Monster Hunter Stories 2 is a sequel to a game that was first released on the Nintendo 3DS, so it is possible to feel confused on whether to play it just because it is a sequel. I can assure you that there is no need to consider such a thing, and you can comfortably jump into it. I never played the first game, and it was just as easy to get into this new entry without having prior knowledge. Obviously, if you are a fan of the Monster Hunter series, there is just so much to experience here from capturing and raising to battling some of the menacing monsters.
While the game does share several similarities with prior entries, it’s certainly not a bad thing. Series veterans will find it easier to get hooked, though newcomers won’t have a hard time getting a grasp of the basics either. Those who do find themselves struggling, however, will greatly benefit from Wings of Ruin’s robust tutorial. The latter is thoroughly integrated into the first few missions, allowing you to get a good understanding of both new and old mechanics and systems, regardless of whether you’re a veteran or new to the series.
My first impressions of the Nintendo Switch version were that it looked great. I was initially skeptical because of the performance of the demo since it ran at an unlocked frame rate, but the issue is not as noticeable in the final game. This is obviously just my opinion but for the most part, the game plays out smoothly, and honestly looked great either in the portable mode or on the big screen. This is all thanks to the art style which is a lot like an animated cartoon but fits in well with the aesthetics of the game.
Compared to its mature counterpart, Monster Hunter Stories 2 feels like a game that is aimed at kids/teens. It is not really that difficult to play through the game. The core battle system is essentially a game of rock, paper, and scissors. You can find and capture Monsters (Monsties) that will help you in battle. You can also ride them when you are exploring the world. The world map itself is divided into medium-sized zones which don’t feel overwhelming to explore but are packed with enough secrets to encourage you to find them.
Monsties feel like the most interesting aspect of the game. These are the monsters that you will fight in battle but the difference here is that you have captured their eggs and hatched them at your base. This essentially makes them your pet who obey your orders and help you fight against other monsters. This concept is further explored with monster dens that will contain rare eggs. This will let you build a strong team of Monsties to take out in battle.
Battles are mostly turn-based with a three-tier attack system. You can perform a technical, speed, or power attack. The same applies to any NPCs or your opponents. Depending on your and the opposing monster’s attack, you can either end up dealing damage, lead to a tie, or take damage. The key is to figure out which move will be used by the monster and exploit their weakness. The flow of battles largely remains the same, but the challenge ramps up as you make progress and take on new monsters. How well you focus on a monster’s elemental weakness and your choice of weapon play an important role in your success. This nice mix of strategies encourages you to plan and prepare before delving into the heat of the action.
In a lot of ways, Capcom has taken some cues from the Pokémon games. One of these is how you capture and hatch eggs at your base to build a team of Monsties. Another is how you need to use special types of monsters to traverse the environment. Some can climb ivy, others can jump across large gaps or swim. You can also customize your favorite Monsties by improving their stats and dive deeper into the gene variations, which is another aspect that feels inspired by the Pokémon series. As you gradually begin to capture Monsties, it widens your options to explore more of the world. You can also find optional content or discover secrets this way.
The thrill that comes from hunting and capturing Monsties is what will essentially keep you hooked to Wings of Ruin. While there’s plenty of emphasis on the story here, it suffers from some uneven pacing in the first half. However, business does pick up in the latter half, as the main quest takes some interesting twists and turns. That said, a Monster Hunter game ultimately revolves around – you guessed it – hunting rare and sacred monsters. Naturally, not a whole lot has changed in this regard, but, for what it’s worth, the story has turned out better than expected.
Say what you will about Monster Hunter Stories 2, the fact remains that this is a fun game that is not only aimed at the millions of Monster Hunter fans but also attempts to bring in newcomers into the series who are distracted by the overcomplexity of the main series, and its Monster-focused combat. As a person who loves JRPGs, this game was one of the highlights of this year for me and it looks and plays great on the Nintendo Switch, but if you are sensitive to unlocked frame rate, you can also grab it on PC.