Game Title: Monster Hunter Stories
Developer: Marvelous, Capcom
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Type: 3DS
Download: 14,733 Blocks
Availability: Retail | Digital
I love the Hunting RPG / Hunting Action genre. If you give me a game like Toukiden 2 or Ragnarok Odyssey, I will be entertained for hours upon hours on end. However, there is one franchise in the genre that I just cannot get into, that I just cannot stand the sluggish gameplay of: Monster Hunter.
Monster Hunter is one of the most popular Hunting franchises, and one big reason I do not enjoy it because there is no story or plot for what you are doing. It is solely gameplay and I might be able to take the slow gameplay if there was a good story behind it.
Thanks to a recent spin-off on the Nintendo 3DS, the series now has a plot. Here is my review of Monster Hunter Stories!
The world of Monster Hunter is filled with large animals that are considered dangerous and malicious monsters and, while many towns and territories around the world spend their lives hunting down and killing these monsters, there is a small village that does not.
The plot of Stories revolves around a hidden village of “Riders”, humans and Felynes who befriend and co-exist with Monsters rather than fighting and killing them. You take on the role of a newly-appointed Rider as a mysterious dark magic known as “The Black Blight” begins poisoning the nearby area and corrupts the animals, turning them feral and attacking people at will.
The story of Stories is a very interesting story and an interesting way of Capcom setting up a plot for the Monster Hunter series. It does have that JRPG feel and works well.
As opposed to the main series that are Action games, Stories is a turn-based monster-collecting RPG. Imagine Monster Hunter and World of Final Fantasy crossing, or a Monster Hunter x Pokemon type game. You will be traveling with monster companions, collecting new ones, and fighting in turn-based combat.
The main premise of progression is pushed forward through story events that point you towards a new objective point or dungeon on the World Map. In this regard, you will constantly be traveling between new areas and back to the village which serves as a base or hub, filled with your home, shops, and other facilities.
Outside of the village is all exploration and combat. The task of finding materials and crafting weapons and items returns here. There are many items that must be crafted from materials, be it for a mission or to be used. There are also a lot of locked areas, unlocked when you gain more companion monsters that can traverse those types of terrain.
Combat is simple turn-based combat. Your party and the enemy party take turns attacking one another until one side falls. Pretty simple, almost Final Fantasy feel going on here. There is also a weakness system here, with three different elements of attacks and your main strategy is to figure out what the enemy is weak to and use that on them for higher amounts of damage and less damage received.
The downside is that there feels like there is very little depth to combat. You can only control your own character and your monster companion is controlled randomly by the AI. Really, combat is just spamming attacks and items until the battle is over with occasionally doing the Mounting feature to mount your monster to do higher damage.
Speaking of companions, a lot of your extra time will be spent recruiting new party members. Littered across the World Map are Monster Dens, optional dungeons that have Eggs you can loot to hatch new companions.
The beauty of the recruiting system is that there is no single monster that cannot gain high stats towards the end of the game. So, whether your favorite monster is one of the smaller, more common enemies or among the vicious Rathalos, you are able to gather your favorite and take them all the way to the end.
The only thing I do not like about the monster party system is the restrictive party size. You are only allowed to have one monster in battle at once. Even when you mount your monster and a battle slot opens up, you can still only have a single companion with you. This causes a lot of indecision with me from all the monsters I could choose from, but I was only allowed one. Versus games like World of Final Fantasy that allowed for 3-6 party members out at once.
Now, this flow of progression doesn’t change a lot over the course of the game, and it’s a nice, lengthy ride. The storyline of the game should push you through around 35-40 hours of gameplay, and there’s much more to be done with higher ranks, extra dungeons, and online PvP modes where you can fight against enemy parties.
Since this is a different kind of Monster Hunter game, it would stand to reason the controls cheme would be a bit different. So, here’s how Monster Hunter Stories controls.
Moving around is simple. You move with the Circle Pad and the camera can be moved either by hitting the L and R buttons or with the C Stick on the New 2DS/New 3DS. The ZL and ZR buttons are used as well for activating Story Hints and Party Management, which are otherwise used via the touch screen.
The rest of the controls are with the face buttons. The Y button summons your Monster in the field and allows you to mount them for faster travel and special maneuverability. It also is used for Mount Attacks in combat. X is used for pulling up the customization menu. A is used for interacting with menus and harvest points. Finally, B is used for stealth elements in the field, like crouching and sneaking.
It’s not too hard to really get around. And it certainly is a tad different from what MH fans are used to for controls.
Visually, the game looks really cutesy and also kind of mirrors the type of feel World of Final Fantasy had initially gone for. Everything is Chibi-fied where everything is a Chibi. NPCs. Your Character. Even monsters are smaller Chibi forms of their bigger and scarier versions from the main Monster Hunter series.
The graphics, themselves, look pretty nice. Now, those ultra-perfect renders on those early screenshots of the game are not the final product. There are definitely some jaggies here and there, but it really looks great for a 3DS game.
Same with audio and performance. No real problems to be seen here. I never saw the fps drop and the load times are pretty short.
In conclusion, Monster Hunter Stories is an adorable little World of FF x Monster Hunter mashup. Although there are some issues with the depth of the combat system and party management system, it is great to see Monster Hunter finally having a plot and mythos to go off of outside of the constant repetitive Hunting combat. Whether you love or hate the franchise, this game can scratch the Monster Hunter fan's RPG itch or the Final Fantasy fan's.