Monster Hunter Stories Review - Screenshot 1 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

When Capcom released Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin on Nintendo Switch back in 2021, there may have been some that said, "Wait, there was a first game?" It's worth remembering that the original outing of Monster Hunter Stories came towards the end of the 3DS era; in fact, it was released after the Switch had launched in 2017. It'd be understandable, then, if it was missed by plenty of gamers in a way that its sequel — on the current and dominant Nintendo system — was not.

Now we have Monster Hunter Stories on Switch to right that wrong, and to ensure that Nintendo fans have both tales readily available. It's welcome, too; though these kid-friendly RPG outings for the series don't push the boundaries of the genre or even add much to the IP's impressive global reach, they are a pleasant introduction to a franchise that is traditionally rather challenging. This first entry comes with some enhancements, too, but it also feels unabashedly like the 3DS original, which isn't always a good thing.

Monster Hunter Stories Review - Screenshot 2 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Let's make one thing clear, if you're hoping for a major remaster effort from the 3DS title you may be a little disappointed. The additions are voice acting — which is extremely over-the-top, sometimes fun, and occasionally grating — and a Museum area where you can look at nice art and listen to music. Capcom has also tidied some aspects up and it outputs in crispy HD either portable or docked, but this really looks like a 3DS game. We have those familiar angles and sharp geometry, some blurry assets on action shots when viewed on a large TV, and some old-school facial animations and expressions. The latter, by the way, are intensely charming - we found the cutscenes irresistible at times thanks to the cartoony but earnest performances of our virtual heroes. This aspect of the old-school visuals hit us in the feels and had us rooting for the characters.

Still, be prepared to accept simplistic visuals in this one, far more so than the sequel. On the plus side, this game doesn't share the at-times brutal performance issues of its successor, nor should it considering the simplicity of the graphics. That said, our impressions of performance are a little worse than in our preview; unfortunately some later and more open areas do suffer from slowdown, which is more noticeable (or perhaps just more distracting) when docked. This is disappointing, and really shouldn't be the case — we suspect it will be down to the engine used for the original, as it can't be due to graphical complexity — but it's ultimately not too big an issue.

Monster Hunter Stories Review - Screenshot 3 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

So, what is the Monster Hunter Stories experience, for the uninitiated? Well, it's a light and relatively breezy take on the RPG genre for young gamers, or those of us that simply want an easy time while occasionally having our heartstrings tugged at by a cute hero. You explore, you complete a lot of quests, you gather, and you fight. The turn-based combat here uses a rock-paper-scissors format, though there's a decent amount of strategy required that should keep you interested; for each fight you not only need to learn the enemy's patterns, but utilise your team of 'Monsties' to triumph. You get the right combos, 'ride' your Monstie for extra effect, and even pull off fun and outrageous super moves. It's a good time, albeit one that is rarely taxing.

Our only notable criticism of the battle system comes down to some old-fashioned design that necessitates occasional frenzied button tapping or stick waggling. These are a bit of a letdown if you're impacted by accessibility concerns — we couldn't find any way to change these in the settings — and frankly could destroy the famously bad Joy-Con sticks. Break out a Pro Controller or third-party Joy-Cons if you play this one.

The world itself is quite big, all things considered, and such is the game's relatively easy difficulty (until some later boss battles) that you can either push from one narrative beat to the next or spend a few dozen hours hoovering up all the sidequests and challenges. There's plenty of bang for your buck, and regardless of your approach, the simple story nevertheless has its powerful moments. Maybe it was this scribe's over-tired state or nostalgia for the series, but some of the narrative — generated in that cutesy style — was rather touching. Young players, in particular, may get a lot out of the tale told, as themes of caring for and protecting creatures, seeking to promote balance in the world, and empathy are as valuable as ever.

Monster Hunter Stories Review - Screenshot 4 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

It's worth also noting that, as simplified a take on Monster Hunter as this is, it does have plenty of depth for those that desire customisation. There are a lot of items and buffs to find, and as you progress additional layers of meta gameplay come to bear. You not only gather eggs and improve your team of Monsties, but you can undergo the 'Rite of Channeling' to evolve your buddies, or send extra Monsties off on expeditions to gain resources. There's a deep Monsterpedia, a whole lot of crafting options, and various weapons and armour items to obtain. You don't necessarily have to go into these areas too deeply to beat the game, but it's enjoyable for those that want to get into the nitty gritty.

Finally, there is an online battle mode if you really want to get into it - we tried to test for review but no one was online, unsurprisingly. This felt like a minor extra in the sequel, too, but is a nice feature for those enthused by the prospect. It all adds to what is, overall, a sizeable package.

We couldn't escape the feeling, though, even as we enjoyed the game, that the limitations of the original 3DS hardware really stand out and haven't been resolved in a substantial way. It's not just the basic visuals, but also aspects of the design that could and should have been improved. There are small annoyances and bugs, like the strangely laggy response when collecting items while riding a Monstie, or enemy and environmental clipping to occasionally extreme degrees. None of it hurts the overall experience, but it also makes it feel very much like a 3DS port, a throwback adjusted in simple ways and pushed out onto very different hardware.

Monster Hunter Stories Review - Screenshot 5 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Add the surprising performance dips, and what we have is a lovely game full of charm that, nevertheless, shows its age.


Monster Hunter Stories, like its sequel on Switch, has some issues on the hardware; in this case the problems are more related to 3DS-era design hangovers and simplistic porting. Yet when you put these issues to the side, we still have a charming, enjoyable experience either for young gamers or young-at-heart RPG / Monster Hunter fans. You can take or leave all that classic MH depth, and it won't take long to master the battle mechanics, but this is a game with enough silliness and earnest storytelling to deserve its second chance.