Monster Hunter has grown from a small niche series that was limited to Japan to a worldwide phenomenon and Capcom is taking full advantage of it. They have released two different Monster Hunter games this year, both for the Nintendo Switch. One of these is Monster Hunter Rise which was released in March. The second one is Monster Hunter Stories 2 that has just launched for PC and Nintendo Switch.
To get something out of the way, this is a spin-off based on the mainline Monster Hunter series. While the core gameplay is completely different, some aspects are retained between the different games. The basic structure of the story here is the same with a rare monster that has suddenly gone berserk and the player has to figure out what went wrong with it. Every monster in the game is taken from the mainline series but you don’t just fight them, you can also capture their eggs and hatch them. These are aptly named Monsties in the game and also act as a source of travel, in addition to supporting in combat.
In place of action, this spin-off series employs a turn-based fighting system and monster-catching mechanisms. Even though it’s a sequel to Monster Hunter Stories, you won’t need to know anything about the original game to get started. You begin the game by taking on the role of a Rider who is still a beginner. You can choose either a guy or a girl before the story begins and alter their appearance using the customization tools. In the game, you will be the grandson of a Legendary hero who has been entrusted with a Rathalos egg and tasked with uncovering the secrets of an old prophecy. You are not alone in this quest but will have plenty of sidekicks during this journey.
Even if this is a turn-based RPG, there are still some unique elements that I haven’t seen in other games. The combat involves the rock-paper-scissors method. You still get the familiar feeling of hunting monsters thanks to this new system. Most of the battles involve trying to figure out the weakness of the monster. The rock, paper, and scissor attacks are tied to power, speed, and technique moves. Learning which is weak against which is the key to victory. You also need to target their weak parts or use a specific type of weapon to beat them. If you have already played the previous games, you will have no difficulty getting into the nitty-gritty details of the combat. Newcomers can also get right into the action with tutorials that explain every mechanic.
You can have six Monsties in your squad at a time. You will have to consider which Monstie to take in battle not just for their combat skills but also their abilities to aid you in exploration. Aside from the standard attacks, you can also perform special attacks like a double attack when you raise your kinship level with a monster and use a move that overpowers your opponent using the rock, paper, and scissor method. The game also offers quality-of-life improvements like the ability to speed up battles, which is a godsend for turn-based battles. Kinship Skills are special attacks that allow you to jump on the back of your Monstie and unleash spectacular skills that bring a lot of excitement to battles while reflecting on the Monstie’s personality and power. The attack varies based on your current Monstie so use it wisely.
The genes, which allow players to fundamentally change Monsties, are one of Stories 2’s most interesting elements. Each Monstie has the ability to have up to nine genes, each of which offers different stat boosts or unique abilities. You can create a powerful type of Monstie by diving deeper into gene manipulation giving it traits or elemental attacks, and honestly, it is nothing short of feeling like a scientist when you see how powerful they become in combat.
Each Monstie also has a unique ability that will help you explore the surroundings. Some of them can jump across ravines, swim through streams, and climb vines to reach the hidden treasure. It is beneficial to pick up a diverse party of Monsties as you go through the main story. If you are not satisfied with the stats or qualities of a particular Monstie, you can try to customize their genes and end up with a better result.
The areas that the player will visit are vast and teeming with things to see and do. While the game isn’t quite open-world, it does have medium-sized zones with a fixed day and night cycle. There are new creatures to fight, treasures and collectibles to acquire, and monster dens to explore. The game offers a vibrant color palette and a simple art design that feels amazing to play on the Nintendo Switch. While the visuals are great, the performance is a little worrisome and can drop when there are a lot of elements on screen e.g a hectic boss fight, or simply exploring around the world.
Monster Hunter Stories 2 is a beautiful game to experience whether you like the series or not. It has strong ties to its JRPG roots and there are plenty of memorable moments despite the story somewhat falling short of action.
Disclaimer: A review code was given by the publisher