It’s hard to believe that it has been over a decade since Monster Hunter first hit store shelves. Since then, the series has been host to a ton of sequels and spin-offs. Almost all spin-offs have yet to receive an American release. Since the games never sold well in America for the longest time, it stood to reason to now release the spin-off titles. However, Capcom is finally changing their tune!
They released a main-series spin-off last year, known as “Monster Hunter Generations”. This game acted as a celebration for the past 10 years of this franchise’s existence. A year after this game hit American store shelves, we are finally getting a Monster Hunter spin-off that ins completely unrelated to the main series.
This spin-off is “Monster Hunter Stories”, a brand new game from Capcom. Released in Japan of last year, Stories is finally making its way to American shelves in just under a month. As such, Capcom put out a demo in order to advertise the game. This is quite a meaty demo indeed.
To put things in perspective, it took me 3 hours and 17 minutes to beat the story portions of the demo. This includes me running past monsters and skipping 90% of the sub-quests. For a trial run, this is pretty expansive! So, what is Stories and why is it so unique? Well, most Monster Hunter games often rely upon you playing as a custom here. You one of the eponymous hunters, sent out to kill monsters and skin them. You then take the precious pieces of the creature back to town in order to gain new gear.
Most of the games lack a story, and even those that have one generally don’t have much of a story structure. As the title would suggest, Monster Hunter Stories takes this is an entirely different direction. Not only does Monster Hunter Stories have a plot, it’s a damn good one at that!
The game mainly focuses on the “Blight”, a strange disease that seems to possess normally docile monsters and makes them go absolutely berserk. In the game, you play as a “Monster Rider” and you are tasked with stopping this Blight from spreading. On top of this, the game focuses on the relationship between both you and two friends.
This relationship is pushed to its limits after a rather unfortunate accident befalls the village, causing the trio to slowly break apart and follow their own paths. I honestly really liked this, as it made the characters feel like real people. I understood their trials and tribulations, as it reminded me a lot of what some of my friends went through and how it affected them.
What really makes the game great is its game-play. This game is like Jade Cocoon meets Monster Hunter meets Toukiden 2. This game has a massive open-world, with lush environments and colorful set-pieces. You can fully explore the lands you have access to, and can even gain monsters that allow you to traverse different parts of the world better. For example, the Velocidrome can allow you to leap onto tall surfaces and the Rathalos can allow you to fly.
This is a result of the game’s biggest mechanic: Monster riding. Almost every monster you can obtain can be ridden, and sometimes offer special abilities whilst riding them. This makes monsters feel more unique, and gives them more of a flare outside of battle. Sadly, monster designs can be a bit jarring at times. Certain monsters look too realistic, and often clash with the more cartoon-y look the game is going for. It’s not terrible, but it is quite jarring.
The game’s combat is probably its strongest element. This is a turn-based RPG with an emphasis on “Rock-Paper-Scissors” styled combat. A lot of Nintendo RPGs have taken this route as of late, including Dragon Ball Fusions and Miitopia. Honestly, I like this a lot as its a simple enough system to grasp and Stories does its best to do some cool things with it.
For example, you don’t control your monster teammate in combat. Your monster will either select one of the three attack types, or do a special attack. If you do the same type of attack that your monster is using during the same turn, then you’ll do a flashy double-team attack that does massive damage. These always look cool and have a lot of flare to them.
Speaking of monsters, they were definitely the best part of this demo for me. The game allowed you to collect eggs in order to hatch new monsters, which is kind of a cool concept. I gotta admit, I do feel bad for all the parents I steal these eggs from. Regardless, to get said eggs you have to go into “Monster Dens”. Think of these as randomly generated dungeons, ones that holds the best items in the game inside it: Monster eggs.
You can collect monster eggs at the end of each dungeon, and even have the chance of getting rare eggs on occasion. By hatching an egg, you are given a new monster ally for you to boss around. The best part about this is that you get all kinds of monsters from all previous generations, giving you a good mix of allies to collect and train.
Something I have mixed feelings about is the open-world itself. This is the first Monster Hunter game to have open-world exploration, and at times the world can feel a bit too barren. The game’s emphasis on exploration is hindered by the game’s awkward camera. It’s one of those cameras you have to operate with the trigger buttons, which can get awkward when you are trying to run away from enemies or fly around. I much prefer the camera to follow me around, rather than stay static most of the time.
One last thing I’d like to touch on is how the game looks and sounds. The game looks fantastic, with beautiful graphics and fantastic character designs. The music is good, through re-uses a fair bit of tracks and sound effects from previous games. This game also sets it apart from every other game in the series by having voice-acting.
Oddly enough, there is no English dub for the game. I was confused by this, especially due to the fact that there was an English dub of the Monster Hunter Stories anime. Maybe Capcom couldn’t afford an English voice cast for the game, that’s my guess. Regardless, the Japanese voice cast is solid enough to carry the game.
In conclusion, I think the Monster Hunter Stories demo is fantastic! This is a demo that could take a person 5-7 hours, if they decided to do everything in it that is. I’m definitely pumped for when the game hits in mid-September. Lately, I’ve started to lose interest in the MH series. Here, have a game that brings in elements from games like Pokemon and Jade Cocoon, and merges them into this unique mesh of a spin-off. I can definitely say that this is one of the best Capcom games I’ve played in years, based on just this demo alone!