Stepping away from the traditional narrative, Monster Hunter Stories on 3DS takes the idea of Monster Hunter and throws it in an entirely new direction – instead of seeking out and hunting monsters to get stronger and progress, what if you could capture and bond with these creatures and fight alongside them? Step into the shoes of a Rider as you explore the lands searching for strong Monstie (that’s what they call them) eggs to hatch and form bonds with, to become the ultimate Monster Rider!
I am relatively new to the Monster Hunter franchise, so the sense of awe might have been a bit lost on me compared to seasoned players. But even so, from the get-go this is an RPG that does what a lot of others can’t – it doesn’t bog you down in heavy dialogue chains or complex battle scenarios, it offers you the glimpse of a story, then gets right into the game. Your job as a Rider is to sneak into nests and steal eggs to hatch them, and then raise them as a companion. Pokemon similarities aside, the fact that you get to explore the map while riding on a monster is insanely fun and entertaining. It adds to the excitement of a game that already plays into the hands of those who know what they want out of an RPGWandering the open world isn’t a draining experience either – you can either run on your own or mount a Monstie and traverse the land quicker. Some places can only be reached with a Monstie skill (like high jumps and leaps) and Monsties normally run faster than your character does. Exploring also gives you the opportunity to discover lairs where you can find new eggs to hatch. One of the best parts of the game is that you will get a warning if you aren’t strong enough for specific lairs, meaning you’re less likely to stumble upon something and get completely wiped out. You can also harvest materials and items from resources scattered throughout the environment, and you can do so both on your Monstie and on the ground.
Once you enter a Monstie lair, you will normally have to battle through until you reach the egg nest – which is often guarded by a tougher Monstie than usual. Most Monsties are visible throughout the field; some will charge you and attack, while others will just stand around. Bumping into one of them initiates a battle – sometimes you can even sneak up on them for a surprise attack.One of the simplest and most fun parts of the game is the battle system – a ‘rock-paper-scissors’ type scenario which revolves around Power, Tech and Speed attacks. For the most part you control your character, and can anticipate the attack that the enemy might use, which can give you an advantage and cast more damage. Working in tandem with your Monsties in battle, you fight the opponents head-to-head in a game of skill that involves analysing your enemies’ attack patterns. Most of the time the enemies don’t change their attack type though, so you can read them easily.
The more you fight, the more power you build up in your Kinship Stone (the magical bonding device given to all Riders) which progresses your ability to perform stronger attacks; simultaneous attacks of the same type can boost it significantly and raise the strength level between you and your Monstie. Eventually you can perform team-up attacks by mounting your Monstie, taking down foes with major damage.
While the story is forgettable, it is a very basic tale of lost friendships and evil forces taking over monsters, but it works for the kind of game that is being presented, and doesn’t hinder the gameplay experience like others often do.
With the 3DS nearing the end of its lifespan, games like this are often left to the wayside; but for loyalists and those not quite ready to upgrade, Monster Hunter Stories is definitely a game worth picking up. With a fun battle system that doesn’t rely on grinding to level up, and a bright and open world to explore, Monster Hunter Stories takes its namesake in a completely different and impressive direction.