Monster Hunter Stories - The Pokemon of Monster Hunter?

Last Friday the long awaited (at least for some) 3DS game Monster Hunter Stories finally released in the west. While over the past few years Capcom's series has finally started to gain popularity here, Stories is quite a bit different from what most will expect. So before you jump on the "MONSTER HUNTER!!!" band wagon, let's take a moment to explain what it is you'll be getting into this time.

As most may know, the Monster Hunter series is a deep boss fighting game that has been known for its challenging gameplay that can be played solo, or with friends. It's very popular in Japan (being one of the main reasons the PSP sold so much over there), many "clones" have been created to try to replicate the series' success, and with games like Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and Generations, some of that popularity has caught on here as well. It's a series that really tests your skills, and has you fighting for survival as you take on these massive beasts and hopefully gain the loot drops you need to craft the next set of armor or weapons. Some might find the gameplay to be repetitive at first, but there's something that's just flat out satisfying about completing a hunt and getting your reward. However, this is NOT what Monster Hunter Stories is. At least, not in the same way.

Rather than being a boss fighting hunting game, Stories takes the Monster Hunter world and turns it into a cute anime styled cell shaded "Pokemon" inspired turn based JRPG. Say that five times fast. Instead of going on hunts, fighting monsters with an action based combat system, and coming back with your loot to craft new items, armor, and weapons -- this time around you are stealing and hatching monster eggs to build a party of monsters to fight for you. The world is completely open, there are dungeons and monster dens to explore, and stealing monster eggs is your main way to build your party. Monsters appear on field just as they do in the main games, but touching them will bring you into a battle system with a rock paper scissors style attack set up. With this battle system you'll still have to watch for monster tells to figure out what their next attack will be (just as in the main games), but rather than physically dodging and what not, you will instead pick between power attacks, speed attacks, or technical attacks. To put it simply, Power > Technical > Speed > Power. Using a Speed attack on an enemy using a Power attack will give you the advantage, and doing so will eventually build up your special attack bar to unleash crazy combos and what not with your friend monsters. It's a different type of system, but it does keep the monster hunter style in a way. (Not to mention all the familiar attacks and animations you'll see.)

Outside of battle you'll still be gathering items, fishing (although fishing has been made to act like a gathering point, rather than actually fishing), catching bugs, mining, and doing all those other fun things hunters have become used to. Although, rather than worrying about item storage, everything is just kept on you at all times, and you never have to worry about pick axes or bug nets breaking -- you are free to gather as much as possible, with the only down side being gathering points only lasting for one use per screen load. Then, as expected, you can take said materials to craft new items, or you can go back to the town to get new equipment and to upgrade existing ones. The only real change here is that armor sets now act as full sets, rather than each piece, and the upgrade system is the same one found in Generations (where you spend material worth points rather than using specific material to upgrade whatever it is you are upgrading). Considering your hunter will also battle along side monsters on field, getting new equipment is important, and will give you a reason to focus on your character and not just the monsters themselves.

Although Monster Hunter Stories isn't a standard MH game, it is still a game set in the Monster Hunter world. The animations, the sound effects, the gathering, the music, the sleeping in your bed to save the game, the crafting, and all those other iconic features you've become used to are still here, but seen in a new light. Even though the game does use a more standard RPG set up where the story tells you where to go, the quest board is still there for side quests as well, so even that hasn't fully been changed. Overall it's a game that makes it feel like you're really living in this world, but at the same time is a lot more relaxing compared to the strict main games. It's a game perfect to fans and newcomers alike, and one that is also packed full of content. If you play this game, you will be in for the long hull.

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