Author Topic: Monster Hunter Stories (Switch) Review  (Read 323 times)

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Offline NWR_Neal

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Monster Hunter Stories (Switch) Review
« on: June 13, 2024, 07:00:00 AM »

A visually impressive 3DS game comes to Switch and, well, it looks like a 3DS game.

Monster Hunter Stories was a novel spinoff to Capcom’s Monster Hunter series when it hit Nintendo 3DS in 2016 (2017 outside of Japan), though it came out near the end of the console’s lifespan. Ironically, the first Stories is being ported to Nintendo Switch near the end of that console’s life, but it’s in a vastly different place for Monster Hunter and Nintendo in the west. Monster Hunter World’s 2018 release helped to make the franchise more prominent than ever, spawning more support on Switch in the form of Monster Hunter Rise and Monster Hunter Stories 2. Now anyone curious about the Stories sub-series 3DS origins can check it out in this fine port.

Broadly, this is Pokemon by way of Monster Hunter. It’s not quite 1:1 with Pokemon’s setup, but the basics are that it’s a monster-collecting RPG where you find and raise your own crew of Monsties to uncover the mystery behind the blight that is poisoning the world. The story is told well, often feeling like a Saturday morning cartoon in a good way. How it filters the Pokemon hook through the Monster Hunter lens in how it’s structured. Much like how you accept quests in mainline Monster Hunter games, you’re doing a lot of that here. Some of them devolve into fetch quests, but they’re always good reasons to venture out into the world and explore more of the various areas.

The monster variety isn’t quite as vibrant as Pokemon, as the Monstie count here is only in the mid-double-digits, but it’s soundly good enough. What was the laggard part of the game back in 2017 still remains that same part here: the battle system. It’s serviceable but it’s heavily built on a rock/paper/scissors mechanic that bounces between random and stale. More complexities are added over time, especially as your Monstie lineup deepens and your weapon selection increases, but the same basic strategies rule the day. Counter the enemy character’s primary attack type and go nuts. I appreciate you can speed up the battles so some of the potential monotony is lessened, but this is the crucial part of the game that drags it down, especially since some of the technical triumphs of the 3DS game are rendered moot by the port. Though for as much as I - someone who has played these types of games for multiple decades - am let down by the battle system, I do think it’s a nice level of depth for kids. The lower entry level of the battle system helps to make it a good entry level RPG in a way that I don’t think most modern Pokemon games do a great job of.

I don’t mean this negatively as much as I mean it matter-of-factly: this Switch version of a 3DS game indeed does look like it was a 3DS game. This was a good-looking 3DS game for its time and while the overall art design is still strong, it still very much looks like it used to be a handheld game. It’s felt most prominently in the open world areas that are very sparse. As long as you know what you’re getting into, the visuals aren’t a big detractor, especially because otherwise the game runs fine aside from some load times here and there. It also helps that this isn’t being launched at full price.

The game itself is more or less unchanged from the original 3DS release (more than likely this is an adaptation of the 2018 iOS/Android port). The biggest addition is fully voiced English and Japanese dialogue, so you can switch to your preference. A Museum Mode with concept art and music is also brand new. This does come with all of the post-launch content added to the original release in Japan, including a wealth of new monsters and even postgame challenges. If you still have Monster Hunter amiibo, you can also break them out here as well to unlock what you could in the original. The online multiplayer battles are also available here, though go back up to my thoughts about the battle system and you can see that my interest in them is not high. I’m happy they exist though and my experiences with them were that it ran fine.

As someone who enjoyed Monster Hunter Stories when it came out on 3DS seven years ago, I’m happy it has a new home on Switch, even if it’s not a full remake. It’s well worth diving into if you missed it the first time around, especially since the relative simplicity makes it a decent entrypoint for a younger audience into this world and genre (especially since it has so much voice acting). If you are looking for something more complex, you can always try Monster Hunter Stories 2 or just go on hunts in one of the many other available Monster Hunters.

Neal Ronaghan
Director, NWR

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