Preview: Revamp of ‘Monster Hunter Stores’ and sequel show growth of a spinoff franchise

The “Monster Hunter Stories” has always been an odd bird when it comes to the series. The spinoff is a Japanese role-playing game that takes the core concepts of the series and turns them on their head. Players don’t just hunt the creatures and turn their parts into weapons, but they also befriend and ride monsters as they become partners in turn-based combat.

With two entries out, the series has found an audience, and Capcom hopes to expand it by releasing new versions of the games on PlayStation 4, PC and the Nintendo Switch. The original features the biggest upgrade of the two as it was originally released on the Nintendo 3DS.

Now that “Monster Hunter Stories” is on contemporary hardware, Capcom improved the visuals with better textures but the geometry and structure of the game will remind players that this title was designed for a lesser-powered machine. They’ll be able to tell through the character models, but the biggest difference is in the scope and layout of the levels.

Everything feels built for a smaller screen with Hakum village feeling cramped and the exploration areas limited. The limitation of the old system becomes evident so Capcom had to find a way to improve around the edges, and they accomplish that through the voice acting.

Having the game fully voiced brings “Monster Hunter Stories” to life. It adds a certain charm that it didn’t have before as characters have more personality, and that gives the the first game more of a continuity as players move onto a sequel, which was built for modern systems.

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Despite the technical limitations of the original, the game’s core gameplay and the rock-scissor-paper element of combat works well. Players and their monsties have three different attack types power, speed and technical. Using the right ones against opponents offers stronger attacks and the core of the game is built around reading a monster and picking the right attack type for the job. It makes the turn-based combat distinct compared to other games.

Ena plays an important role in “Monster Hunter Story 2: Wings of Ruin.” Don’t make her cry. (Capcom) 

Meanwhile, “Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin” launched in 2021 on the Nintendo Switch, and the difference between the original and the sequel is night and day. Whereas the first title feels claustrophobic, this one feels more expansive. Mahana Village feels more open with new sections to run around in and explore while the overworld feels just as a sweeping with an environment that has more verticality.

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Again, because this was originally made for the Nintendo Switch, the character models are more detailed and intricate. The story is also more interesting as characters from the first game return in the second, but players see them change and evolve, well, except for maybe Navirou, the felyne sidekick.

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Taken together as the “Monster Hunter Stories Collection,” they create a fascinating study on how a series evolves over generations. They’ll see growth not in just in the graphics but in the design.

“Monster Hunter Stories” and “Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin” are scheduled to come out June 14.

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