Title: Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin
Release Date: July 9, 2021
Reviewed On: Switch
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is the sequel to Monster Hunter Stories, a turn-based JRPG spin-off to Capcom’s popular monster hunting game franchise. On top of that, it’s the second Monster Hunter game to release this year, next to Monster Hunter Rise.
As a casual fan of the franchise who poured many hours into the Monster Hunter series, I enjoyed the shift in tone found in Monster Hunter Stories, focusing more on narrative, but still retaining its monster-hunting roots. Monster Hunter Stories 2 takes everything great about the original, refines it, and packages it up for a highly addictive gaming experience.
In Monster Hunter Stories 2, you take on the role of a Rider. You can create and customize this character from a range of faces, hairstyles, and colors. Riders are humans that can form bonds with Monsters who become their “Monsties.” They allow their Riders to ride on them and fight together with them. The protagonist Rider is the grandchild of the legendary Rider, Red, who had formed a bond with a Rathalos. This Rathalos is now revered as the Guardian of Hakolo Island, where the protagonist lives.
The story takes place 4 years after Monster Hunter Stories and opens with a festival in Mahana Village. While this celebration is taking place, a Wyverian girl named Ena meets the Guardian Ratha, who entrusts her with an egg. A mysterious event occurs which causes the Rathalos to flee from their habitat and, simultaneously, strange pits open that have a mysterious red light flowing from them all across the world.
While investigating the island, your Rider has a chance encounter with Ena, who hands them their grandfather’s Kinship Stone and the Rathalos egg. At the same time, the Hunters are looking for a Rathalos as there is a legend about one called Razewing Ratha. This monster possesses the Wings of Ruin which can cause untold destruction with a beat of its wings. This event causes the Rider and Ena to go on an adventure to hatch the egg and figure out the cause behind all the strange events occurring across the world.
The adventure of Monster Hunter Stories 2 is highly entertaining with a clear focus on its narrative thanks to a strong cast of likable characters. You meet many throughout the game, like the mascot character Navirou and Ena, who accompany you. The narrative is also supported by a great localization that adds character and charm to the dialogue. On top of that, the voice acting, available in both English and Japanese, is impressive no matter which you choose to use. Furthermore, the soundtrack only compliments the audio design with some of the best battle tracks from the series.
Visually, the game looks absolutely beautiful, from the anime art style and character models to the lush and vibrant environments you see throughout your adventures. Additionally, much like Monster Hunter Rise, Monster Hunter Stories 2 pushes the Switch to its limits. In some scenarios, the game runs at an uncapped framerate that can dip below 30FPS and go up to 60FPS. The dips aren’t too noticeable, but I would have appreciated it if the framerate was capped to 30.
The adventure is lush with beautiful locales while traveling outside of villages. Exploration is a significant part of the adventure, and the scale of these areas provides a true sense of discovery as you make your way further from home. You can travel by foot or riding on the backs of a Monstie who can use skills such as swimming or climbing.
There are many Monsties to collect, including some of the most iconic in the series. To add one to your roster, you must hatch them from eggs found in monster dens. Depending on the eggs’ weight and smell, the resulting Monsties can have better stats and genes that make up their skill-set. The Rite of Channeling also allows one Monstie to inherit genes from another, learning skills that they normally can’t. This opens up experimentation and adds a lot of depth to how you build your team.
During the quests, you’ll encounter monsters you have to fight with your Monstie and other characters who join your party. Of course, you mainly have control over the actions your Rider can perform as the other party members are AI-controlled, but this was never an issue. Still, you can order your Monstie to use a specific skill during that turn or swap them out with another Monstie in your team.
You also need to learn enemy attack patterns as basic attacks, and some skills are divided into three types, Power, Technical, and Speed. This works as a Rock, Paper, Scissors mechanic when the enemy targets your Rider or Monstie for a Head-To-Head confrontation. Winning these boosts the Kinship Gauge, and if you and a Monstie use attacks of a similar type that wins the Head-to-Head, it becomes a Double Attack, which greatly boosts the Kinship Gauge. You can use the Kinship Gauge to perform skills, or you can ride on the back of your Monstie and perform Kinship Attacks. These are over-the-top cinematic finishers that deal a lot of damage depending on the level of the Kinship Gauge.
The battle system becomes even deeper when with the incorporated weapon types. Your Rider can take three weapons with them into combat which you can switch out during a fight. In addition, some weapon types are more effective against certain monsters or parts of a monster offering a good amount of strategy when taking down monsters which feels satisfying in execution.
While the combat is turn-based, the game also has plenty of elements found in mainline Monster Hunter titles, such as the ability to craft weapons and armor from materials collected from fallen monsters. I ended up grinding and completing main and subquests for hours during my playthrough, as the game provides an addicting game loop with a substantial amount of content. There are even Co-Op Quests that you can take on with local friends or online. Still, you can take these on “Solo” with an NPC joining you if you want, with more content promised soon.
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is an amazing JRPG that offers an exceptional monster collecting experience combined with a great story. The added narrative doesn’t lose focus on what makes the Monster Hunter series so addictive and only enhances the experience. This game successfully built on the systems present in the original and improved them for a brand new adventure. While the performance can be questionable, I enjoyed every second of my time exploring the world with my Monsties by my side.
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