REVIEW – Over the past few months, Capcom has treated Monster Hunter Rise and Monster Hunter Stories 2 as equals. The first was very well received, so the expectations for this JRPG in shifts were through the roof. But there were fulfilled.
The Monster Hunter games have a power of suggestion almost feverish back in your step. They have a very passionate community willing to play each instalment for hundreds of hours and somehow, players still find energy and enthusiasm for each new update. But I have always had the feeling that spin-offs did not accompany that feeling at all, in the West at least. Perhaps it is because they were few, had rather modest production values and clearly obeyed exclusively the demands of the Japanese fan service. So when the original MH Stories landed on 3DS, I hardly bothered to watch some live streams. But after playing Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, Ryozo Tsujimoto and his team have cleared all my doubts. This is a back and forth MH that deserves your full attention.
A complementary experience
Yes, it is a complementary experience, but it surprises a lot, for the better, because it not only adapts the traditional MH formula with great success but also achieves a certain very specific addiction component that core games also have and which it did not have. absolutely. Transferring MH to shifts seemed like a challenge in itself because it is a very deep series with many nuances; But I was already taking it for granted that in this sense I was going to comply because, after all, we are talking about the same study that those do. The funny thing is that each combat is more or less a puzzle, a psychological game where statistics matter a little less than in other JRPGs and the specialization of each combatant, a little more.
And the best of all this is that, whether you see it like a traditional game or an innovative one, at the end of the day it has a lot of fun, it is difficult to put ailments on it. For example, as a die-hard Pokémon fan – sorry, I know the comparisons are hideous – I can’t help but think “I wish Game Freak would work so hard on animations” even though most of the ones with the monsters are recycled from the main games, or “Wow, these characters are expressive, these animations also have a lot of personality. Even things as specific as reading the individual values of a monster as soon as you find the egg are well done. They are different games, yes, and it is undeniable that each one has its good things and its things. bad, but the point I want to get to is that this is not a minor monster collecting game.
If you are up to date with Monster Hunter, you will probably like this one. If you are so passionate that you have seen the anime “Ride On” you will find even more references than those that settle for the main games. And if you don’t have a clue about the saga, well, you can still find JRPG that stands on its own and is pretty cool.
An expressive, light and constantly evolving story
Many will totally disagree with me and do well, but the stories of the Monster Hunter games have always known me little: “bad monster threatens the ecosystem, kill him”, “a merchant has been scared because he has seen something in the forest, find out what it is and kill it. ” Of course, the background of each creature is much more interesting than that, but if the plot does not accompany, then that. With this particular instalment, I figured things would change, mostly because it’s literally called Stories, and actually I think it more or less fulfils: the main part still doesn’t seem like anything to write home about, but it’s definitely there. There are fun parts, nostalgic parts, sad and tense parts, and also heroic parts. Where I have no doubt is with the narrative, the way to tell the story: they have hit the nail on the head, it is the closest thing to an anime you can hope for.
Each cinematic scene in Monster Hunter Stories 2 Wings of Ruin is carefully animated, fully dubbed (in English or Japanese, as you prefer) and subtitled, with highly expressive characters and sometimes the kind of light and camera play you’d expect from a Japanese animated film. That does not remove the fact that some characters are better worked than others, of course, because Navirouit is still a simple comic relief and Kayna, the obligatory assistant for the first hours of the tutorial. We almost always talk about very crushed archetypes in otaku culture, but that does not necessarily mean that they become heavy or that they have the depth of a sheet of paper. Especially as the story progresses and we begin to see new roles beyond the companions of each region, which become a bit repetitive.
For example, in Alcala (second stop of the adventure) you meet characters like Alwin, who stays by your side just long enough to give the best of himself without getting bored. And the rest of the companions of adventures, including familiar faces like Avinia’s, also have their one. Without the intention of spoiling anyone, I’ll just say that in the second half of the game characters appear and more exciting things happen, because frankly, the story takes a bit of getting started. So yes, with its pluses and minuses, the truth is that the story of Monster Hunter Stories 2 is well told and peppered with great moments. Everything, expressed in a more cheerful and colourful tone than MH Orage manga, for example. So far so good, right? Well, there is a point that does not fit me at all, and that is inherited directly from the core games: mandatory objectives that are there to fill hours.
