Monster Hunter: World has been one of the most popular games in the past few weeks. Besides overwhelmingly positive reviews, there has been one other trend among games media regarding the newest entry in Capcom’s monster hunting franchise. Writers such as Waypoint’s Austin Walker and IGN’s Lucy O’ Brien have written about how repeatedly killing monsters can sometimes feel aimless and how that aimlessness, as well as the detail of the monsters suffering, can make some players feel guilty. It may seem like these players should avoid the franchise altogether despite still having some interest, but there is one game taking place in the same universe which can be played as an alternative option. That game is the often overlooked Monster Hunter Stories on the Nintendo 3DS (also now on smartphones in Japan).
Friends Over Foes
In this RPG spin-off, rather than taking on the role of a hunter, you become a rider, an individual who bonds with and rides monsters via stealing monster eggs from nests. The hatched monsters are called monsties, derived from “monster” and “bestie,” while the rest are still just called monsters. These riders come from a few select, secret villages that developed separately from the rest of the world, and over time, they learned how to communicate with monsters through use of the kinship stones — their symbol, which allows them to bond with their monsties both mentally and emotionally. Riders not only battle wild monsters besides their monsties, but they also battle other riders as practice and in tournaments. Although you are still killing monsters out in the field, it looks more similar to a fainting Pokémon and likely won’t make you feel the same way as in World.
Less Graphically Impressive, but Also Less Graphic
The art style of Monster Hunter Stories is reminiscent of Level-5 games such as Ni No Kuni and Yo-Kai Watch in contrast to the more realistic-looking graphics of its high-definition counterpart. It has a more cartoonish look and kid-friendly tone as well as an “Everyone 10 and Up rating rather than a Teen rating. This is due to all the main characters being kids — similar to the 10-year-old kids running around the Pokémon world — and because the game contains only some crude humor and fantasy violence as opposed to the blood, mild language, and use of alcohol in World. Although the gameplay still largely consists of killing monsters, you won’t see them limping, drooling, or displaying much visible damage other than their health bar, provided that you had seen the same monster previously. If you don’t have a problem seeing Pokémon faint, then you shouldn’t have a problem taking down monsters in Monster Hunter Stories.
A Better Story
Although Monster Hunter: World isn’t Monster Hunter’s first attempt at having a story, it is the first in the series to have a more Western-inspired cinematic narrative; however, the story doesn’t do much to enhance the experience, and at points, it can even feel unnecessary. As you may have guessed from the name, Monster Hunter Stories puts an increased significance on story, and although it’s still not as thought-provoking as it could be, it still pulls off a better execution than Monster Hunter: World. The story of Monster Hunter Stories is one you would likely see in an anime series aimed at children, such as Pokemon or Digimon, as well as the game’s own direct anime adaptation, Monster Hunter Stories: Ride On!, with themes of friendship and treating monsters as more than just tools. The characters in Monster Hunter Stories can also be more interesting than those of Monster Hunter: World, and they are full of personality. If you enjoy the story enough, it can even help make you care about them more. It might be clichéd and not the deepest or most complex JRPG story, but it can be more entertaining and feels more necessary than that of Monster Hunter: World
You Still Get a Cat Companion
While he can’t be customized to the same degree and has a rather odd appearance when compared to other felynes, Navirou is a helpful sidekick in Monster Hunter Stories. Navirou provides information on monsters in battle and also tells you the strength of the resulting monstie when stealing monster eggs. He also happens to have a rather peculiar backstory, being more than just your sidekick for the sake of having one. He may not be as customizable as the palicoes of Monster Hunter: World, but he does get a handful of costumes, including crossover DLC such as Majora’s Mask and an Umaru-Chan outfit.
Plenty of Content to Keep You Satisfied
Monster Hunter is no stranger when it comes to having a prosperous amount of content, and Monster Hunter Stories is no different. Other than a main story campaign which clocks in at around 50 hours, Monster Hunter Stories also includes high rank quests and monsties, online battles, two post-game challenges, and as a series of tournaments in which you can gain new armor sets, weapons, and monsties. Additionally, Monster Hunter Stories continues the Monster Hunter tradition by having an abundance of free DLC content which includes (but is not limited to) new quests, monsties, and tournaments. If you enjoy what the game has to offer, you may keep playing it for quite some time.
So if you’ve grown tired of feeling guilty about killing monsters but still enjoy seeing the monsters as well as the world, then give Monster Hunter Stories a try. While it may not have the graphical fidelity of Monster Hunter: World and is currently exclusive to Nintendo 3DS in the West and smartphones in Japan, it can provide a satisfying alternative to its popular counterpart. Monster Hunter Stories is available on Nintendo 3DS both physically and digitally in North America and Europe. A free demo of the game is also available to download on the Nintendo 3DS eShop.