On July 9, Capcom released the sequel to their first Japanese turn-based role-playing game, Monster Hunter Stories, which brings a more cheerful, accessible gameplay experience to the well-known Monster Hunter series. Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin stands alone as a great intersection of a Pokemon-esque gameplay style, with party systems to organize the monsters (called monsties) you collect and hatch, along with the intricate customization and crafting strategies of previous Monster Hunter games, inviting players of all experiences and types to enjoy the story at their own pace easily.
Wings of Ruin is not a direct sequel to the first Monster Hunter Stories game, but instead introduces a world of gorgeous islands and different regions to explore. The created character, a rookie rider with a talkative Felyne sidekick Navirou, must investigate the disappearance of the protectors of the island — the sacred, giant red dragons called Rathalos.
Though the game is more palatable for a wider audience compared to the other Monster Hunter Switch title, Rise, Wings of Ruin presents its own broad universe with great storytelling, beautiful landscaping and the complexities of both its monsties and weapons. Compared to its predecessor, Wings of Ruin better prevents its many quests and hours of fighting from feeling repetitive. With six types of weapons of different damage types (bladed, blunt and piercing), three types of attacks (speed, power and technical) and special moves between the rider and the various kinds of monsties, the combat is so vastly improved that it’s hard to get bored.
Each monster has a set of genes unique to them and their nine slots of abilities to use, and duplicate eggs can be sacrificed to change abilities to create a combination that increases an element or attack type. The type of weapon and armor the rider has equipped affects skills and abilities too, and can be switched out midbattle without losing a turn, which proves necessary in the late-game.
If this sounds like a lot of information, don’t fear — Wings of Ruin successfully pace its introductory tutorials to be easy to follow and reference, rewarding riders with item drops each battle in addition to a 500% experience increase to all monsties in their parties. Because of this, it’s complex enough that those who enjoyed the more recent games, World or Rise, can still feel challenged, but those who haven’t even touched the first Monster Hunter Stories game on the 3DS can successfully navigate through the world with ease. It can be both a pick-up-and-play game, as both its main story — running only 20 hours long — and its side tasks are short, but also one that players can grind for hours to strengthen their party and explore the many regions.
Unfortunately, these upgrades to combat — with additional 30-second cut scenes that cap at 30 frames per second to load into battles — can become tiring to deal with and may result in some players avoiding battles altogether in order to get through the main story regardless of understanding the mechanics. In addition, on release, there have been various issues with glitches during combat, multiplayer functionalities and changing attack elements for higher-level monsties. Furthermore, multiple types of movement require different monstie types to access areas to loot (swimming, climbing, jumping, rock breaking, flying, etc.), but without any monstie equipped with multiple traveling abilities, the six slots allotted for parties feel restrictive as most members will be used for travel rather than combat.
Regardless of these minute issues that may be improved upon in future patches, the latest Monster Hunter Stories entry offers an accessible and rewarding Pokemon-like system of hatching monster loot of different rarities, improvements in combat and customization as well as witty dialogue from the many characters throughout an enjoyable storyline within a beautiful environment. Wings of Ruin is a game that bleeds nostalgia with its pastel aesthetics and anime-like designs yet weaves in complex mechanics, and more than 100 hours can easily be spent on the back of a monstie exploring its rich world.