Monster Hunter Stories (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Drew Hurley 07.09.2017 2

Review for Monster Hunter Stories on Nintendo 3DS

The Monster Hunter series is one of the biggest franchises in Japan and while the game has received a few spin-offs already, such as the Patapon style Monster Hunter Diary: Poka Poka Airou Village, they rarely come West and it was a considerable surprise to see Stories get its English release. The game didn't do particularly well in Japan, likely because of the hardcore MonHan fans wanted more of the same and this simplified, story-focused, colourful, monster collecting RPG drastically breaks away from the norms.

This does not feel like a Monster Hunter game. Every core element breaks away from established ones, yet still keeps enough identifiable aspects to make it feel part of the MonHan universe. This is immediately noticeable right from the start. The look and style immediately make a big impression; the bright and chibi-esque style looking particularly stunning on the now ageing hardware of the 3DS. Despite the drastically different graphics, though, there are enough of the series' signature elements to make it still feel familiar: the same monsters, weapon and armour styles and more. Stories is true to its name, too, as opposed to the usual setup of establishing a world and placing the focus on the hunting, with the story taking a backseat. Instead, Stories spends a huge amount of time setting up the story and the opening few hours are stuffed to bursting with exposition and absolutely gorgeous FMV sequences.

The story opens in a little village where the inhabitants aren't "Monster Hunters" but rather "Monster Riders." They are a society of people who believe in bonding with monsters, stealing eggs from the wild and raising the creatures to be partners and pets. Opening with a trio of friends from this village - the player character, a boy called Cheval, and a girl called Lilia - the three have snuck out of their village into the dangerous wilderness in hopes of finding a monster egg, despite being too young to undergo the "Ritual of Kinship" and bond with their first monster. Surprisingly, they succeed, with the player character able to bond with a Rathalos despite not having a Kinship Stone, a Macguffin that helps bond Rider to monster "Heart to Heart." When they return home, though, a huge shadowy Nargacuga busts into the village. Toothless' bad-ass big brother tears down some buildings, takes out the baby Rathalos, and, during the chaos, manages to destroy the building holding Cheval's family.

Screenshot for Monster Hunter Stories on Nintendo 3DS

Jump to a year later, Cheval is now an angst-filled teen, the corruption known as the Black Blight that infected the Nargacuga is spreading through the land, and the player character becomes a Rider before heading off into the world on a grand story, along with his very own Felyne named Navirou, and from here a huge tale begins, one where Riders and Hunters clash; where the Black Blight continues to corrupt everything before it and where Chevel becomes a classic anime style rival for the hero.

The battle system is perhaps the biggest departure from the series' history. While the original was a hardcore system of preparing the best possible equipment and then taking hour upon hour fighting a single enemy, Stories delivers a simple turn-based, rock-paper-scissor style system. It is very basic at its core but there are enough extra elements to keep the combat system fresh and interesting. A wheel of attacks of Power, Speed, or Technical can be chosen and learning what types of attacks enemy monsters will use is the key to success. It's obvious on appearance alone for some monsters - huge lumbering Azuros will more often than not rely on Power attacks, while the nimble Raptor-type enemies will often rely on Speed attacks. Picking the correct attack awards some Kinship energy and, once enough is collected, the player can mount the Monstie (the term for bonded monsters - a combination of a monster and a bestie...) and perform some stronger attacks. Keep landing the correct attack while mounted and that Kinship energy can be used to unleash devastating special attacks. Each Monstie has their own unique attacks and they range, from the cool to the hilarious (of particular note is a Rocky-esque training montage where the Monstie is pulling logs through the snow and shadow boxing). Each combat has the player character paired with one of their Monsties; the Monstie will choose what attack to use, unless given a command for a specific special ability, while the player can choose what type of attack to use, or to switch to a different Monstie, to use items or to use special abilities.

Screenshot for Monster Hunter Stories on Nintendo 3DS

The items and equipment are going to be familiar to MonHan fans, with the likes of bombs and whetstones available, but each with more fitting uses to this style of adventure. The weapon types are the usual MonHan fair, too, although fewer; there's the Great Sword, Sword and Shield, Hammer and Hunting Horn. Each weapon has its own special abilities and they are each useful based on the situation or monster being faced; for example, using the sword and shield gives the ability to block attacks, and is critical with certain enemies.

Finding and bonding with Monsties is one of the biggest elements and it's going to cause a lot of comparisons to Pokémon. There's even a Pokédex-style Monsterpedia that tracks the over 100 Monsties that are available to collect, and there are various methods of doing so. The basic way is finding monster Dens out in the hugely expansive open world and stealing an egg away from a nest. This can then be hatched back in town. There are numerous types of Dens and eggs out in the world, and it is definitely worth recruiting as many as possible, utilising little hints to help establish just what may lurk within the egg. The colour of the Den is indicative of the rarity of the creature and the markings on the egg can give a hint to the type of Monstie waiting inside. Navi can also give clues to its stats and abilities based on the smell. Collecting Monsties is fun, but also rewarding. Each has a field skill that can help in numerous areas; some can jump to new areas, some can fly, and some can identify important items on the mini-map.

Screenshot for Monster Hunter Stories on Nintendo 3DS

Collecting egg pieces can be used to somehow birth new Monsties, too. Collecting up nine fragments can give a new egg to hatch. The online multiplayer seems to be the best way of gathering up the rarer fragments to hatch some exclusive and special monsters by winning Network Battles against others. There are also some exclusive Monsties available from the amiibo line, for the collectors out there. Once Monsties have been caught, there's more yet to be done, too. They can be levelled-up and customised by using unwanted Monsties as fodder for powering up abilities and attributes - a useful system since invariably numerous extra useless Monsties are regularly collected. Those not offered up as a sacrifice to power-up their brethren can be sent out on expeditions, bringing back with them loot and experience. It's a nice extra feature to get the most out of the game during sleep, school, or work.

There are not just Monsties to collect, either, as this is a real collectathon style affair, with tons of interactive elements in the world to harvest. There are herbs and ore deposits, bugs to catch and fish to reel in, all of which can be used to craft items and improve equipment. Series mainstays, Poogies, are back, too. Scattered through the world, there are Poogies perched in precarious positions that all need to be found and rescued to be added to the Encyclopoogia.

Monster Hunter Stories is undoubtedly one of the best looking games on the 3DS with stunning locales and a beautiful style of its own, but a price comes with this graphical strength, and that price is the performance. During FMVs, and while in particularly crowded areas of the open world, the frame-rate stutters and plummets on a regular basis that is very noticeable. There are regularly pop-in issues, too, even in lesser populated areas and towns.

Screenshot for Monster Hunter Stories on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

The Monster Hunter franchise has a rich and varied universe but outside of a handful of spin-offs; its games have always been limited to their very specific formula. That's a doubled-edged sword, as the fans don't want big changes but those who don't enjoy the series' core mechanics are missing out on a fantastic universe filled with some amazing monster designs and the fabulous Felynes. Monster Hunter Stories breaks the mold and delivers an experience that shows that universe is just waiting for more innovative ideas. Like Final Fantasy Tactics and Dragon Quest Builders, Monster Hunter Stories delivers a wholly new experience that is utterly addictive and absolutely superb. If you enjoy Pokémon, give this a chance!

Developer

Capcom

Publisher

Capcom

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Capcom missed the mark with how this was advertised in Japan, but hopefully Nintendo will help give it a boost over here. We shall see where it lands in Monday's chart update! Smilie

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

capcom should have made a switch port. 3ds is basically redundant at this point.

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