Review: Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin (Switch)

Monster Hunter meets Pokémon in this turn-based RPG monster collection game

By Nick Dollar. Posted 07/09/2021 23:56 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Searching for powerful eggs of rare monsters is quite enjoyable; combat system is in depth and satisfying; compelling story makes you want to keep going; rider feels useful now
Poison Mushroom for...
Can become difficult if you neglect new monsters and to upgrade monsties; enemies can become predictable but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, that’s how Monster Hunter works

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin has a good amount of similarities to the ever popular Pokémon franchise. You fight monsters in turn-based combat, there are type advantages (water is stronger against fire, etc., etc.), and there are a great number of monsties (monsties are the monsters that you hatch and train) to collect and train. That’s about where all the similarities end however, as Stories 2 does a great deal differently and does so with more depth than that popular monster battler.

In Monster Hunter Stories 2 you take on the role of a rider, the grandchild of the legendary Red, and after a celebration something on the island goes awry. You are tasked with investigating the source of the problem while learning what it takes to be a Rider. The Rathalos you are charged with caretaking is believed to be the Wings of Ruin, the monster fated to bring about the end of the world. It’s not long before you are journeying out from your small village and following the trail, fighting monsters while trying to find out if this Rathalos truly is capable of world-ending destruction, occasionally venturing into monster dens to pick up monster eggs as you go. You can hatch these eggs and add new monsties to your team of up to six. The story brings you to new locales and to face off against new and stronger monsters, most of which you can then find eggs of to also add to your team. I won’t say anything beyond what Capcom has revealed in their story trailers or what you can experience in the trial version of the game, but the story is quite lengthy and well written, so prepare to put in some hours if you want to see this one through to the end.

Each of the characters you come across in the journey has their own charming personality with Navirou being the silly comedic relief of the game. Since your character is the silent protagonist type, Navirou does all the talking, which can add some humor to the adventure but can oftentimes be a bit too much. It is refreshing though to see that all the other characters share the protagonist’s aversion to his energetic attitude.

In Stories 2 your character, the Rider, is an active participant with weapons and skills of their own alongside whichever monster you bring to the fight. Combat in Monster Hunter Stories 2 has many layers to it, but each layer is simple enough to manage on its own. The core of the combat boils down to a rock-paper-scissors system: power attacks beat technical attacks and technical beats speed attacks, while speed attacks beat power attacks. These different types of attacks come into play when your rider or your monster finds themselves in a head-to-head situation. Choosing the right type of attack in these encounters will result in more damage dealt, less damage received, and provides a sizable boost to your kinship gauge.

Kinship, incidentally, is another layer to the combat system and is the fuel for many of your special attack skills—if you want to command your monster to do a specific attack as well, your monster typically runs autonomously and decides what moves to use on its own. When your kinship gauge is full you can hop on top of your monster and unleash a powerful kinship skill that is extremely flashy and does large amounts of damage at the cost of completely draining your gauge.

In Stories 2 there are now six different weapons to choose from (as compared to the previous game) for your rider and there are now three different damage types as well: blunt, slashing, and piercing. Each monster you face will have varying strengths and weaknesses to these damage types, and even specific parts on a monster will have different resistances as well. Conveniently you can equip up to three different weapons so you can have one weapon of each damage type to be prepared to change up your tactics mid-fight.

Of course, like any respectable turn-based RPG, you won’t be without consumable items to use during combat, except here they are themed after items from the Monster Hunter series. Potions and mega potions heal, whetstones sharpen your weapon (which provides the opportunity for a critical chance), and traps subdue the enemy monster so you can get some extra hits in without fear of retaliation. And just like typical Monster Hunter fashion you can collect the raw materials to craft these consumables out in the field.

In the first Monster Hunter Stories game, having the Rider be an active participant felt more like a gimmick, as they typically didn’t contribute much to the fight and ended up getting taken out by one or two hits. In Stories 2 however, I feel that this issue has been addressed as I’ve rarely had my Rider faint this time around, and any damage that my Rider does feels on par with what my monster is doing, albeit still not quite as powerful since the main focus remains on the monsties.

Combat has a lot of layers to it, and there’s plenty to do outside of battle too. Crafting weapons and armor for your Rider is similar to the main Monster Hunter games but is much simpler here. What you can do to customize and grow your monsties is where the meat of the challenge and experience is. Each monster has a 3×3 gene grid and what genes the monsties have determines what skills they can use in battle (a rathalos’ fire breath, or a ludroth’s water attack, for exampe), as well as some passive ones that always provide some benefit. The interesting part comes with passing genes from one monster to another, which allows you to really build each monster to how you want it to perform in battle. Got a tobi kadachi that normally uses thunder attacks but want to have him breathe fire? Just pass him a gene from any monster with the skill you’re looking for and now you’ve got a fire breathing thunder squirrel. This system offers both the freedom to build monsters however you want but also cleverly restricts the genes to that 3×3 grid.

The art style of Stories 2 differs quite a bit from the more realistic art style of the main Monster Hunter games. The landscapes and the monsters are quite colorful in the animated/cel shaded style of art and it all looks great. It really is wonderful to see all your favorite monsters rendered in this higher resolution style compared to what we used to see in the 3DS days. The sound design for Stories 2 is also quite good, but after having played so long none of the music tracks remain memorable to me. In the main Monster Hunter games, each of the monsters tends to have their own themes. Since you hunt them for so long the tunes tend to stick in your head. Stories 2 also shares this trend with different music themes as well, but the combat isn’t fast paced so the music tends to blend into the background more.

Monster Hunter Stories 2 is a unique game for sure, but not without some slight drawbacks. Thankfully, Capcom thought ahead and added some good design choices. For instance, you’ll occasionally have to update your roster of monsties and bring in some potentially stronger ones. Normally you’d have to level them up the long way and just grind for experience, but the quick finish mechanic lets you instantly defeat lower level enemies and then immediately sends the experience boost for monsties that are below your Rider’s level. This gets your new monsties up to fighting shape quickly and easily. This is good for quickly mazimizing monsties, but players hoping for a more simplified leveling up system are still going to have to deal with some of its complexities. This could prove to be a turnoff for some people who might be used to simpler games like Pokémon. At the same time, I do feel that Stories 2 nonetheless deserves an honest look and not to be dismissed simply because it doesn’t follow the same gameplay as other monster hunter games. Overall, Monster Hunter Stories 2 provides a great way to hunt alongside favorite monsters from the franchise in a charming world with an interesting story to discover.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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