Monster Hunter Stories


Review by · June 13, 2024

Ever wonder who would win between a shark-frog and a hippo-gorilla? Even if this isn’t a question you’ve asked, Monster Hunter Stories aims to answer it. You may be more familiar with the Monster Hunter series, but this spin-off is back with a few enhancements, and it’s here to claim its place at the top of the food chain. 

Originally released outside of Japan in 2017 on the 3DS, Monster Hunter Stories spins a different tale from the usual Monster Hunter. Notably, this is a year before Monster Hunter: World, the single game largely considered the series’ high-water mark. Since Stories released on 3DS, it’s not a simple port to modern platforms. MHS didn’t extensively use the bottom screen, but it was enough to warrant adjustments. Let’s get it out of the way and say this is a sorely needed re-release, as it’s a quality game stuck in limbo after the demise of the 3DS unless you want to play it on your Apple device.  

The most extensive enhancement to Monster Hunter Stories is the addition of voice acting, which goes above and beyond to offer a more modern presentation when Capcom could have gotten away with minimal changes. Chief Omna, Cheval, and the whole cast come to life aurally and create a livelier time in cutscenes and important dialogue. The highlight, and the one with the most dialogue, is Navirou, your Felyne companion. As his arc is the best in the game, it’s nice to hear that extra dramatic flair and encouraging banter from him. The acting is mostly enjoyable, though the audio feels poorly mixed at times, especially early in the game, which leads to the voices coming off weakly. On the other hand, in Navirou’s penultimate moments, the acting brings so much personality to the characters surrounding him that it adds something essential and hilarious to their characterization. 

Characters converse in Monster Hunter Stories.
All of the characters now have something to say, and they’re stylin’ that cel-shaded look.

The other main change is the visual style, which could have been problematic if it had gone wrong, as part of Monster Hunter Stories’ charm is the vividly colorful environments you explore and the majestic monsters you fight and collect. While I still prefer the 3DS graphics and felt the 3D effect was a boon to the experience, I also appreciate the new release’s flatter style, even if the human characters especially come off as looking flat. But it’s a more cartoonish style anyway, so the new, cel-shaded look works for it. The monsters are adapted especially well, as some of the shadowing in the textures gives them the heavily detailed and delicately shaded look of a manga. 

Other adjustments involve the combat menu. The trademark rock-paper-scissors wheel for your power, technical, and speed attacks used to sit on the 3DS’ bottom screen as a powerful assault on the eyes, but at least you couldn’t miss it. Now, it’s a little too easy to overlook, smushed into the combat menu. As a vital element of combat, the wheel is too easy to miss on a larger display, but it’s hard to see any better means of integration on a single screen. Aside from a few bonus pieces of equipment and a simplification of the old egg hatching minigame, that covers the changes for the new release. I would still take the 3DS version over the new release, but that’s a tough option for many, and the re-release is excellent enough that it’s not a big step down. 

The gameplay is still its dynamic and gorgeous self, with the exploration providing a tremendous feeling of freedom. Even early, when you’re stuck with lowly earthbound creatures, exploring every nook on the expansive ground level takes a while. But seeing stuff that I knew I couldn’t reach at the time, with the knowledge that eventually I could, spurred me onward. Gaining the ability to reach those areas and every new mode of transportation was more transcendent than I’d imagined. Roaming through valleys, up cliffsides, or across icy tundra was already a beautiful adventure. But gaining the ability to swim expanded my horizons to the sea and beyond. This is a JRPG, so it’s no surprise that you eventually gain the ability to soar over the land on which you once crawled. But it’s not with an airship! 

A character rides a dragon in Monster Hunter Stories.
Travel the world in style.

When you run into monsters during exploration, combat begins, so no random battles here. The turn-based combat in Monster Hunter Stories is a glorious mess in the best way. When you fight, both you and your Monstie are participants, and while you have complete control of your actions, your control over your Monstie is more limited. The rock-paper-scissors system takes effect whenever two combatants target each other for their turn. The types of attacks are power, which beats technical, which beats speed, which beats power. When you pick the right attack, it’ll net you bonus damage against your enemy and vice versa. This system takes the main focus of combat, but you can also break out of it in advantageous ways. For instance, if you and your Monstie both target the same enemy in a head-to-head confrontation with the same superior attack, then you’ll nail a Double Attack, dealing exponential damage and canceling the enemy’s turn.  

