One of the biggest games at the Capcom booth this year was Monster Hunter Stories, Capcom’s upcoming Monster Hunter spin-off for the 3DS. Right from the get go, I could tell that this spin-off was aimed for a younger audience than regular Monster Hunter players. Everything was a lot more cutsey, a lot more simple, and arguably, a lot more fun.
In Stories, you play as either a boy or a girl, and set out to conquer and capture the monsters of the world. The TGS demo I played started me off in an ice zone, alongside my faithful “Monstie” – this strange velociraptor thing. Much to my glee, I discovered I could ride my monstie around the world. As I played on, I learned that the monsters you capture, just like the main series game, play an integral part in combat.
Following a short tutorial from “Nyavi”, the helpful navigation cat, I was tasked with invading monster lairs and stealing eggs. I rode my little raptor through the lairs, until we ran into a monster, which triggered a round of turn-based combat. The combat is a super, super simplified version of what we have seen before, and utilizes the rock-scissors-paper method of attacks (power, speed, dexterity) that is really popular in Japanese arcade games for young children. You have to pay attention to the monster to see what kind of attack it is going to use, and then counter it with a move of your own. Both the player (referred to as “Rider” in the game) and the monster can attack, although apart from special moves, the monster attacks on its own.
When you and your monster have filled up a special meter by making attacks, you can unleash a “kinship attack”. Your character has his own set of special moves, and you can switch out monsters and use items during battle. That’s about all there is to the battle system – it’s just a very straightforward, slimmed down version of popular turn-based RPGs like Final Fantasy.
It’s also worth noting that the combat is exorbitantly easy. It’s very hard for a monster to actually take you down, and even if it manages to, you are given three “hearts” that act as lives, fully reviving you if you fall.
After cleaning a monster lair, you’ll get an egg, which you can take to town to hatch, adding another monster to your collection. This was essentially all I did in the demo: clear lairs, collect eggs, hatch eggs. The game seemed to be very light on any sort of story, but I’m not sure if the TGS demo was made specifically to highlight combat or not. I visited two locales: a desert city and a frozen mountain, and while they were unique and interesting, the actual monster lairs were very boring, short, and samey. Everything also seems a bit… bare, which may have to do with the graphical limitations of the 3DS.
Speaking of which, I played the demo on the New 3DS, and it is very clear that this was a deliberate choice by Capcom. The c-stick was absolutely vital to the game, and I couldn’t imagine playing without it. Similarly, as the game features amiibo support (which the vanilla 3DS lacks), I really find it hard to recommend if you haven’t upgraded.
Monster Hunter Stories is Monster Hunter distilled, and very obviously aimed at children. I don’t think it will appeal as much to hardcore Monster Hunter fans, but if you are a fan of simpler, more light-hearted RPGs like Pokemon or Zelda, then this may be one to pick up.
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