I’ve been a Monster Hunter fan for ages. I fell into the series nearly 12 years ago with Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii and instantly fell in love with the unrelenting combat, the intimidating monsters, and the incredibly unique world that Capcom had crafted. With each new entry in the long-running action grind-athon series, though, my passion for it all gets a little weaker. The “hunt, craft, and repeat” formula of the series is engaging, but after so many years of it, it’s hard to get excited about doing that same thing again and again. With Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin on Nintendo Switch, my passion for the franchise is fully reignited thanks to addicting RPG gameplay and a massive focus on world-building and characters that rewards my decade-long dedication to Monster Hunter.
You don’t need to be a veteran of the series to get into Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin — it’s hardly even necessary to play the prior entry in this RPG-ified monster-raising spinoff series. The sequel takes place decades after the first game and sees you playing as the grandchild of Red, the Rider protagonist from the first game who went on to become an awe-inspiring legend. You’re already on a slow but sure path to follow in Red’s footsteps and become a Rider, but your journey gets kickstarted by some sudden and foreboding events. Rathalos across the world are leaving their natural habitats and disappearing to some unknown location, and hunters visiting your village are on a Rathalos-hunting warpath in an effort to extinguish a potential Razewing Rathalos, a monster that could end the world with a flap of its wings.
There was a simple and child-like charm to the visuals and storytelling of the first Stories game, but Wings of Ruin elevates the entire package to a much more refined and legitimate RPG adventure. It carries the bright and endearing charm of modern Dragon Quest into the unique mythos of the Monster Hunter universe, complementing it all with a huge cast of incredibly likable and visually stunning characters. I love the different lens that Monster Hunter Stories 2 puts on this world, too; Monster Hunter games always focus on the trials of the hunter, but this game sees you on the side of Riders, a group of people who choose to live and fight alongside monsters and peacefully raise them rather than mindlessly hunt them.
Make no mistake, though — you’ll still be fighting monsters. Plenty of them, too. Over 100 monsters from the entire franchise are in Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, a number that easily overshadows the monster count of any mainline entry in the series. When you encounter a Tetsucabra or Lagiacrus in the field, though, you’ll be transported to a turn-based RPG battle instead of tackling them in real-time action combat. The combat in the first Monster Hunter Stories was essentially very pretty rock-paper-scissors: You and your monster opponent can use a Power, Speed, or Technical attack. Speed beats Power, Power beats Technical, and Technical beats Speed.
Combat mechanics have been massively expanded on in Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, though. For one, your weapon type plays major importance in battle. Enemy monsters will be weak to Pierce, Blunt, or Slash weapons, but their targetable body parts like tails or poison sacks will have different weaknesses, causing you to constantly swap between your three different weapon types. You’ve also got to keep in mind the stats and attack patterns of your Monstie, the befriended monster you bring into battle. You can swap between a Pokémon-style party of six Monsties at any time during battle, which is key when you need to take advantage of the elemental weakness or attack patterns of your opponent.
There’s even more stuff to keep track of during combat — synchronized Double Attacks with your Monstie, filling the special bar to ride your Monstie and unleash special attacks, combat buddies who bring their own Monsties and abilities into battle, Head-to-Head clashes that reward you for correctly guessing the opponent’s next attack, and so, so much more. I often find myself falling into familiar and mindless patterns when I play turn-based RPGs, but there’s such an exciting array of systems and abilities to keep track of in Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin that combat never, ever gets old.
Exploration is a big part of the game, too. You’ll go into the field, riding your favorite Monstie and searching for opponents, treasure, gatherable items, and dens. Monster dens or rare Everdens are micro-dungeons that reward you with new Monstie eggs. You can take these home to hatch new companions or even cross-breed Monsties to create unique combos with special inherited attacks. The eggs you get from dens are random, but you can search the pile a few times to attempt to find a rarer egg while risking waking up a nearby monster and scoring nothing at all. When I was finally able to track down an egg for my favorite monster, the Lagiacrus, it felt amazing.
It’s great to see how many systems from the traditional Monster Hunter experience translate over into Stories. You’re still crafting armor and weapons, albeit through a simplified system involving monster-specific item points that means you won’t spend hours farming a rare Rathian plate. You also get to use stat-boosting Charms, and classic items like Whetstones and Paintballs take on a new purpose in the RPG landscape of Stories. The cooperative multiplayer that’s so vital to Monster Hunter is even a part of Stories 2, letting you use tickets to take on standalone missions with a friend that task you with exploring special monster dens, gathering multiple eggs and tackling battles together or independently as you explore. There are also 2-on-2 versus battles you can test your mettle in. I couldn’t get my hands on these multiplayer features during the review period, but they seem like one of the biggest ways that Stories 2 manages to keep you playing even after the credits roll on your adventure.
In so many ways, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin on Nintendo Switch is a massive love letter to the series, from the rewarding world-building to the massive monster list and the faithfully recreated mechanics. Any issues I have with the game are super minor — the frame rate on Switch can hitch up a bit during certain cutscenes, the lack of music when you’re exploring is a little awkward, (Who’s ever heard of a JRPG with no dungeon music?) and it’s a bummer that only six weapons from the series are usable even though it makes sense from a gameplay perspective. These are minor, minor issues that hardly detract from the fact that this is a must-play RPG — and a new high point for the Monster Hunter series.
A review code for Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin was provided by the publisher.