Combat is all about the dynamics of beating your enemies’ attacks with your own, which helps to build your kinship meter more quickly, allowing you to perform even more damaging attacks. But you have to work in tandem with your Monstie partner and learn to read the opponent. Enemy monsters typically follow a pattern in their attacks, so you need to know the right timing for your attacks and pick a Monstie partner who will also be in sync with your battle plans. When you and your Monstie are moving as one and rocking the enemy, it feels like you’ve become the riding master and your hard work has paid off. You have three hearts, representing how many times you or your Monstie can get knocked down before you lose. You share the hearts across your party, making you vulnerable, which adds extra tension to fights. Overall, Monster Hunter Stories’ combat is epic, dynamic, and keeps you on your toes, and it’s a testament to how creative turn-based combat can be. 

The Pokémon-esque collection aspect of Monster Hunter Stories is an extension of both exploration and combat. When you’re exploring, it’s the greatest thing to happen upon a monster den (or, better yet, a rare monster den). It’s one of the pleasures of this game to run into the den, whisk an egg back to your base, and hatch it to see if you’ve discovered a new Monstie that’s strong enough to make part of your regular party. Even if it isn’t a contender, it can still be of use to fill out that Monsterpedia or to beef up your strongest monsters even further with the Rite of Channeling.

With the Rite, you can sacrifice one monster to genetically modify one of your organisms, granting them one of the vanished monster’s elemental resistances, skills, etc. Like most monster collecting games, there’s an enjoyable tension between riding with what you already have versus phasing out older Monsties to prop up the new. Whether you want to fill out the list of 108 Monsties (what is this, Suikoden?) or see every over-the-top Kinship Skill, collecting, together with exploration and combat, make for a sweeping, world-beating gameplay loop. If you’ve finished the main game and still can’t get enough, Monster Hunter Stories still has the Tower of Illusion and the Labyrinth stuffed full of more monsters to conquer.

A monster performs an attack in Mosnter Hunter Stories.
It’s worth collecting all the Monsties to see their ridiculous Kinship Skills.

But what is this world you’re exploring? That brings me to Monster Hunter Stories’ setting, a more thoroughly developed version resembling something you might typically find as a setup for Monster Hunter. You’re not a typical hunter in Monster Hunter Stories; you come from Hakum Village, a community of riders. Apparently, almost no one in the rest of the world ever thought of taming monsters as companions and riding them, but that’s what you do. That’s not to say you don’t also hunt monsters, but riders ride their Monsties to aid them in … hunting more monsters! Your created character is gonna be one of if not the best of them, so you better get to it. 

With Stories in the title, Monster Hunter Stories promises a more traditional story compared to the bare table setting that other Monster Hunter stories bring. In MHS, it’s more traditional in every sense, taking a greater narrative emphasis than usual for the series but also being little more than a haphazardly strewn pile of JRPG tropes. A promising narrative sets up a detailed world with factions, a major city, and burgeoning outlying regions. But the directions the story takes traverse more rote and well-trodden ground that rarely feels inspired.

Your character is merely another hero of destiny. The main threat you must confront is the Black Blight, a sort of disease that causes monsters to become dangerously aggressive. The narrative takes many turns, never coming together but eventually rotely settling on the power of love — namely friendship and the rider’s bond with their Monstie — as the solution to looming catastrophe. At its lowest point, it’s insular and feels like it’s focused more on franchise building. Overall, there are worse things a story could be about, and there are a few highlights, like Navirou’s general arc, but if you’ve played traditional RPGs, you’ve probably heard most of this before.  

Characters gather around an egg in Monster Hunter Stories.
That’s the power of love!

As a follow-up to Monster Hunter: Generations and a precursor to Monster Hunter: World, Monster Hunter Stories keeps the essence of Monster Hunter‘s older style while also forging ahead, mainly in streamlining inventory management and revamping something as fundamental as travel. Ironically, the only way MHS falters is by, much like Monster Hunter, producing a game that’s all about its dynamic gameplay, deviating from the pack with fantastic combat that’s turn-based but failing to do so with a meaningful story. Still, if Monster Hunter Stories was overshadowed by Monster Hunter because of its parent’s reputation and its deviation from the well-established series, then it’s deserving of a second life. In this JRPG resurgence, it’s a reminder that there’s still plenty of room to reinvent the classic style. Ride on! 


Combat both strategic and dynamic, transcendent exploration, addictive monster collection, voice acting mostly adds substance to experience, beautiful transition of graphics to new platform.


Some of voice acting feels poorly mixed, story largely lacking in nuance.

Bottom Line

An already amazing game gets a few upgrades, but most of all, it's a deserving second chance at life for a title that may have been overlooked previously.

Overall Score 88
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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.