I’m one of those gamers that don’t play any Monster Hunter games. Not for a lack of trying, either, because I’ve tried to play a handful of titles since the launch of the series. I really like the ideas behind the series, and respect them for what they are, but I don’t enjoy the gameplay as much as I should.
Monster Hunter is huge in Japan, but here, it is a niche series that has a very faithful following that’s seemingly only gotten bigger over the years. Monster Hunter Stories is a completely different approach for the series, embracing an anime art-style, and trading a real-time combat system for a traditional turn-based combat system, with Pokemon inspirations thrown into the mix, too. There is also lengthy animated cutscenes, and a cohesive story, too.
You play as Lute, a wannabe Rider, someone who hatches and raises dinosaurs and believe in raising and bonding with their dinosaurs. The game begins in a village where three friends have snuck out into the wild to find monster eggs because they are young and are not capable of partaking in the Ritual of Kinship, a rite that pairs them with a dinosaur. Using a Kinstone allows for our young hunters to befriend and bond with new monsters, and it the key to gaining more monsters throughout the game. Upon being successful and returning to the village, they come to see everyone under attack, due to a danger called The Black Blight, and their homes destroyed.
This leads the series into its main storyline and what makes Lute leave his village to embark out into the world, to face the evil that destroyed his home. Sometimes the story felt contrived but the colorful locales and a fascinating landscape full of bizarre monsters more than made up for the weaker story that’s been done to death before.
The biggest departure for the series I’d say is the battle system, which is now a traditional turn-based system. Gone is the need to equip your hunter with best gear to venture out into the wild, gone is the need to battle massive monsters that take hours to best, instead you’re put into a turn-based system that’s fun to play, the main draw is being able to catch and collect monsters, but to do that you’ll need to battle it out in a rock-paper-scissors fashion. Simply put, by choosing either Power, Technical or Speed attacks it all comes down to how your opponent will choose to react and for a while, it’s a fun system, that all changes hours in when you’ve spent hours playing. It can get a bit grind-y for my liking, but with some refinement, I can see this battle system being even better if we see a sequel later down the road.
Stories have two additional modes included, local and online multiplayer that are available. Rider Arena is a great place to face opponents and show your team off, there is also Tournament mode, which is a knock-out stage format I couldn’t get enough of, and a lot of these modes give out rewards that help.
I noticed that Monster Hunter Stories features charming 3D, a feature that has been missing from many games on the Nintendo 3DS as of late, and works well, even though at this point, the technology has become a gimmick for the most part. The visuals of Monster Hunter Stories are a massive departure for the series as well, featuring anime-inspired designs, and use bright and colorful visuals in lieu of realistic graphics.
Monster Hunter Stories is a great addition to the series, and, a good place to start with Monster Hunter. It isn’t however, like any other game in the series, so go in with this piece of information, and if you like how well Stories plays, check out the rest of the series, it just might something you’re in to. The graphics, the combat system, the monster collecting, it’s all here and these systems play well, it also features some great usage of 3D, and a colorful world full of monsters that need to be raised by you.