Although a sequel to an off-shoot that arrived on the Nintendo 3DS
back in 2016, don’t let the ‘Stories’ in Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin
confuse you. That is have you wondering if this is a quaint Felyne-filled interactive novel of some kind, or a smaller-scale hunt. A modest jaunt into a nearby park if you will, to look at nature and take in a tale or two. Throw in the recent release of Monster Hunter Rise
(also for the Nintendo Switch
), and you’d believe there’s no way Capcom
could release two massive hunts back-to-back.
Well, they have. Monster Hunter Stories 2 essentially takes the action, spectacle, scope, and grandiose world of Monster Hunter Rise and reimagines it as a traditional RPG. A turn-based experience along the lines of Final Fantasy VI
or Nintendo’s own Pokémon
. A game where story and a colourful cast of characters sits alongside being sucked into a battle arena to duke it out whilst a peppy theme plays in the background.
The Pokémon comparison is probably the easiest to make, and the laziest, on the account of the – as a Rider – taming and collecting of all manner of Monsties you do. Your very own Arzuros, Kulu-Ya-Ku, or Pukei-Pukei to call upon and ride into battle. Level them up, use their abilities, build up a relationship, and tackle opposing beasties using a simple rock-paper-scissor setup of Power, Technical, and Speed attacks. That whole thing where one is the Death Star-like exhaust port of another. The Achilles Pitt
Monster Hunter Stories 2 takes the action, spectacle, scope, and grandiose world of Monster Hunter Rise and reimagines it as a traditional RPG.
The addition of traditional Monster Hunter weapons from big swords to even bigger hammers add another dose of tic-tac-toe to the action, and it’s here where Monster Hunter Stories 2 excels and feels like a great take on what is - at its core - a very traditional Japanese RPG.
But, in keeping with the Monster-Hunter-meets-Pokémon vibe, it’s perhaps the innocently disturbing nature of that series that makes the comparison stand out. More so than letting a fantastical creature do most of the combat work.
To capture, tame, and then ride monsters into battle you basically need to venture into a Monster Den (a small dungeon), creep up into a nest, and steal an Egg. Take it back to a cute cat (a Felyne) to watch over, hatch, and feed for you. Cute, but the cat-wrangler also dabbles in genetic splicing, where part of the customisation is the ability to transfer genes from one monster to another. Not exactly breeding, because the monster whose gene you take dies in the process -- a monster you can name and develop a strong bond with.
It’s this weird blend of brushed over atrocities that makes the underlying themes of environmental conservation and ecology a strange combo. It’s not a detriment to the experience, or something that has factored into my overall feelings on the game as a, well, game. It solidifies the Pokémon RPG framework as Avatar
meets The Fly
in a vibrant bright-eyed world.
Where you can play through a story and relationship-driven adventure and look to improve a member in your party’s abilities by giving them an elixir of sorts. One that turns them into the physical manifestation of a blade. Where, according to Stephen Farrelly, “every time you struck with it, it bellowed in pain, but dealt serious damage”. Now, that example is from a different game, but you can see a similar pattern play out here.
The Pokémon comparison is probably the easiest to make, and the laziest, on the account of the – as a Rider – taming and collecting of all manner of Monsties you do. Your very own Arzuros, Kulu-Ya-Ku, or Pukei-Pukei to call upon and ride into battle.
Monster Hunter Stories 2 is very much all about that story, where a mysterious light has enraged all the monsters, the giant dragon-like Rathalos has disappeared, and you’ve got some connection to it all. Accompanying you into battle and on your journey are several well-defined characters tied to each location you visit and the plight of the locals, with the bonus of knowing a bit more about your destiny and history. That said, the smart-ass Felyne Navirou that joins you early on is, well, annoying. Unless you’re eight years old.
Although the combat is solid, with the only issue there being inconsistent party AI that you don’t have any real control over, Monster Hunter Stories 2 falters in the story department. A large portion of the quests are isolated ‘Saving X from X Monster’, tales not connected to the overarching plot, leaving large chunks of the experience feeling aimless, separate, and a little too close to the source material. Where hunting monsters and getting crafting materials and finding new eggs to hatch serves as the main driver over trying to figure out what’s happened and why. The early parts of the game seem to be more interested in introducing monsters than anything connected to the actual plot.
Now, saying that may sound like Monster Hunter Stories 2 is something of a drag but when various armours and weapons are created from specific monster parts and feature outlandish and often stylish designs, the collect-them-all nature of the series – and the grind – doesn’t feel out of place. It’s just that the story is mostly padded to the point of boredom, and side quests are basic fetch-quests. In other words, the narrative doesn’t match the underlying mechanics – and for that Capcom has missed the mark in terms of creating what could have been a memorable RPG set in the Monster Hunter universe.
Pacing issues are not uncommon in this style of RPG, and even though Monster Hunter Stories 2 is traditional in its approach, being able to skip battles where you’re clearly overpowered is a welcome touch. As is the ability to speed up and control the in-battle animation speed, or even skip the impressive but overly long ‘Kinship Attack’ animated sequences. Outside of battle though, it’s all a little too antiquated with a linear interconnected-level design, minimal interaction, and a look that feels a generation or too out of step.
Although the combat is solid, with the only issue there being inconsistent party AI that you don’t have any real control over, Monster Hunter Stories 2 falters in the story department.
Alongside a frame-rate that is a little too N64-era for comfort. Monster Hunter Stories 2’s spectacle takes a Rathalos-sized hit outside of the arena.
But there are moments where it all sings. Where the story engages, the characters feel believable, and the monsters look and act and behave as diverse as the world itself. When it all comes together, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin feels as epic and engaging as any other entry in the long-running series, albeit in turn-based RPG form.