Monster Hunter Stories Preview – Ride On!

Monster Hunter Stories Preview Screenshot

The year 2017 was obviously an incredibly exciting year for fans of Nintendo hardware. By that point I was checked out of Nintendo 3DS releases, putting all of my attention towards the recently released Nintendo Switch. Late adopters might not remember that despite a few incredible first-party games, the launch year for the Switch was a bit dry. This is pretty normal for any console release, and the limited availability of the system probably had plenty to do with that as well. Game development also takes a lot of time, so 3DS games in development before release weren’t able to pivot to having Switch versions without causing delays. The 3DS was here to stay, at least for about two more years. So despite my dismissive attitude, I bought plenty of new 3DS games after the Switch was in my hands. One of those games was an ambitious monster-collecting title from the Monster Hunter series, which I’ve been a fan of since Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. 

I played a few hours of Monster Hunter Stories on 3DS, and then dropped it for a reason I can no longer remember. I was a lot more stubborn and impatient back then, so it was probably for a vapid reason. The point is, it didn’t grab me. Years of hindsight and falling in love with Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin has made me a lot more receptive to this brand of monster collecting, and after finally getting a chance to play the Switch version of Monster Hunter Stories’ upcoming remaster. This seems to be built off of the Apple Arcade/Mobile port, with small additions to make it work on modern consoles and a new English Dub. 

Monster Hunter Stories Preview Screenshot 1

If you became a fan of this spin-off series through this game’s sequel, know that this is just a cleaned-up version of the original 3DS game and not a remake to match that game’s scope. Going backward was initially difficult for me, especially as the game takes quite a few hours to establish its systems and build its world’s lore. The added English voice acting, which is quite extensive to most of the dialogue, has been an absolute treat that matches the quality of the sequel. As someone who wasn’t grabbed initially, I’m pretty appreciative of this and have been enjoying the simple yet charming story about a group of kids learning to bond with Monsties.

After the introduction, you create your character and after a bit more story set up you are given free rein to explore a sizable zone connected to your home village called Pondry Hills. You can progress the story at your own pace, being able to engage in a large amount of quests like gathering a certain amount of materials or killing X amount of monsties. I played up until the end of Snowfields, the second zone of the game. The maps are a bit barren in regards to how they are designed to work with the 3DS (so don’t expect complicated map geometry), but there’s a simplistic charm in them. I especially like how the maps I’ve found so far don’t feature music tracks, letting you take in the natural ambiance of it all until you get into combat.

Monster Hunter Stories Preview Screenshot 2

I think the focus on Monster Riding is my favorite thing about the package because it’ll change how you explore each of the zones. Every monster has its own traversal skills, like being able to swim (my Zamtrios was great at this) or jump across gaps (my starting Velocidrome). I’m sure there are plenty more, and I think more monster-collecting games need to lean on this more because it makes traversing a blast. This was a feature I loved in the Japanese exclusive Dragon Quest Monsters Joker 3 and I was bummed to see taken out of the Dark Prince. Getting a large-scale monster collecting RPG from that era brought into the modern one scratched that particular itch of mine.

For those interested in performance, the Switch version targets 60 FPS and seems to hit it often depending on the location you’re at. There were dips in the starting village, and in some wide open areas with lots of Monsters roaming, and I feel like portable play has been a bit more stable. We aren’t talking severe dips like in Stories 2 on Switch, but there were a handful of them. The resolution has been great so far regardless of the mode I’ve played it, which has complimented an impressive draw distance. Textures and models are also good quality, being cleaned up well from an already solid-looking 3DS game. It’s possible there will be a patch closer to launch to address the framerate, but so far I’ve found this to be an acceptable portable way to play.

Monster Hunter Stories Preview Screenshot 3

The turn-based combat seems similar to the original version of the game, and fans of the sequel will feel at home since that game was built on top of the rock-paper-scissors-themed battle system of this game. Every monster has an attack type they will prefer using: Power, Speed, and Attack. This applies to your current Monstie partner and enemy Monsties, and you’ll need to rely on AI and plan around it to make sure battles play out smoothly. There’s plenty of variety on offer depending on your partner and what kind of iconic Monster Hunter creature you are battling.

Overall, this little taste of Monster Hunter Stories has been a breath of fresh air for someone who has been feeling quite burnt out from 2024 game releases. The game seems just like the one I played back on my 3DS, but the presentation improvements have gone long in preserving that experience in a crisp and pristine way. It both does and doesn’t feel like a 3DS game, and I think a lot of people will resonate from a chance to play this game again on modern platforms. It’s nice to uncover a 3DS gem that I never got around to, and it has me interested in even giving Stories 2 a second playthrough because of how much fun I’ve been having here. Performance issues aside on Switch, I’m having a great time and hope it keeps it up.

You can expect our full thoughts around the game’s launch.

Monster Hunter Stories will be released digitally on the Nintendo eShop for Nintendo Switch worldwide on 14 June 2024.

Monster Hunter Stories Overview Trailer

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