The fact that Monster Hunter Stories only came out on the 3DS when the Switch was already in the proverbial cradle did not work commercially for the spin-off, even if it was a very good RPG. After the cartoon series also flopped, the death sentence for the spin-off seemed to have been signed. Against all expectations, there is Monster Hunter Stories 2. And we are so happy with that!
In Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin play You don’t feel like a hunter, but you are part of a tribe of Riders: people who have a friendly relationship with monsters and can even ride on them. When entire swarms of Rathalos suddenly disappear from the face of the earth, your crafted character is entrusted with a Rathalos egg doomed by folk legends and your epic adventure begins.
Hunters and Gatherers
Who played the previous game some of the above elements may sound familiar, but make no mistake: this is a standalone story and not a direct sequel. However, many of the same characters make their appearance again. The game clearly takes into account that many players enter the Stories universe with this installment, but for the returning player it’s nice to see familiar faces. However, that may mean that not all characters feel equally deepened for new players, because you are not yet fully familiar with, for example, Navirou and Alvinia. The hasty summaries of their backstories can never replace the experience of a full game.
Despite it’s remarkable how accessible Monster Hunter Stories 2 is to people who have never touched a Monster Hunter game, while this is still a big problem with main series games. That’s partly because Stories 2 immerses you in the ins and outs of hunting at a leisurely pace, but also because the turn-based combat system gives you more room to experiment and think about your next move.
Rock Paper Scissors
Just like hunting a brand new monster in Monster Hunter Rise, in Monster Hunter Stories 2 you initially know not sure how to successfully overpower such a beast. Monsters fall back into certain patterns and recognizing those patterns is what makes the difference between life and death. You may make the wrong decisions for the first few turns, but over time you will get to know your opponent and know how to react. It’s no different in Monster Hunter Stories 2.
Battles are largely decided by a rock-paper-scissors system, where you have to anticipate whether a monster will go for a Power, Technique or Speed attack, and then choose the superlative type to to overwhelm the monster. In the first game this could be quite random, but in Stories 2 the monsters stick to their habits and you can fully understand your enemies. The parallels to the main series are very ingenious and give you more of a feeling of being in control of the fight. If you lose, you can only blame yourself for not paying close enough attention.
Also new in Stories 2 is that you can click on specific parts of a monster you can aim to break a horn or paralyze a wing, for example, to protect yourself from specific attacks. Switching weapon types can also offer a solution. After all, it is easier to cut off a tail with a sword than with a hammer. You are constantly fine-tuning your strategy during battles, while your own monster, called Monsties, mainly does its own thing, with some adjustments if you find it necessary. You will often be accompanied by a teammate with his or her own Monstie, but they are fully computerized so you don’t have to babysit. As a result, you don’t stay long in menus and battles run smoothly. If it’s still too slow for you, you can always speed up the pace of battles up to 300%.
Capcom and Marvelous have proven once again that they are masters of this trick
Outside of combat, you are free to use the wide Monster Hunter explore the world and of course you prefer to do that on the back of your favorite Monsties. Scattered across the open landscapes are monster caves where you can steal monsters’ eggs from nests. You then hatch them into Monsties, which you can add to your team, or run through the DNA shredder to strengthen your existing monsters. The latter sounds quite animal-unfriendly, just like stealing unborn baby monsters, by the way, but think of the moral issues for a moment and you have the option of, for example, giving the poisonous properties of a Rathian to snow rabbit Lagombi.
Who likes to be in the Diving into spreadsheets to create the perfect monster is going to get a lot of satisfaction out of Monster Hunter Stories 2. All the more so because transferring the genes of monsters has now been made even easier compared to its predecessor.
When you’re not fighting or collecting eggs, there’s still plenty to do in the game world. The story leads you through all kinds of areas and settlements, where the locals are happy to let you perform various chores. The plot therefore seems to come to a regular standstill in the first chapters, because you are continuously deployed as an errand boy for things unrelated to the main story. These kinds of chores are clearly an excuse to lure you into a new monster lair for the umpteenth time. Fortunately, the story picks up in time, as if the makers suddenly realized they also had a compelling story to tell, and you’re automatically in a flow of spectacular cutscenes, dramatic twists and everything you can expect from a teen-focused anime. expect.
Stories 2 looks beautiful anyway, but during the many full English or Japanese spoken cutscenes we are blown away several times by the high quality of the animation and the voice acting. The game may have a funny look and it’s not going to win a Pulitzer Prize, but the story takes some dark twists and there are also plenty of scenes that work on your emotions or make you want to pump your fists in the air. Whoever has played the first game knows roughly what to expect.
The only obvious blemish on this game is unfortunately constant and makes us long for a more powerful Switch model. The frame rate is anything but stable and regularly drops to almost sad levels. You notice it especially when you explore the beautiful world and during the cutscenes. A shame, because it is during those moments that you most want to enjoy what is being conjured up on your screen.
Despite that, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is quite charming. Whether you’re a fan of Monster Hunter, Pokémon-like games, or just looking for a juicy RPG to sink your teeth into, this game will keep you entertained for over forty hours. Hopefully there will be a future for the Monster Hunter Stories series after this game, as Capcom and Marvelous have once again proven that they are masters of this trick. Just like how this game teaches us that Hunters and Riders can coexist, so should the main Monster Hunter games and the Stories games.
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin will be available July 9 for Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam. For this review we played the game on Nintendo Switch.