Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin review for Nintendo Switch, PC

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also On: PC
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Medium: Cartridge / Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: Yes

While Capcom certainly hasn?t been afraid to change up the traditional Monster Hunter formula over the course of the last two decades, it would be hard to argue that there was any greater change in design than the one presented by Monster Hunter Stories, which originally launched on the Nintendo 3DS roughly 4 years ago. Eschewing the normal action-focused gameplay the series is known for, Monster Hunter Stories presents the world of Monster Hunter as a charming RPG with Pok?mon trappings, wherein the player character would collect various ?Monsties? comprised of popular series monsters like Rathalos, Jaggi and more, and create a team of monsters to battle it out against enemies in turn-based combat. 

I was pretty fond of the original 3DS release when it launched, and I?m happy to say that I?ve been enjoying the sequel, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, even more than the first. Top-to-bottom it?s a better playing, sounding, and looking game than the first entry making it one of my favorite RPG?s so far this year. 

The core formula of Monster Hunter Stories 2 hasn?t changed a great deal from the first. As the lead character in the story you?ll be gathering up monsters by hunting down eggs, hatching them, and creating a small party of monsters that you can switch between on the fly, whether in combat or on the field. Each monster will have a specific attack trait, whether that be Power, Technique or Speed, and that plays into the Rock/Paper/Scissors style of combat that was also featured in the first game. 

Combat plays out with you and your monster in a fight with up to three opponents, which are encountered out in the field by running into them, thus triggering a fight. Before you issue commands, you can swap both weapons and monsters, and you can have up to 6 monsters in your field party. If an enemy is targeting you or your monster (displayed by a line connecting you and the enemy) then you?ll want to make sure you choose the correct counter attack. Doing so successfully will trigger a head-to-head moment, where you can dish out additional damage and also help fill your Kinship gauge. If you and your monster choose the same type of attack, you?ll trigger a combo that will greatly fill your Kinship gauge. Once full, you can use that Kinship gauge to hop on your monster, allowing you to attack together or trigger a special, powerful Kinship move. 

The type of weapon you use also matters, as each monster is vulnerable to at least one specific type of weapon. Again, there are three categories for this as well, and just like your monster roster you will swap between those weapons in-between turns. Monster Hunter Stories 2 also expands the number of weapons from 4 to 6, giving you access to Great Swords, Bows, Gunlances, Sword & Shield, Hunting Horns, and Hammers.

If you encounter a larger monster that has multiple target areas to break off parts from, you may find yourself needing to switch between weapons pretty often. Thankfully, there is a quick swap function for both weapons and monsters, making the process of changing between these things pretty painless. The only real improvement I could see here is the ability to eliminate some of the animations involved, which do get a little tiresome after a while. Thankfully, you can at least speed up combat animations to 3x normal speed, which does help alleviate some of my issues with this. 

Other familiar features for returning players will be crafting armor and weapons from gathered monster parts, and collecting eggs found in Monster Den locations in the field. You?ll also still be able to channel monsters into other monsters, bringing back the gene system from the last game that allowed you to make unique blends of monster abilities and traits as you try to customize your core team. You can also gather various field items like herbs, bugs, monster bones and so on, which will allow you to craft consumable items provided you have the recipe to do so. One small upgrade compared to the first game is that field gathering is pretty much instantaneous, just walk over the item you want and tap the button to pick it up, without needing to pause and wait through a small animation or pop up window. 

The story of Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin was also more enjoyable for me than the first game. You?ll get access to a number of non-playable characters and their special monster that will accompany you into battle at different points in the story, with one NPC in particular sticking around throughout pretty much the whole game. Unfortunately Navirou, the felyne companion from the first game also returns, and felt a little more overbearing during cutscenes than he was in the first game. 

As mentioned at the top of the review, the overall look and sound of Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is a vast improvement over the original 3DS game. The visuals are crisp and colorful, the monster and NPC designs are fantastic, as are the weapon and armor visuals. Yes, the framerate does tend to dip here and there (especially noticeable during cutscenes) but overall I think Monster Hunter Stories 2 runs fairly well. It also sounds amazing, the soundtrack is wonderful and quite memorable overall. Even the English VA work is really well done, making this feel like a more engaging, story-focused experience than the original franchise entry. 

Multiplayer also returns in Monster Hunter Stories 2, but I personally had no luck getting into it prior to release. In addition to the ability to compete against other players in direct combat, you can also pick-up new co-op missions from the Quest Board, and you can create lobbies for other players to join you to tackle more difficult monsters. 

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin launches this Wednesday for the Nintendo Switch and PC, and I?d wholeheartedly recommend checking it out when it does. There is a demo available now if you?re wanting to give it a go before purchasing as well. It?s certainly one of my favorite Switch games of the year so far, and an excellent RPG altogether. Even if you?re not the biggest Monster Hunter fan in the world, I think you?ll find the unique monster gathering mechanic to be quite addictive, making this a hard game to put down. 

Note: Capcom provided us with a Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: A-