Hands On: Revisiting the story in ‘Monster Hunter Stories’ on Switch

Monster Hunter stories swap
Image: Nintendo Life / Capcom

Capcom is one of the titans of the gaming industry and one of its most successful and powerful franchises Monster Hunter. Still, it’s easy to forget that for years the series was exclusive to one platform holder: first Sony systems and then a stint at Nintendo, starting with Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii. Besides the repeated exclusivity, it took a while to gain a major foothold outside of Japan, and even then it was still impenetrable and inaccessible to many gamers. It was too difficult, demanding, time-consuming, or downright unintuitive – outside of a dedicated group of fans (including this writer), it was largely ignored.

Gradually, oh so gradually, Capcom decided to make the series more accessible. The mainline games started to add more mobility and gameplay styles in the Nintendo era, and weren’t nearly as open to a wide audience as Monster Hunter World and Monster Hunter Rise, but en route to reach more players. The 3DS entries in particular started that push, but ultimately still defeated fighters who dared to reach the endgame; Then Monster Hunter Stories arrived on Nintendo’s small system and offered an alternative, a soft plush toy as an introduction to the series.

An RPG spin-off also made sense: the series has always had downright wacky elements, and the 3DS was home to many of the genre’s greats. A colorful, accessible and cleverly developed game, we loved it in our original review.

That said, many didn’t experience it on the 3DS, although the sequel later landed on the Nintendo Switch and was also excellent, albeit hampered by performance issues. It’s a little surprising that it took so long for this port of the original to make it to Nintendo’s small system; it’s also coming to PS4 and PC. We checked it out and yes, they are definitely Monster Hunter Stories.

Although our full overview will appear in a review, at this stage we’re happy to say that the gameplay is holding up well. Those who played the sequel but perhaps skipped the original back in the 3DS days will still feel comfortable here. The loop of collecting eggs and hatching them for ‘Monstie’ friends is largely the same, as is the rock-paper-scissors approach to turn-based combat. It’s all very gentle and friendly too compared to the main series, as you ally with monsters and only calm those affected by the story’s ‘plague’.

There’s even a ton of items to collect, along with some of the typical Monster Hunter depth in items, gear forging/upgrading, and more. But ultimately the game is so simple that it doesn’t punish you for taking a cursory approach to your hero’s build. If you just want to have a good time and experience the story, you can.

In terms of upgrade offered, improvements for more powerful hardware are generally positive. The advertised feature is voice acting; are fine, but it’s worth remembering that this game is mainly aimed at appealing to young gamers, so expect performances that are almost overly bubbly and enthusiastic – that said, we love the ever-rhyming village chief. There’s a museum mode where you can look at artwork and listen to music, and there’s also a return to online battles (we haven’t quite tested that yet). More specifically, the user interface has been sensibly reworked for single-screen gaming, and visuals are now nice and crisp with an HD sheen.

Graphically it’s clean, but the 3DS origins are very clear. This isn’t a remaster in terms of substantially reworking the visuals for stronger technology, but rather it is polished and luxurious. On a big TV screen it can look a little too simplistic, as the art style isn’t quite distinctive enough to hide primitive lighting, geometry and character designs. However, playing on the portable player is much more forgiving and works very well for this style of play. It’s all very old-fashioned, yes, but the charm of the storytelling and fun RPG-lite approach to exploration and combat suits comfortable handheld gaming; after all, this was originally made for the 3DS.

Those basic visuals also ensure that we get a smooth outing here as well. Performance has the occasional hiccup, but for the most part feels satisfying; honestly, we should expect that, given the source material, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless. Running around in large spaces, the simple effects of some crazy combat moves – it’s all a big improvement over the frame rate drops you experience in the sequel. They all have their own flavor, but we think Stories 2 would have benefited from a similar look and level of performance; however, this scaled-back aesthetic was likely not considered desirable due to the simultaneous PC release.

Our early hours with Monster Hunter Stories on Switch were generally positive. At times it looks and feels its age, so don’t let the ‘remastered’ tag affect expectations too much, but the core game is still utterly charming and enjoyable. The mechanics, while offset by a low difficulty level, also offer enough variety and ingenuity to make the journey interesting. Assembling a team of Monsties, mastering battles and trying out crazy ‘Kinship’ moves is still a fun, and we’re looking forward to seeing how the rest of the game holds up.

Excuse us, we have a family-friendly hunt to do.

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Monster Hunter Story Collection

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