Some ugly missions
And, as good as the cinematics may be, returning to a village after a mission only to be told “I know I have to help you with this matter of the monster that will destroy the world, but they just told me that a peasant has lost an object in a cave, help him whatever it takes and later, if I don’t have any more errands for you, then I’ll help you out “. It shows a lot, it doesn’t add up, it takes you out of context, it’s ugly. It is probably the result of a need to stretch each explorable region of the game to a decent number of hours, and more or less all of that can be covered with a very good narrative as I said above, but it is still forgettable content that contributes little or history nothing. I wish that many of these missions had remained secondary, even if the characters of the game themselves suggested doing them because I feel that they are there a bit by force to make you level up and little else.
If you can play the core games of Monster Hunter, then you basically know how to play Monster Hunter Stories 2 Wings of Ruin. Going from action to turns is no small feat, as I said above, but Capcom does it with an overwhelming naturalness starting from a very simple idea – Monsters and Riders alike can attack with a powerful, agile, or technical attack. A rock-paper-scissors dynamic conditioned by logic, learning and observation. I mean, a Velocidrome prefers speed because, well, it’s called that; but if you played second-generation titles you know beforehand that this creature really fights that way. In the same way, you get the idea that Qurupeco prefers technical attacks just because you already know that it reacts that way in the original game.
Personally, that’s what I liked the most by far. This game does not have hundreds of creatures to collect, but the ones that are there have been characterized to perfection and it is fun to learn how to fight them. For example, Zamtrios can swell up to attack hard or ice over to attack faster; while Gypceros you can break the horn that he uses to blind everyone so that he cannot do it (just like we did in the second generation, yes). It is a true fantasy. Then you get hold of the monster in question, fill the bond gauge, and use a binding ability in conjunction with that creature, which are very cool animations that bring out the best in the monster. A definitive of a lifetime, wow, but very exciting. Is this fanservice? Well yes, but it is welcome because it has an absolute pampering.
Behaviour patterns in Monster Hunter Stories 2 Wings of Ruin
It is a very addictive approach, and also very flexible. Angry monsters change their behaviour patterns, becoming more unpredictable; and the weapons themselves also intermingle with this mechanic adding their own ideas. For example, hammers have always been weapons with which the user takes a high risk to generate a lot of damage. Here, that idea is embodied by encouraging you to win head-to-head turns with the enemy to generate charge levels, which you can then exchange for powerful techniques. It’s risky because if you miss the rock, paper, or scissors I was talking about above, you take more damage, but it’s also a lot of fun. It’s amazing how precisely all these details from the original games have been outlined, how natural it all feels for someone who comes from action games and is fun on top of all of this. In fact, something that is not easy by the standards of the genre.
But this game undoubtedly succeeds. I think the key to everything is chasing the feel of the original games and running away from the bad habits that some turn-based JRPGs have. If you like those kinds of games, chances are you’ve once felt that the answer to “this fight is too difficult” is “level up” or “make your tank more health.” There are levels here, but chasing only that is an absolute waste of time because improving points is not a big deal anyway: if you have a reasonable team, all you have to do is learn to respond. every turn. You want two powerful monsters, two speedy monsters, and two technical ones; and that within each role there is a creature with very high statistics and another with access to very different abilities. The rest you quickly manage by sending the stable monsters out on expeditions, completing challenges or submissions.
Depth under a rock, paper, and scissors
There are many layers of overlapping depth on something as basic as rock, paper, and scissors. There is no Monstie (that is, monster ally) powerful enough to solve all the ballots: even if you can direct many of its actions, in the end, you depend on it fulfilling its role and there are monsters that put you on the ropes, forcing you to change of creature yes or yes. Similarly, sometimes you have to change weapons until you find one that does the ideal type of damage for each monster, and even then there is no single correct answer because some force you to go one step further. Tetsucabra, for example, can be protected with a huge rock that is more easily destroyed with a hammer, but that is not the type of damage that affects the skin. So things are not as simple as choosing one strong element against another. You have to think about the team well and know when to change strategy because every little detail has its moment of prominence.
