Monster Hunter Stories review on Switch — Ride on and on!

While most of the world hunts monsters for protection and use in daily life, in a corner of the wilderness lies a settlement of people who live in harmony with monsters. These Riders work together with their Monsties in tasks big and small. Both walks of life lived apart, yet at peace, until a disease called the Black Blight began to spread across the land. Now, like it or not, Hunters and Riders must work together to stop the blight, and save the world.

Monster Hunter Stories is joining its sequel on modern platforms! Originally released for the 3DS in 2017, then ported to iOS and Android in 2018, this new port looks to be the definitive version of Stories. While I only played a bit of the 3DS version, I’ve had my hands on the new Switch port and have been putting it through its paces. Is Stories 1 still worth playing even with its sequel readily available? Let’s find out.

Stories puts you in the shoes of a young rider. You and your friends, Lilia and Cheval, come across a nest of monster eggs. Wanting to be fully fledged riders one day, the three of you perform a “Rite of Kinship” on one of the eggs, when suddenly a Rathalos hatches from it. However, upon returning to the village, your home is attacked, your newborn Rathalos is lost, and Cheval’s mother is killed. One year later, it’s finally time to take your Rider test, perform the real Rite of Kinship, and discover what made that monster go berserk and almost destroy the village.

Despite being predictable and rote for the RPG genre, I still enjoyed Stories’ plot. It goes all in on the power of friendship trope and, new to this version, adds some hammy voice acting on top. At the very least, the save the world plotline feels much more natural here than when it’s shoved into just about every Pokemon game nowadays, to draw comparison with the series Stories is also drawing from. It’s silly, but also takes itself seriously enough when needed, with fun characters like Navirou, Debli, Simone, and Reverto.

I did find something consistently odd in several cutscenes, however. A cutscene won’t advance unless you hit A to close the current text box, which is standard, but sometimes animations would loop in a strange way or completely freeze altogether – including weather effects like snow. If you listen to the voice acting, this will happen pretty often and it can get distracting. I imagine it was less noticeable on 3DS, but it’s on full display here in HD.

Speaking of, Stories looks gorgeous, even on Switch. It’s bright and colorful with crisp textures, mostly thanks to the fantastic art direction. I’m a big fan of the fully textured faces rather than modeling the mouth, eyes, and everything. It’s similar to Mega Man Legends back on the PS1, and is a style that feels even more expressive in Stories. Of course, the Switch version does suffer from some frame dips and a lower resolution than other versions, but personally I’m OK with the tradeoff for portability and the OLED screen.

Thankfully, combat is turn-based, so framerate doesn’t really affect gameplay. When encountering a monster on the field, you and your current Monstie (that’s Monster and Bestie) will fight together against your foes. Battles in Stories go by rock paper scissors rules. Normal attacks can be red for power, blue for speed, or green for technical with red beating green, green beating blue, and blue beating red. Every Monstie has a color of attack they’ll tend towards, so you’ll want to swap them out depending on what’s going on in battle. While you can’t control your monstie for the most part, you can choose your own actions for each turn. If you or your monstie attack an enemy that is also attacking you, a head to head will begin with the winner of rock paper scissors dealing more damage and taking less. If both of you attack the same monster using the same color and would win in a head to head, you’ll completely negate damage taken and deal a whole lot more in a dual attack. It’s a very simple battle system on the surface, but has a lot of depth to consider for even normal encounters. Monster AI isn’t the brightest unfortunately, so you’ll still need to gear up and study an enemy’s patterns to win battles.

You do have Ratha alongside you for about two thirds of the game, but you’ll still want to build up a team of Monsties to tackle any situation, both in battle and out. Every monster comes with one or two skills they can use in the field, and you’ll need to have at least a few to get around. For example, Ratha can fly in some areas, but you may need an aquatic monster to swim around a lake or a spider monster to climb vines and reach ledges in dungeons. It’s difficult to make a team that can cover all your bases, but you can always head back to the stables and swap out if you need to.

Monster Hunter Stories Preview - Switch [GamingTrend]

While the world of Stories is fun to explore, I do find it all blends together a lot more than Wings of Ruin. You’ve got your standard grasslands, deserts, forests, volcanoes, and icy areas. There’s not much to make these places stand out, and when searching for certain monsters to add to my party I would confuse one forest for another. You’re not going to get lost as locations are all fairly compact, but you might experience some deja vu just going through the story.

That’s not to say that exploring, battling, and hatching monster eggs isn’t fun – it is – a lot of the game can just feel samey. You’re essentially required to complete side quests frequently to upgrade your gear, level up, and stand any chance against bosses in the story. For a while I tried to just blast through the story alone, but that makes for a miserably difficult experience. Side quests aren’t particularly interesting, having you return to previous areas to find items or defeat certain monsters. If you’ve played a mainline Monster Hunter game before, this is the same thing as those side quests. Fairly tedious, but you won’t complete most of them incidentally here. It really kills the pacing when I need to leave the final dungeon before the last boss to do a few menial tasks for a grandma in Guildegaran.

You can also mess with the Rite of Channeling to transfer genes between Monsties, though I found this less important than in 2, at least outside of the post game. Every monster has a set of genes arranged in a 3×3 grid. These genes represent stat bonuses, like increased attack or evasion, or skills to use in battle. In the Rite, you can move a single gene from one Monstie to the same slot in another, with extra bonuses occurring if you get a bingo of genes of the same color. The monster you transfer from will return to the wild afterwards, however, so you need to choose wisely. I used this system to give extra abilities to my main team, and a few red bingos for Ratha, then largely ignored it. With the ability to battle against other players online, I imagine this system will be crucial, but if you’re just doing single player stuff it’s not the most important thing.

Lastly, I want to pay special attention to the sound, for its good and bad. Starting with the bad, many sound effects are very compressed, with the series continuing to use them since it started on the PS2. I can’t imagine these sounds would be hard to recreate, and it would be nice to have. Thankfully, the music of Stories greatly outshines the sound effects, with some fantastic battle and field tracks. In particular, I really loved the normal battle theme with its percussion and violins working together to make every encounter feel cool.

David is the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can find positives in anything, like this is a person who loved Star Fox Zero to death. You’ll see him playing all kinds of games: AAAs, Indies, game jam games, games of all genres, and writing about them! Here. On this website. When not writing or playing games, you can find David making music, games, or enjoying a good book.
David’s favorite games include NieR: Automata, Mother 3, and Gravity Rush.



Monster Hunter Stories

Review Guidelines

Monster Hunter Stories may be the lesser game compared to its sequel, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth playing. It’s a fun, lighthearted take on the monster collecting genre with a deep battle system and tons of Monsties to befriend. This version is better than ever, with gorgeous visuals and hammy voice acting, and is worth a try for any RPG fan.

David Flynn

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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