Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is equal parts Monster Hunter and Pokémon, with a strong The Legend of Zelda paintbrush over the top.
Pokémon vibes continue right down to a Meowth clone that follows you around, dispensing sometimes useful advice. It’s smartly done, because all of these elements combine to a satisfying brew of gameplay. But be aware, a follow-up to action-adventure Monster Hunter Rise this is not. It’s a gentle step back into turn-based JRPG territory, that allows players to take deep breaths while planning their next attack.
Entering the world of Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin offers immediate access to the satisfying character customisation feature, which means that even before diving into the solid storyline, players are presented with the first of many deeply recognised management systems within the game. From characters, wardrobe design, weapon crafting and collecting colourful critters with a crazy amount of stat management from around the world (known as Monsties), there’s a little bit of something for everyone. Once designed, your character heads out, following the footsteps of your famous father, to learn how to become a Monstie rider and capture the legendary Razewing Ratha.
“There’s a soft touch to these Monsties which makes them more adorable than menacing.”
The creature design is likewise excellent. There are so many colourful Monsties to fight, capture and tame within the multiple large open areas of game. Bold and beautiful designs are almost re-imaginings of real-life animals, but done so without the scare factor of the standard franchise titles. There’s a soft touch to these Monsties which makes them more adorable than menacing. This can very much catch you off guard the moment they launch into their devastating attacks, which can drain your health bar faster than a ravenous Rathalos.
At its core the JRPG, turn-based combat is easy to learn and makes for an excellent entry into the series. There are definite Rock Paper Scissors vibes to how you attack the Monsties. Each of them will prefer either Speed, Power or Technical based attacks as a default and, in order to beat them, you’ll need to respond with the appropriate counter. Speed beats power, power beats technical, technical beats speed. If your paired Monstie has a comparable base skill, you’ll combine for an overpowered attack bonus. It’s good that you can also switch between Monsties in battle, so you get the best matchups for the enemy type you’re facing.
On the surface the combat sounds rather one dimensional, but there’s so much more to do. Balancing your attack moves, with awesome weapons containing their own special buffs, with the special skill moves which are some of the prettiest looking things in the game, makes for a constantly changing landscape. Building up your connection, or kinship, levels with your Monstie partners allows you to unleash equally powerful attacks. Not to mention what happens if the enemy Monstie works itself into a frenzy, and changes its attack patterns…
Loot hunting, whether it be for more eggs to expand your Monstie collection, or defeating Monsties to collect valuable upgrade items, you’ll continually be on the prowl for some form of upgrade to your kit. The character customisation options are vast. Allowing you to first design your perfect clone (or at least a more muscular approximation of your clone), and then kit them out with outfits that range from outrageous to garish. There is nothing here that could be considered drab, it’s colour and style over form and function. Your customised Monstie rider will be the talk of wherever you choose to explore in this universe, no doubt about it!
You definitely don’t have to be an experienced Monster Hunter to enjoy the experience of Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin. In fact, it might even pay to set aside all expectations at the door. This is not the fast and furious action RPG that you would expect from the other titles in this franchise. Instead, it reaches back to the original Monster Hunter Stories title from the Nintendo 3DS and brings the accessible, portable gameplay in the best way possible. It’s also incredibly addictive, with every mini battle, and every new piece of gear, leading you to that classic just-one-more situation. This is definitely a great companion piece for the series, as well as an excellent entry point for new Hunters.
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is available now on Switch.