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Monster Hunter Stories Hands-On Preview

Monster Hunter Stories 2024 Screenshot 038

With the end of the 3DS eShop and the handheld console receiving its last rites from Nintendo, many excellent games were left without a home. Thankfully, Capcom wasn’t content to leave Monster Hunter Stories stranded, and next month, we’ll see it return on modern platforms with a few upgrades. For now, I played a preview version to get a jump on hatching those Monsties. 

For those who are only aware of the parent monster hunting series, Monster Hunter Stories sets Monster Hunter in a more traditional, turn-based RPG setting with more of an emphasis on *ahem* story. In this spinoff, you hunt monsters from that franchise, hatch their eggs, and train them from birth to be your hunting companions in a more Pokémon-like adventure. Though Monster Hunter Stories doesn’t feature the massive, sprawling battles its parent is known for, it goes to great lengths to transport much of what Monster Hunter is about into a setting that’s different but still intricate and expansive. 

Monster Hunter Stories couldn’t be a simple port from the 3DS, as that older version liberally used the handheld’s dual screens for sprawling functionality. Mainly, the battle menus have received a slight overhaul. The current version shrinks and smushes the big rock-paper-scissors diagram of the three main attacks, formerly situated on the lower screen, into the main battle menu. For exploration, the map previously situated on the lower screen sits in the upper right corner, looking more like something we’re used to from open-world games. The buttons from the lower screen were remapped to the controller. 

The most significant addition to Monster Hunter Stories is voice acting for cutscenes and major dialogue. As the game is as vibrant as ever on the big screen, it’s nice to hear it come to life aurally, too. It’s especially fun to hear rhyme-master Chief Omna spit his couplets, and Navirou, your Felyne pal, get excited and exasperated at every turn. It’s also lovely to hear the rest of the lively cast speak.  

The 3DS version of Monster Hunter Stories already looked similar to the console’s Zelda games, and moving away from the 3D screen lands its appearance close to The Wind Waker. The characters and monsters now sport a more cel-shaded style rather than the typical 3DS look. Unsurprisingly, everything looks flatter without the 3D effect. The monsters look as cool as ever, with the new shading putting a stylish spin on the classic designs. The environment, which probably reveals this 8-year-old game’s age the most, hasn’t had a drastic upgrade, but everything looks sharper. Monster Hunter Stories may look slightly different, but it’s still as gorgeous as ever in its new skin. 

Besides those additions and other items like new equipment, Monster Hunter Stories is still its crunchy self. Those who have only played the main series and like turn-based games are in for a treat. It’s a bit of a precursor to many series changes that happened for Monster Hunter: World. Don’t dismiss it because of its turn-based structure; you can dive head-first into the great many things this game allows you to do. While some aspects are streamlined from the main series, like less strict inventory limitations, it still feels like the old-school Monster Hunter mentality of mind-boggling depth. The breeding-like channeling, which allows you to transfer the genes of one monster in your stable to another, is likely to have you collecting and fine-tuning until you craft the perfect beast. 

Or maybe you’d prefer the wide-open exploration. There are so many nooks to discover all over the many maps. I had fun riding my Zamtrios all over the place, but discovering the shark-frog beast could swim opened a whole new world for me. Though the environments aren’t on the vast scale of other Monster Hunter games, there’s still much to see and do in a variety of climates. The equipment crafting has me scouring the world for monster parts to make all those weapons and armor. Though there’s less diversity in how the many weapons handle, it’s still fun to see the team adapt everything for a vastly different system. That loop of constant discovery has its hooks in me already, and I still have a lot left to do. For those interested in combat via Wi-Fi, Monster Hunter Stories has preserved Network Battle, so you can still take on the world. I haven’t dived into this yet, but surely that’s something that will gain an audience. 

I only played a little of Monster Hunter Stories on the 3DS. Though you don’t exactly play Monster Hunter for the story, I like how the beats of traditional JRPG stories meld into the Monster Hunter world. Although it starts with a simple premise of trying to become a great monster rider, discovering how other humans live outside your small village and fighting the Black Blight are intriguing prospects. I like how this world is structured, and though it’s a different kind of adventure for Monster Hunter, it’s fascinating to see how this title incorporates the traditional experiences from the whole series. 

Both the new and the old are shaping up to be a substantially upgraded version of an older game. As we seem to be in a renaissance of sorts for JRPGs, here’s another ambitious revamp that shows the genre to be alive and well. Those Monsties aren’t going to hatch themselves, and Monster Hunter Stories makes its way to the big screen on June 14 for PC, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4. Check back with RPGFan soon for our review. 

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Abraham Kobylanski

Abraham Kobylanski

Abe's love for RPGs began when picked up Earthbound for the SNES in 1995, and it hasn't gone out since. He grew up with the classic 16-bit RPGs, like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasies, though he's gravitated more toward Western and Strategy RPGs lately. His passion for the genre was especially reinvigorated in the past few years with amazing games like FFVII:R, Persona 5 and Yakuza: LAD. He's always on the hunt for cool, smaller obscure games as well.