In the year 2017, the Switch was waxing and the 3DS was waning, and a glorious Corn Moon rose on the day Monster Hunter Stories was released for 3DS. It ushered in the first-ever turn-based battle system in the series’ history. Players were taken on a ride, literally, by the monsters that, under usual circumstances, they would be slaughtering and carving up for parts. Monster Hunter Stories taught gamers that there is more to monsters than simply slapping them around with swords and hammers; instead, you can slap them around with swords and hammers, raid their nests for eggs, and then turn their babies into your adorable little pony-esque pets.
Enter July 2021, a magnificent Mead Moon, and the release of Monster Hunter Stories 2: The Wings of Ruin on Nintendo Switch. MHS2 is a sequel to the first game, but players won’t be left behind if they haven’t played the original. Trotting across the terrain on your marvellous monstie, helping the inhabitants of various villages with their troubles, and – it wouldn’t be a JRPG without it – a little dash of saving the world.
In Monster Hunter Stories 2, you are the grandchild of Red: the canon name given to the character from the first game. On Hakolo Island, where our adventure begins, you are sent to investigate a strange light causing normally docile monsters to go berserk. You immediately cross paths with a Wyverian girl carrying a special egg; Ena has been on the run to protect this egg, and get it into the hands of someone trustworthy. Cue the epic “leaving the only place I’ve ever known to save the world and experience immense personal growth” music.
The game may look like a simple turn-based RPG, but, on the inside, things get much more customisable and exciting.
The monster roster is vast, and the diverse cast of monsties that you can recruit means that players have lots of options when it comes to party creation and customisation. There is always a multitude of monster dens to search and pilfer eggs from on most maps, and players can hunt for a favourite (Anjinath anyone?) by fighting that particular monster. Having a monster retreat to its den is guaranteed to net you the egg of that monster. Random monster dens have the chance of giving you the egg of any monster you’ve previously encountered in that area.
Once you’ve found an egg, simply take it back to town and talk to the Felyne who runs the stables. There you can hatch your eggs and see a brief, adorable picture of each monster in baby form. MHS2 does not skimp on the cute factor, and you might just find yourself letting out a big squee every time you bring a new baby monstie into the world.
Second: Monstie Skills
Each monstie you hatch will have some kind of helpful skill that players will utilise while adventuring. These skills are always mapped to the B button outside of battle. Some skills seem a bit arbitrary; things like bug or honey search will make the locations of that material appear on your map. Other skills are downright necessary: jump, rock break, or ivy climb allow you to reach areas that would otherwise be inaccessible.
There is only room for five monsties in your party; this means that players’ hands become somewhat tied in terms of what monsties to invest in. Granted, the only things you’ll often be leaving behind are tantalising treasures on hidden side-paths. Getting from point A to B in the story does not require these special monstie-moves. That said, it can be tedious to explore a whole area, then have to go back to a stable in order to switch a certain monstie into your party because one particular treasure required a skill you didn’t have. Selecting your monstie team becomes a little less strategic when there are only a few monsties to choose from with these crucial skills.
One of the neatest features of The Wings of Ruin is the monstie gene customisation. This is where things like Rare Dens (easily distinguishable by their gold colour) and the Finding Charms come into play. There is a handy little item in every village called the Prayer Pot. In this pot you place charms you’ve found and receive a blessing for a certain amount of time: up your attack or defence, reduce the cost of items at shops, and the all-important Finding Charm. This charm ups the chance of finding eggs with rare genes. Each monstie has nine gene slots arranged in a square (three rows of three). Monstie eggs with good genes will be born with more beneficial attributes. Once you progress the story, you will learn the Rite of Channelling; this will allow players to transfer genes from one monstie to another.
This customisation of monstie abilities can really make the game your own. Each gene is colour-coded with its elemental alignment (or grey if it’s non-elemental), allowing players to sculpt their perfect monstie. If you want your Zinogre to use water attacks (instead of its usual electric), just transfer water genes to it, and boom: water-using Zinogre. Creating a bingo with certain types, or colours, of genes, will make their attacks and abilities more powerful.
Fourth: Battle System
The turn-based battle system is strategic and engaging. Monsters have both an element, and a battle-type, that they favour. There are three battle types: power, speed, and technical. These form a trifecta (speeds beats power, power beats technical, and technical beats speed), and learning the attack patterns of each individual monster is a steep learning curve. Monsters can also change mid-battle if they become enraged: a monster using speed switches to power. There is a very handy Quick Kill feature if you happen to be at a much higher level than the monsters you are fighting. Just hitting ZR+ZL can end the battle instantly, allowing you to collect valuable experience and items with ease.
Unlocked after progressing through the story a bit, there is an online component in the form of battle competitions and co-op gameplay. Competitions involve players taking three of their chosen monsties into a battle against others online. These battles are interesting in that players are never allowed to directly attack other players: only their monsties. Monsties attack whoever they want. The first person to make the other lose three hearts is the winner. These battles will net the winner a reward that can be used to craft special armour and/or weapons. Don’t fret if online battles aren’t your cup of tea, these special items aren’t necessary to the story.
There is also friendly online play in co-op. Sadly, you can’t play through the main story with a friend. Rather, you can create a lobby to play through specific side quests. These co-op quests are really fun, and with all the upcoming promised content in the pipeline, they are sure to keep people entertained with their online friends: near or far!
The game does have a few silly annoyances. One: some things aren’t skippable. Get ready to watch the magical light when transferring genes over and over. Weirdly, other scenes are skippable (i.e. your kinship skills in a battle, or battles themselves!) It’s strange that some things are skippable and others aren’t.
Two: camera. I found myself having a battle with the camera angle half the time. When trying to adjust it while riding your monstie, it will always, immediately, begin a slow progression to be at a specific angle directly behind you. It is difficult to run and check out the area around you at the same time because as soon as you move the camera, it’s fighting to move back behind your monstie. Eventually, you don’t really notice it anymore, but it takes some getting used to.
There is a LOT to love about Monster Hunter Stories 2, and only a few very minor complaints, making this a game everyone should definitely pick up. If you like RPGs, a good story, or dinosaurs, put this game into your Switch library STAT! If you’re still on the fence, give the demo a try. You can even transfer your save data from the demo to the main game if you decide to invest. The schedule of upcoming free DLC is just another cherry on top of one fantastic cake of a game.
Monster Hunter Stories 2: The Wings of Ruin £49.99
Monster Hunter Stories 2: The Wings of Ruin is a delightful addition to the Monster Hunter franchise. A compelling story, colourful cast of characters, and a cacophony of cute, cuddly, customizable monsties to befriend make this game a must-have for any Switch collection.