stories is exploring a small area with your two friends Cheval and Lilia to find an egg to hatch. Luckily, the monster that hatches from the egg is a Rathalos, the poster child of the Monster Hunter series, but you won’t be keeping him long as the plot takes over with the introduction of blighted monsters. The story picks up some time after the events of the opening where your character starts the ritual to become a Rider to form bonds with monsters. Your main goal is to eradicate the blight that is infecting the monsters of the land with the help of the bonds you have formed with your friends and monsters. The blight is very similar to the blight seen in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate where it causes monsters to become more of a danger. While the story set up what I should be doing next, I found myself constantly taking more of an interest in the side quests, that is until the game reminded me that there is a main story I should be tending to.
A Rider is like a Hunter, but you do more than just hunt monsters. You also find their eggs to hatch and raise their young as your partner. You could probably say Monster Hunter Stories is the Pokemon spin-off of the series as you will eventually build a team to take with you on your journey. I am not sure if the first monster you get is random but my first one was a Velocidrome and I used him as my main monster buddy – henceforth, monstie… yes, the game actually calls it this – for the first two major areas until I found a suitable replacement. There are over 100 types of monsters to encounter while a little over half of them can be found as eggs to be hatched into monsties.
While exploring the world, you are able to ride on the back of your monstie to travel faster and each monstie will have a specific ability such as Jump or Dig that will give you access to places you could not get to before. In battle, you and your monstie fight side by side against other monsters in turn based combat like a JRPG. You will have control over what actions your character can do in battle, but your monstie will decide its own actions. Everything in Monster Hunter Stories has an attack type (Power, Speed and Technical) and it works like a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. When you and a monster are attacking each other, you will see a line of red sparks meaning this is a Head-to-Head attack and if your attack type beats their type then you will deal more damage to them and possibly leave them open for attack on the next turn. Of course if they win then you take more damage. If you and your monstie attack the same monster using the same attack and it beats the opponent’s then a double attack will occur where more damage is dealt to your opponent.
There is a meter in battle called Kinship Gauge and it will fill a little for each attack landed or a lot if you manage to win a Head-to-Head or perform a double attack. The Kinship Gauge allows you to use skills or even tell your monstie to do a specific attack. Even better, if you manage to fill the Kinship Gauge you will be able to ride your monstie in that battle. When you are riding your monstie in battle you are unable to use items, but attack and defense will increase. You will also gain access to the Kinship Skill, a powerful attack that is specific to each monster, which will end the riding mode when used. While riding your monstie in battle you will only get one attack per turn and if you lose two Head-to-Head attacks you’ll be knocked off, but if you manage to win a Head-to-Head attack your Kinship Gauge will become level up. It maxes out at level 3 which increases your Kinship Skill’s attack power.
I stated before that you get new monsters from eggs, but you must find them inside monster dens scattered around the world. Monster dens are randomly placed and occasionally you may discover a rare monster den that will yield a greater reward. Monster dens typically have a small path to follow that will lead to a room with multiple paths, most of which are going to be blocked. One path always take you to the nest area and another may lead to some treasure or battles. The nest area is always a circular room with some gathering points scattered about and of course a nest in the middle on a small mound. Every nest area has three different events that can occur: an unguarded nest that spawns a monster if you take too long, a monster sleeping on the nest or a monster actively protecting the nest.. After you liberate an egg from the nest, you can return to any town area and have your felyne, Stable Paw, help hatch the egg and then that monster is ready to join your party.
Once you reach the second area and do a few story quests, you will unlock the Rite of Channeling. This allows you to sacrifice one monster to genetically alter another allowing for such things as ice based monsters to have fire attacks or help increase monster stats. I found the Rite of Channeling to be incredibly helpful in the later game as you start getting more variety of monsters that may have the right gene you’re looking for.
In a similar fashion to the main Monster Hunter series you will still use materials gathered from defeated monsters to craft new armor and weapons or upgrade current gear. I really like the system that is used for crafting and upgrading now as it works on a point based system, whereas the mainline games require you to obtain specific materials from defeated monsters that may not have a realistic chance of being obtained. The game still requires that you obtain specific materials in order to craft gear but the point system works it out where common materials are worth one point, uncommon are worth three points, and the rare ones are worth ten. Most equipment will require about eight to ten points of one set of materials and eight to ten points of a second set before the item can be crafted or upgraded.
The music for the game feels reminiscent of previous mainline entries. Many elements of this game are borrowed from previous mainline titles. A lot of the sound effects are borrowed from previous games in the main series. Items have similar uses as in the main series (e.g. potions heal, traps immobilize, etc.) but sometimes with specific constraints. Your character will carry all items on them instead of storing them in a chest and you have a battle pouch that lets you use the items inside it in battle, but there are limits to the number of the items that can be used in battle. There are also 100 hidden poogies, the cute pig mascot of the series, in the world of Monster Hunter Stories and you will be rewarded with special items for each one you find and again for every ten. I may have taken extra time on this review just so I could find all the poogies because they’re so adorable.
In Japan, Monster Hunter Stories had six amiibo released that would give you eggs that contained special monsters from the anime. Sadly, these amiibo were not released in the US or Europe. I noticed early on that the amiibo support logo was on the US cover art for Monster Hunter Stories and I decided to import all six of them. I confirmed that they all work on the U.S. version and I ended up using one of the amiibo monsters for about half of the game. A cool thing about the amiibo themselves is five of them are a monster with a rider but you can switch the riders to different monsters. There is support for other non-monster hunter related amiibo which will give you items such as potions but each amiibo is one time use only. The one time use is likely to prevent abuse of the game economy by selling off acquired items.
Monster Hunter Stories is a great single player experience for younger Monster Hunter fans and newcomers alike. The game looks vibrant and colorful while maintaining that Monster Hunter style-esque that has been around since 2004. The turn based battle system is simple to understand and fun to plan your attack in cooperation with your monstie. While the number of monsters that can be your partner seems small, it can still be a challenge to obtain the rarer ones. I found Monster Hunter Stories to be very enjoyable and most fans of the main series will probably love it as well.
Review Copy Provided by Nintendo
Finished the main story
Total Play Time: 55 hours (I did a lot of back tracking for lost poogies)