Ultimately, there are many overlapping layers of depth on such a basic idea as the rock-paper-scissors game. Almost all of them are overcome simply by learning, not by burning hours in combat. It reminds me in a way of Super Mario: The Origami King, only that his combat failed to stand out beyond the bosses because it lacked depth and variety while the combat of Monster Hunter Stories 2 is much more satisfying overall. So yes: first, this is an adaptation exercise, but then it is also a game that can stand on its own without a problem.
It was very easy to stay with simple things: a life powder heals the entire team, a light bomb throws flying monsters to the ground. All of that is there, but Capcom is not satisfied with it and takes several steps further. There are also wise progression decisions. For example, in each region you visit there is only a very specific selection of wyverns that fight in very different ways: if you stay too long on the island on duty, you will get bored, so the game encourages you to keep going; but the time you spend there is fun. Also, if you are looking for very specific monster eggs, you know in advance where you have to go to find them.
Some monsters in the closet
Of course, not everything is perfect and it also has things that leave anyone frowning. It’s probably no exaggeration to say that monster lairs are disappointingly similar, both visually and mechanically. And no matter how intricate your paths may be, no matter how colourful it may be to enter an open area full of hops or puddles to swim in, it all feels incredibly simple.: you open the map, you figure out where you have to go, you fight with the monsters that you meet along the way. The end. Knowing how important they are to the endgame section requires puzzle elements or more ideas to feel truly interesting. I would venture to say that this should be the main focus of attention for its developers if we ever see another sequel.
I also don’t quite see the randomness factor there are in some parts of combat because many turns cannot be predicted regardless of how much you have studied the situation. For example, you know that monsters like Nargacuga or Anjanath can spend a turn to charge up and attack with a characteristic technique the next turn, but others like Rathian can use agile, powerful techniques and techniques interchangeably. There are parts that you can’t read, you don’t control, you have a 33% chance of hitting those turns. It doesn’t feel fair, it’s not like typical RPG critical hits or altered effects probabilities – this is a combat mechanic that should be readable to any gamer paying attention.
Playing long term: progression and multiplayer in Monster Hunter Stories 2 Wings of Ruin
As I said at the beginning of the review, Monster Hunter games traditionally last hundreds of hours because, beyond its main campaign, the game fully lends itself to being replayed ad infinitum. This instalment may not be a core episode, but it strives to walk that same path, inviting those who have an interest in continuing to play to adopt a philosophy of improvement very similar to that of action games: get all the weapons and armour, because each piece has its own strengths and weaknesses. Same for monsters. Once you have all the species in your stable, go after the best possible version of each one, with perfect genes.
Sounds like many hours? Well, that’s because you still don’t know that to get all those creatures and genes that suit you best, you need to spend many hours exploring rare monster lairs in which to obtain bottle caps, the only currency that the special Melynx SA store accepts: the merchant who sells you permanent genetic storage and distribution upgrades. And after that, have to go to the boards of missions for the best times in the Repeatable special orders, to level up your monsters newborns – that is done in a jiffy, actually- and adjust the genes with a completely new transfer mechanics that I see crucial for the most dedicated because the old system was too stiff. These kinds of games use a system to alter a little what the RNG has given you, such as Diablo enchantments or Pokémon silver badges. So it’s good to have something like that around here.
Linked to the anime MH Stories: Ride On
He may not be as well known in the West, but Navirou and the other characters in the game also appeared in a Japanese television series, Monster Hunter Stories: Ride On. There are many references to that one, although you don’t need to have seen it to understand everything that happens in the story or the ties that bind the characters who already know each other.
