Welcome to Hakum Village. This idyllic settlement is home to the legendary Riders, who, rather than hunting monsters, choose to befriend them. With the Rider’s Code strictly forbidding anyone from ever exploring beyond the walls, such rule allows its people a peaceful existence, even if they often wonder what else exists in the world. But, when your hometown is attacked by a Blighted Nargacuga, it is down to you to uncover the truth behind why the Black Blight has returned to taint the land.
Monster Hunter Stories is not your typical Monster Hunter adventure, presenting players with the chance to set out on a heavily story-driven experience that casts them as a promising young Rider who must step outside the boundaries of their home in order to save it.
After fretting over your character’s appearance and voice, whether that be a boy or girl, your early hours in this legendary quest will see you complete the Rite of Kinship. This is the final step to becoming a Rider, and, more than anything, will introduce you to everything to do with it. Whether using the Kingship Stone to form bonds with Monsties (a somewhat adorable word that combines monsters and besties), braving Monster Dens to collect eggs to hatch new ones, and battling alongside them in turn-based battles to raise their levels, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that it has more in common with the Pokémon series than with the mainstay Monster Hunter games.
That isn’t to say that this is an entirely disconnected experience, far from it. In fact, perhaps the smartest decision that developer Marvelous made when brainstorming Monster Hunter Stories with Capcom is that all the knowledge that you absorb will carry across to the main games. Whether that be recognising a Monstie’s strengths and weaknesses, gathering items out in the wild, or how important it is to combine such items to create more useful ones, these are transferable skills that have long underpinned the series. That makes the Nintendo 3DS exclusive the perfect place to learn, while experienced Hunters can tap into everything that they already know.
Either way, Navirou, your doughnut-loving Felyne sidekick, will provide pointers, friendship, and lend his good humour on your adventure. He’s always there with a helpful tip or hilarious quip to lighten the mood and becomes an unlikely star to the whole experience. With Story Quests to set out on, optional Subquests to accept at the Mission Board for a chance at earning more experience, money, and items, and lost Poogie to recover, there’s certainly plenty to keep players occupied.
As an RPG, and one derived from Monster Hunter at that, it won’t come as a surprise that much of your time will be spent in battle. It’s easiest to compare the battle system to rock-paper-scissors, with three basic attack types: Power, Speed, and Technical. Each has their own advantage and disadvantage with Power beating Technical, Technical beating Speed, and Speed beating Power. And, if you use the same attack type as your Monstie, you can team up for a Double Attack. The player must, therefore, learn the attack pattern of each monster species to anticipate what’s coming next.
That last point sounds complicated, but, the more that you play, the more that this will become second nature to you – with Navirou shouting out pointers whenever a battle encounter starts. As your character and Monstie start to carve away at your enemies, a Power Clash, Air Showdown, or Breath Blast can happen. These Quick Time Events will require that players quickly tap or rotate buttons to beat out their opponent, presenting the chance to deal extra damage.
Everything that you do will steadily build your Kinship meter, that, once full, will allow players to mount their Monstie in battle. This can be somewhat restrictive in losing access to health recovery items, but, as a bonus, your attack and defence will be buffed. And, as you continue to attack, the Kinship meter will continue to fill in letting you unleash your Monstie’s Special Attack. This whole approach to combat is differentiated and refreshing, but it isn’t without its frustrations thanks to its unpredictable and mindless simplicity.
The main quest will forever spur you onward, with players busying themselves with strengthening their gear and befriending ever stronger and rarer Monsties. For those looking to see how they square up to other Riders, there’s also the chance to make your Monsties fight against another player’s in Network Battle – whether over a local wireless connection or online, to earn experience and rewards. StreetPass is there, too, for those that want to swap their Battle Parties to fight in the Rider Arena.
With an accompanying anime series, the game quickly charms with its cartoon-like visuals. That impresses even more as you move between locations in the world, whether that be the frozen mountain peaks in Darj Snowfields, the blistering heat in Dovan Volcano, or the bone-dry Trese Desert. It’s breathtakingly large and wondrous world to explore, especially as you can mount your Monstie to wander around it together.
Perhaps the best part is that you can play a demo to see whether Monster Hunter Stories is for you or not before buying. This generous helping is available on the Nintendo eShop, and lets you play right the way through the Rite of Kinship – covering all aspects of the game so that you can see whether it’s something that you will enjoy. Hopefully, it will.
Monster Hunter Stories is an adventure like no other, and a standout experience on Nintendo 3DS that is worthy of your time. Heartwarming and memorable, it’s all that you could ever want it to be. Ride On!
Version Tested: Nintendo 3DS
Review copy provided by Nintendo