Monster Hunter Stories derives itself from the very popular - at least in Japan - Monster Hunter series that has been going strong since its first title on PS2 in 2014. Much like the beloved Pokemon franchise, Monster Hunters Stories takes place in the same world as the rest of the series, but with a monster-taming twist.
In a classic JRPG, you might remember the moment where you arrive at a secret, hidden village away from the rest of the world where they are one with nature. Though that scenario might only last an hour or few in the usual JRPG, it's as if Capcom took that tiny chapter and broadened it into a full-blown 40+hour game.
Monster Hunter Stories - Too Much of a Gamble
In this spin-off, you play as a customizable, peaceful-loving Rider instead of Hunter like before in your remote village. Your people aren't into hunting down massive monsters, but instead hatching eggs and taming them for the protection and preservation of everyone.
Like Pokemon, battles are turn-based, the difference being that you actually fight alongside a single beast companion of your choosing. You can switch in-and-out between your "monsties" - monster besties - for any scenario.
While the addition of having your own character directly involved in combat is a nice take on the Pokemon formula, complete with your own set of skills to collect, the combat system is too dependent on risky gambles.
Though not fully randomized, the basis of Monster Hunter Stories' battles are a rock-paper-scissors sort of three-way between power, speed, and technique attacks. Each is weak to one and strong against the other, paving the way for lots of tactical gameplay.
Each monster has its preferred attack from the three, including your own monsters. While in battle, enemies will target you for a showdown where you charge at one another, taking more or less damage depending on the attack you choose. Unfortunately, most of the results every turn are left up to chance.
You are able to memorize what enemy monsters prefer to attack with and react accordingly, but it typically takes a few turns to piece it out, especially in the major boss battles where they have a set order that they constantly switch between.
Though it is targeted towards any gamer of any age, enemies can hit pretty hard if you are of a similar level. Having to guess in the meantime while you attempt to understand the pattern of that specific monster type is very risky and dangerous.
That is only made worse by the fact that your monsties can't be controlled by you; they act on their own. From my experience, most enemies target your monstie for showdown battles, so it is basically left up to chance whether your partner will win or not.
This is slightly offset by the ride mechanic, where you build a level of friendship with your monstie as the battle goes on, allowing you to come together as one. When this happens, you can only do one attack per turn but it is stronger and more easily controlled. However, this takes time to occur and I lost quite a few monsties in the process during battle.
Collecting new monsties requires you to trek to monster nests that are randomized each time you load into an area. You have to fight or run through the enemies inside that roam around to the nest at the very end. From there, you select an egg and have to successfully escape with it to be able to hatch it.
Hunting for these eggs can be fun for a while, but it does take more effort and can be more troublesome than were you able to simply tame them in the middle of a battle.
Monster Hunter Stories - A Cliche but Heartwarming Story
Stories begins in a novel, if not cliche way. You and your two friends are all hopeful Riders-in-training, going off without permission and becoming friends with a newborn Rathalos. Upon returning home to your village, you are of course greeted with harsh punishment and impending disaster.
The game begins similar to many other JRPG's, though, the impact of the events that happen is surprisingly more mature than I expected. Despite being targeted towards the young and the old, the plot does contain some darker themes like death and inner conflict that will appeal to adult gamers.
This is carried throughout the dozens of hours of main story. The writing and characters are interesting enough to continue to propel you forward, even when the environments aren't the best to look at. Chalk it up to this being my first 3DS game since the Switch's launch, but the 3DS is certainly showing its wear.
Monster Hunter Stories contains a massive, 3D world with many different environments and cities to explore. The 3DS struggles to handles all of it, with the occasional stuttering, blurry edges, and a period of time before NPC's pop in when transitioning to a town or city.
This is also hindered by the art direction. Colorful art is usually positive, but it's too much in Stories. It's almost to the point where it is hard to look in certain areas because of the far too bright locales and splash of neon colors.
Monster Hunter Stories - Conclusion
Monster Hunter Stories is a decent spin-off, perfect for introducing anyone to the Monster Hunter franchise. The battles may allow for too much gambling and the environments can be unappealing for the eye, but it still features an interesting story that will keep you hooked for dozens of hours.
The characters you'll meet are endearing and the monsties you'll collect are taken directly from the mainline series, giving you a Pokemon-like game that has immense potential for the future.
Cody Perez is an Editor at Game Revolution. You can follow him on Twitter @SoulcapCody.
A 3DS copy of Monster Hunter Stories was provided by its publisher.