Experience the world of Monster Hunter as a rider who not only hunts monsters but befriends them, too, in this sequel to Stories.
I should start out by saying that I've never actually played any Monster Hunter game in the past so this review is from the perspective of someone who has a general understanding of the series but no preconceived notion of what to expect. I was drawn to trying this particular game out after seeing the colourful artwork and hearing that it was turn-based which is just like its predecessor. As a huge fan of JRPGs, I couldn't miss giving it a go and I was pleasantly surprised by what it has to offer.
You play as a rider whose path crosses with a girl named Ena who is tasked with protecting the egg of what could be a legendary Rathalos monstie. Bright lights have been appearing on the horizon and when inspected further, they're accompanied by giant chasms and they enrage the nearby monsters, too, so it's up to you to discover the fate of the Rathalos egg and find out what's causing the mysterious chasms. Much of the story revolves around building a bond with the Rathalos in an attempt to show the world what good it can do and prove that the legend around the monstie isn't true. This is where the plot does a good job at pulling your heartstrings because you'll always feel like you're rooting for the underdog in a world that wants nothing more than to be rid of it.
To lighten the story a little, you're paired with the cute and silly Felyne by the name of Navirou who has a love for donuts. He provides lighthearted humour throughout and dressing him up is always a treat.
The graphics in Monster Hunter Stories 2 look great on the Switch; in fact, I had to remind myself that I was actually playing a Switch game on a few occasions. Nintendo isn't exactly known for allowing next-gen graphics so when I boot up a Switch game and forget that I'm playing on the console, it's quite impressive. Anyway, Monster Hunter Stories 2 has a colourful and detailed art style that makes you want to explore every nook and cranny to see what you'll find. Thankfully, the overworld is spacious and filled with interesting landmarks including some areas that are only accessible when using certain monsties with abilities like swimming or climbing vines.
When entering a monster den, the graphics are a little less impressive as they're mostly dull and composed of repeated procedurally-generated sections that don't give you a huge reason to explore so I found myself mostly bee-lining for the nest so I could snatch up the egg. Meanwhile, everdens are permanent and larger than the average monster den. They're still lacking in interesting scenery but it's fun trying to find all of the chests to nab some bottle caps that you can trade with a Felyne in town for special items. Thankfully, most of your time is spent in overworld areas so it's not like the less interesting monster dens make up the majority of gameplay.
As I type this, the battle music of Monster Hunter Stories 2 is still stuck in my head and on the whole, its orchestral soundtrack does a wonderful job of setting the scene whether you're in a tranquil snowy village or battling gigantic boss monsters. The music especially helped portray a feeling of grandeur when you're in a particularly lengthy battle that requires tactical thinking to finish.
Battles with monsties are turn-based and have a few mechanics to determine who the victor will be. For starters, a rock paper scissors system forces you to pick whether you want to perform a power, speed, or technical attack and if the opposing monster decides to take you on head-to-head, this can determine which side gets damaged and by how much. Occasionally, monsties will trigger mini-games where you have to press a button repeatedly or rotate an analog stick to turn the tide. On top of this, the Kinship meter fills as you fight and when it maxes out, you have the option to ride your current monstie and then unleash an exceptionally strong attack.
If you're fighting with another person and their meter is filled, the strong attacks become even stronger as you join together. Finally, some monsties have multiple targets allowing you to break off parts of them such as their shell and this can result in knocking them off their feet so you can get some critical hits in while they're downed. Overall, this battle system is one of the most interesting and varied that I've played in any JRPG and you definitely won't be able to get away with just spamming the attack button.
Another important aspect is monster collecting which is achieved by entering monster dens and then searching for eggs. Sometimes, they're unattended and you can just walk away with an egg then hatch it back in the local village and raise it as your own. Other times, the egg's owner is sleeping nearby or comes from behind while you're deciding which egg to take. You see; each egg has a unique pattern that determines which monstie you'll get so it can be fun deciding which one to pick.
Monsters have attributes such as attack types, field abilities, and elemental strengths and weaknesses so selecting the right mix of monsters to bring with you on a trip can be quite involving. Also, the monsties that you leave behind can go out on expeditions to previously visited areas where they'll level-up and collect materials. Last but not least, you unlock the ability to merge weaker monsters with stronger ones and gain a gene from them that provides abilities or levels them up which is handy.
In the villages, you have access to a subquest board with a long list of quests to tackle at any point such as defeating certain monsters, bringing back specific eggs, or finding materials. In addition to these villager quests, you can challenge trial quests that are basically coliseum matches, enter tournaments, and play online or locally with other players. The online component allows you to complete co-op quests or battle with others. Quests are not only a great source of cash; they also give you a good excuse to get some additional monster hunting in and find materials that can be used to improve your equipment. Levelling up your armour and weapons changes the appearance of your character, too, so even if you don't care much about stats, you'll enjoy trying on the cute and bizarre outfits.
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is a top-notch RPG with a challenging battle system and varied world. Once I started playing, I couldn't put it down as it continued to capture my imagination with its enjoyable exploration and heartwarming story.
- + Defeating, collecting, and powering-up monsties is a ton of fun
- + Involving and challenging battle system
- + Varied colourful world and characters
- - Monster dens generally become quite dull and repetitive