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Monster Hunter Stories 2 Is 2021's Surprise JRPG Classic

Monster Hunter Stories 2 Title Screen
Courtesy of Capcom

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin

Developer: Capcom, Marvelous Inc.
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: June 25, 2021
Available as: Digital and Physical

Monster Hunter Stories 2 ‘Rises’ -- I Made This Pun Already, Sorry

The Monster Hunter franchise was always a series that has shown potential in its lore and world-building with its diverse cast of monsters, characters, and culture across various titles. Each game features a new designated region that offers a unique experience for the hunters who take on the challenge of preying on monsters that are at times four times their height. While the premise for each Monster Hunter is as simple as “become the highest-ranking Hunter in town,” the world takes a back seat. It’s only recently with games like Monster Hunter Rise introducing memorable characters like the twins, Hinoa and Minoto, does it become clear that there is potential to be had with its NPCs for a story-driven title like the aptly named Monster Hunter Stories 2.

Years before Rise and even World, the original Monster Hunter Stories was released on the 3DS, offering a different art style from the realistic approach that the Monster Hunter series was known for. The aesthetics for Stories took on a more cartoon-like approach yet the premise was successful enough to warrant a sequel. The sequel, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin was originally slated for an earlier release to line up with Monster Hunter Rise but delays pushed it back a month to see a July release instead. Perhaps the delayed release proved to be a blessing in disguise as it gave way for players to enjoy Rise a little while longer before transitioning into Monster Hunter Stories 2 for the Summer.

monster hunter stories 2: wings of ruin cutscene
Monster Hunter Stories 2 - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

Every Story Has A Beginning And A Hero

Like previous Monster Hunter titles, before you begin your journey, players will have to create a character, this time called “Riders” instead of the “Hunters” of previous games. This will be important once the game begins as there’s a distinction between Riders and Hunters, from their philosophies to how they dress and live their lives. Riders care about befriending the monsters as a priority over simply hunting them. 

The type of customization available sets the tone for the rest of Stories 2, with anime and cartoon-inspired options especially for the faces of the characters. Tropes including starry eyes and fanged mouths are present here as well as more expressive emotes for the characters. The NPCs are more expressive than the ones in Rise and the ones in Rise had tons of personality, to begin with. 

monster hunter stories 2: wings of ruin character creation
Monster Hunter Stories 2 - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

Two Different Engines, Same Impressive Quality

One thing to note is that while Rise runs on the RE Engine, Stories 2 runs on the tried and true MT Framework engine that powered Capcom titles for over a decade. Despite this, the game looks amazing with its cartoon cel-shading and it’s a contender for the most beautiful game to run on an engine that has shown its age.

The plot for Monster Hunter Stories 2 is self-contained and separate from the first game, meaning that players don’t need to play the original to catch up to speed. During a festival meant to unite and ease the tension between Monster Hunters and Monster Riders, an attack on a dormant Rathalos causes it to turn into a fit of rage, attacking the Hunters while a girl runs off with an egg that the Rathalos entrusts her with. Due to the attack, tensions start up again until the village chief decides the Riders should investigate further and find the missing Rathalos before it causes calamity. 

monster hunter stories 2: wings of ruin gameplay
Monster Hunter Stories 2 - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

Monster Riders: The Protector Of Monsters

At least that’s the gist of what I got from the game as I watched the opening cutscenes. The girl befriending the dragon who is later entrusted with the egg seemed like an important character, but I’ve played enough JRPGs to know that such a character appears in the beginning only to become a major character later down the line. Unfortunately, these current events have nothing to do with us as the main character because we have other issues to concern ourselves with. The major one is finding ourselves a “Monstie” of our own.

A Monstie is an in-universe term among Riders for the monsters in Stories 2, giving them a friendly name to adhere to their tameable nature. Familiar monsters appear as enemies including Velocidromes and Yian Kut-Kus, the latter appearing as the “boss monster” for the tutorial stage of the game, where most of the mechanics of combat are introduced.

MHS2 gameplay
Monster Hunter Stories 2 - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

Rock Paper Scissors Has Never Been As Intense As Monster Hunter Stories 2

As mentioned, Stories 2 is a JRPG that is radically different from Monster Hunter’s action-adventure gameplay. In comparison, the former is an open-world map, allowing the player to roam about, interact with the environment, and engage with monsters to start fights. The way fights work in Stories 2 is based on a “Rock Paper Scissors” mechanic where speed attacks beat power attacks, power beats technical, and technical beats speed.

 If an enemy targets a player, determined by an identifier, and the player guesses correctly, their attack will deal more damage to the opponent. A draw ends in a standoff and obviously, the opponent will have the advantage if the player chooses poorly. While the allied Monstie will attack on their own, the player can build up its trust enough to ride their ally, making their attacks become one and deal more damage. 

MHS2 gameplay 2
Monster Hunter Stories 2 - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

Gotta Hatch ‘Em All: Monster Hunter Stories 2!

This is also how special attacks are performed when certain conditions are met. While the gameplay is simplified enough for players of all types to understand, especially those used to the action of main Monster Hunter titles, the gameplay is satisfying enough once players identify attack patterns of a specific monster type. Certain monsters, like the Velociprey for example, are small and agile so they may rely on speed attacks, meaning that a Rider will need to get technical to have the advantage. Sometimes a little bit of context is enough to carry a player through fights and earn the coveted “S” rank at the end of each fight.

Monster Hunter Stories 2 is an experience that’s unlike anything from the Monster Hunter series prior, which says a lot for a series that is inching closer to its two-decade anniversary. It’s a title that fans of the series will enjoy as well as fans of JRPGs who don’t have much interest in the main series. Stories 2 could be the proper segue for said players to familiarize themselves with the Monster Hunter universe to give the main series a fair shot, yet as a standalone JRPG, it holds its own without being over-dependent on its source material.

Monster Hunter Stories 2 is available on the PC and Switch.

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