Personally, what I appreciate most about it is that the game lets you know in advance what kind of stats a creature has as soon as you collect its egg: weight determines its physical characteristics, and smell, its genes. There is no cheating or cardboard, you know what you are talking to the barn and if you don’t like it, you can change eggs instead of wasting time with checks. When you collect an egg, the colour and shape also tell you what creature is inside, and as I said before, each region only supports a few species. This possibility of prediction, coupled with gene transfer, makes Monster Hunter Stories 2 a very good contender within the monster-collecting genre. It’s just that it’s definitely not the one with the most creatures or moves.
On top of that whole parenting thing, there’s multiplayer, which naturally lasts as long as you want it to last. Unfortunately, one of the problems with analyzing video games is that you often have a title in front of you that has not yet gone on sale and therefore that online matchmaking remains up in the air, but if it is a matter that worries you, don’t go empty-handed: Capcom has already shared cooperative gameplay where you can see what it’s like to complete a mission with a friend (with drop-in/drop-out combats, which I find most curious) and also I can confirm that it is possible to launch a cooperative mission solo if you wish. On the other hand, there is the occasional encounter between Riders that emulates the PvP system during the adventure. In the absence of understanding the metagame that will be formed around this, what it offers are quick attrition games, as in the game that I have been mentioning throughout the analysis, with a lot of partner change in between.
Performance and graphics: pure aesthetics and nothing else
I have been able to try both the Switch and PC versions in Monster Hunter Stories 2 Wings of Ruin and neither of them fully convinces me. During the writing of this review, I have been able to test both the Nintendo Switch version (I cannot confirm or deny the 15 GB download issue because my copy is digital) and the PC version. And frankly, neither of them convinces me at all. If you played the demo that hit the eShop a few weeks ago, you may have noticed that the game feels quite inconsistent. That’s because, based on the technical analysis of the players, the rate of images per second is unlocked and the frame time constantly dances. Strangely, they have not opted to close the game in 30 more stable FPS, because saving this detail the truth is that the game looks very good on this screen. Even more so in portable mode, which partially helps to deal with the lack of anti-aliasing of contours.
In Steam, we do not have this problem, and in fact, some graphical configuration options appear to get a little more out of the hardware. You can play at a maximum resolution of 4K and lock the frame rate in any of the most popular settings. But there are some problems such as the decoder error that the last Resident Evil also had, that the side buttons of the mouse cannot be linked in the mapping menu or that regardless of whether you play in full screen or window, the mouse cursor sometimes remains visible without the possibility of hiding it.
Definitely, the best alternative from a strictly technical point of view is to play on PC with a controller, although in that case, you will also have to deal with a camera acceleration effect that cannot be disabled. In the version, I’ve played, at least. I imagine that is the kind of improvement that can perfectly come with any update if many people are asking for it. The good news is that beyond these issues, the rest of the game looks pretty good because the modelling of the characters are made with great attention to detail and in closed environments that receive the same treatment you can make fabulous prints. They do not accompany open environments, yes, because we have to deal with the fact that the grass appears automatically a few meters from the character both on Switch (understandable) and PC (not understandable) the soil texture can be quite poor at times and the design of many scenarios he feels simple. That does not mean that in general terms it is a beautiful game.
A game that stands on its own
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is first a super successful adaptation of traditional games to the JRPG format, and second, a game that stands up very well on its own. With its pluses and minuses, the story is very much enjoyed thanks to some very expressive characters and very careful cinematics; in addition to a fantastic Castilian localization. The combat system feels great, cutting through the tedium of levelling up to logical lows and prioritizing learning or partner selection over stats. Not everything is perfect, of course, so in the future, you will have to work to reduce the “filler” missions in the main campaign, improve the monster lairs and polish the technical section. But the whole is more than enjoyable.
+ Five generations of creatures, with the exception of the Canyne from MH Rise
+ The plot does not stand out too much, but the way of telling it is very good
+ With PvP and gene transfer, collecting monsters is more interesting
– Falls into ‘grindy RPG’ territory at times
– Disappointing performance on the Switch, especially in portable mode
– Some missions are boring
Genre: Turn-based JRPG
Release date: July 9, 2021