Monster Hunter Stories 2 is Pokémon’s toughest competition yet
Inverse Review Score: 8/10
Hunting monsters is hard, but becoming a fan of Monster Hunter might be even harder.
Booting up Monster Hunter Rise and Monster Hunter: World for the first time, you’re either impressed by the intricate and satisfying combat — or put off by the text-heavy, confusing tutorials, and overall difficulty.
Capcom’s new turn-based RPG Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is a stellar point of entry for gamers who have never been able to get into the action games, blending Monster Hunter’s DNA with a robust RPG experience in a way that will appeal to fans of series like Pokémon or Xenoblade Chronicles. And it feels incredibly accessible on the Nintendo Switch.
Ruination or Salvation?
While regular Monster Hunter games do have stories, they are often a means to an end so the player can endlessly hunt monsters and craft new gear. Inversely, Monster Hunter Stories 2: WIngs of Ruin puts as much emphasis on its narrative as an intense JRPG. There are hours of cutscenes and side quests to experience.
You are the descendant of Red, a famous Monster Rider who showed the world how humans, the elvish race of Wyverians, and monsters could work together. Players step into the role of a novice Monster Rider in a small village. That means they make connections and work with Monsties to keep the land peaceful.
The game always refers to its creatures as “Monsties,” which is a bit too playful and never really sits well. Just call them monsters! Outside of that, the writing and plotting of the adventure are well done.
Early in the game, players come across one of Red’s old friends, a Wyverian named Ena, and she gives them a Rathalos egg after a mysterious event causes these wyverns to disappear. You eventually learn that this Rathalos is one from legend with the titular “Wings of Ruin” destined to destroy the world.
You and your Rathalos are constantly doubted, scorned, and hunted by those afraid of such power. Monster Hunter Stories 2 never gets that dark, but it still deals with some powerful themes leading. It teaches us the vital lesson that everyone should chart their own path despite what the world or your legacy might assign you.
Most monster hunters are portrayed in a negative light as they hurt and disrupt peaceful monsters and attack the player, which should be a surprising change that makes one think about the ethical implications of the classic Monster Hunter games. As all of this is going on, players will meet an eclectic cast of characters, some of which join you on your adventure.
The wise-cracking Felyne named Navirou, who is always getting into wacky hijinks and telling you what to do in nearly every scene. Unfortunately, this does get pretty grating once you’re several hours into the game with your silent protagonist.
All your customizable character ever does is nod or look surprised while Navaru says what he’s thinking, wildly reacts to strange events in the world, and tells the player what to do next. While having a comedic companion leads to some cute moments, it also feels at odds with the story’s more grave themes.
You don’t need to have played the first Monster Hunter Stories on 3DS or mobile to understand what’s going on. Some characters from that game do appear, but they're reintroduced thoroughly enough. As long as you grasp how turn-based RPGs function, you can jump right into Monster Hunter Stories 2.
Monster Hunter Stories 2 is a creature collection game like Pokémon, but there are some key differences. Yes, you fight the Monsties in the wild, but you don’t catch them there. Instead, you must venture into randomly generated dungeons to find eggs. You can then hatch that egg to add the Monstie to your team.
As the game progresses, your Monsties level up and learn new skills. Through a mechanic called the Rite of Channeling, you can upgrade your Monstie, releasing one to give the other a unique skill or buff. It’s a beneficial system for those willing to learn how to use it, but you’ll also be just fine if you ignore it, too.
Battles have a surprising mix of classic Monster Hunter and turn-based RPG mechanics. There isn’t an intricate type effectiveness system like the Pokémon games. Instead, combat mainly centers around a rock-paper-scissors dynamic between power attacks, technical attacks, and speed attacks. Even you and your Monstie’s special skills fall under these categories, and if you go head to head with the enemy you’re fighting, you’ll need the superior kind of attack to win.
As a Rider, you fight alongside your Monstie with a plethora of armor and weapons from the Monster Hunter games. Certain weapons are more effective than others against parts of an enemy’s body, so it’s a good idea to keep a variety handy at all times. Your character and monster can also team up for a powerful Kinship Attack to deal massive damage.
Making the player’s Monster Rider crucial to the fight helps the game stand out from its peers while paying respect to the series’ roots. Hiding enemies’ health bars the first time you fight them is another clever callback to the absent health bars in mainline Monster Hunter games that enhances the intensity of your first encounters with a new Monstie.
For most of the game, you have various allies that join you, or you can play online with a friend. There aren’t many cooperative RPGs out there, so this game might fill in a unique niche in your multiplayer game lineup.
Gotta Ride them All
Monster Hunter Stories 2 distinguishes itself from games like Pokémon Sword and Shield and Xenoblade Chronicles by leaning into what makes the average Monster Hunter game so appealing: tons of weapon and armor customization, intense enemy encounters, and multiplayer.
Monster Hunter Stories 2 finds a surprisingly fruitful middle ground between extremely tough action games and accessible JRPGs. It’s a fantastic starting point for the whole series for that reason.
It features deep systems that will please any hardcore RPG fans and that’s only enhanced by its cute aesthetic, awesome monsters designs, and engaging story that will appeal to causal players. Monster Hunter Stories 2 might just make you a fan of Monster Hunter.
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is available now for PC and Nintendo Switch.
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