Imperfect “Monster Hunter Stories 2” Still Worth Riding

the “Monster hunter” franchise had to have a spin-off or two. A series that spawned multiple sequels, took players to dozens of locations, and spawned a menagerie of critters inevitably creates enough knowledge to spill over into other projects.

Fans have seen massively multiplayer online games and a few mobile offerings, but the best spin-off has been “Stories of Monster Hunters.” The Japanese approach to role playing has done a remarkable job of organizing and explaining over 17 years of world building into a sane whole.

Unlike the main series, however, “Monster Hunter Stories” focuses on Riders, a cowardly faction that has a different philosophy when it comes to wildlife. Instead of only killing beasts, the horsemen breed them and befriend them with the help of a Kinship Stone. It’s “Monster Hunter” seen through the eyes of “Pokémon.”

“Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin” has a rock-scissor-paper combat system where players must use attacks that they believe will thwart a monster’s strike. (Capcom)

Seen in this light, the original did well to establish the world and adapt it to the garb of the JRPG. The following “Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin” expands and refines this formula for the Nintendo Switch.

It starts with players creating their own version of a protagonist called the Rider. The hero begins as a novice member of the Hakolo Island tribe. This is where players learn the basics of the rock-scissor-paper combat system and the various controls available to them. Much like the main games, Capcom refuses to convey the intricacies of the system, so it will take time to master it.

Players must learn the intricacies of using different weapons, choose the right skills, and determine for themselves the benefits of elemental attacks. Franchise veterans will quickly review these details, but newcomers will be lost. They won’t know that sonic bombs can unearth creatures buried in the earth or that choosing the right traps will trap enemies, leaving them exposed to heavy attacks.

The fact that the tactics and ideas of the action-oriented “Monster Hunter” games translate into the turn-based JRPG is proof that Capcom has cleverly adapted the franchise to a new genre. This is only half the story, however.

Grimclaw Tigrex is one of the Monsties that will be available for free as post-launch content in “Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin”. (Capcom)

As a horseman, players will quickly find themselves collecting eggs and raising monsters. This is the “Pokemon” part of “Wings of Ruin”, as players venture into dens and catch monsters to hatch. Players will find Diablos, Kezus and Nargacuga and they will even encounter subspecies of these “Monsties” – as the Riders call them – which feature different colors and characteristics.

Additionally, these monsters have their own bonus stats and genes which grant them traversal moves, combat skills, and perks. To add even more depth to this monster hunt, players can combine a gene from one creature and install it in another. This Rite of Channeling eliminates the giver but improves the heir, making him able to deal more damage or withstand more brutal attacks. This is the key to overcoming some of the most difficult encounters.

This focus on collecting all monsters and genetic manipulation slows the pace of the “Wings of Ruin” campaign. Like any JRPG, players will have to fight their way to improve their Rider and monsters. Juggling dozens of creatures to unleash their genetic potential and using them to reach secret areas on a map is expensive. Players will be forced to face dozens of showdowns and shuffle a lot of beasts across groups of six.

Capcom is trying to make this less painful by introducing the concept of a quick finish. If players outclass their opponents by a few levels, they can automatically win a showdown. This reduces some of the boredom of “Wings of Ruin” while still giving players a sense of hard work and reward. They can also send other Monsties on Expeditions, which act almost like the Meowcenaries feature in “Monster Hunter Rise”. Players can send six monsters to go on an adventure and they can level up that way. All of these options are good time-saving ways so players can focus on the many sub-quests and lair raids needed to craft the best gear and splice the genes of the strongest monsters.

As the grandson of the famous Horseman Red, players, on the right, will embark on a quest to attempt to save the last egg of Guardian Ratha with a Wyverian girl named Ena, on the left, in “Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin “. (Capcom)

As for the campaign itself, “Wings of Ruin” begins excruciatingly slow. With so much to learn and explore, it takes a while before players even get the monster in the middle of the conflict. The Horseman follows in the footsteps of the hero’s legendary grandfather, Red, who rode a beast called Guardian Ratha.

The protagonist is given the offspring of Ratha, which has the characteristics of a monster predicted in myths. Many basically believe that the creature, called Razewing Ratha, is the monster Antichrist who will destroy the world. The hunters want to kill him. The Scriveners want to study it. Another faction has its own nefarious goals.

As Razewing Ratha’s partner, the protagonist must defend the young monster and learn what it means to be his rider. This journey gains momentum as players venture into the lands of Loloska, Lamure, Pomore Gardens, and Terga. Along the way, they will meet a group of allies who have their own unique playstyles and weapons of their own.

This is also where playing the original “Monster Hunter Stories” pays off. Although “Wings of Ruin” has a standalone plot, veterans of the first game will appreciate the touches and callbacks of the original. They will find old faces in new roles and see older versions of some characters.

It all leads to a satisfying climax and endgame. Yes, unlike other JRPGs, “Wings of Ruin” will have free downloadable content that expands the game as players search for new eggs, which contain more powerful Monsties. It’s a way for players to stay involved even after completing a side project that tells one of the best and most cohesive stories in the “Monster Hunter” franchise.

‘Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin’

3 out of four stars
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC
Rating: Everyone 10 years and over

About Dawn Valle

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