The Monster Hunter series has long been a series that shined when it came to its main core concept – its combat and endless boss-like monster battles. Using a variety of different complex weapons to take down huge monsters makes for hours of fun. While there have been many spin-offs in the Monster Hunter series, none of them have quite stood out like Monster Hunter Stories. It takes the world and lore that is often overlooked in the main titles and brings in an entirely new concept of befriending monsters in order to make it into a delightfully bright RPG setting.
Unlike the core series, Monster Hunter Stories puts players into the control of a young character on their way to becoming a rider. These riders seek out monster eggs in order to tame the monsters inside, which in turn is one of the main tasks players undergo. Throughout the vast world are various caves which can be explored, each one containing a nest at the end with a variety of monster eggs. These eggs contain many different species of monsters, and can be hatched once taken back to the character’s home village. Players will need to track down a variety of different monsters, as they all have different strengths and weaknesses when exploring the world or deep into battle.
The combat of Stories is simplified and unlike the main series only lets players choose from four different weapon types. When entering battle players are given the option to use power, speed or technique attacks in a simple rock-paper-scissors scenario. The player’s monster fights along side them, selecting attacks on their own during fights. Each weapon is able to pull off specific combos depending on what they player is fighting with in order to deal out some bonus damage. While at first the combat can seem a bit random the opponent monsters all have patterns and attack types they prefer, encouraging the player to learn their patterns much like they would in the core series. In addition to basic attacks, progressing through the story and completing side quests will unlock special abilities for certain weapons to be used in battle. Once players have filled up their kinship level in battle, their character can mount their monster and dish out even more damage or even pull off a special kinship attack for massive damage.
When players need a break from the main game, they are able to take their team of monsters into battle online to put their skills head to head against other riders. Online battles play out fairly similar to regular matches against wild monsters, with the catch being that players can only attack monsters and are unable to attack one another directly. Each time a monster or player loses their life, one of their three hearts is lost, and after one player has lost all three that concludes the battle. While this can be seen as just a small distraction from the core game, it makes for an enjoyable way to compare monsters and even learn new combat strategies.
Stories may be different from all the core games in the series, but still stays true to many of the original elements. When encountering an enemy for the first time their health is a hidden and can’t be uncovered until that monster type is defeated at least once. Players also still gather various items out in the world, and will need to fight monsters multiple times in order to get the items to create or upgrade their gear. Although it’s an entirely new kind of beast, Stories creates a good blend of tense action and turn based combat.
Monster Hunter Stories is a well thought-out spin-off that takes the franchise in a brand new direction, but still feels like a well-deserved entry along side the fast-paced action found in the rest of the series. The gorgeous appearance and simple story makes for a great experience that players can hop into and find different ways to enjoy whether they want the strongest monsters or just use ones they like the most. For those who haven’t tried out Monster Hunter Stories, the demo is available to give a try in the 3DS eShop. New and old fans looking to pick up this spin-off RPG won’t have to wait long to start befriending their many monster companions, as Monster Hunter Stories will be available in just a little over a week on September 8.