‘Monster Hunter Stories’ Proves There’s Still Life Left In Nintendo’s 3DS – Forbes
Given my usual propensity for everything retro, it figures that my very first Monster Hunter game is one that, had it released back in the early 2000s, would have felt right at home next to Dreamcast classics like Grandia II and Skies of Arcadia. Bright, colorful and appealing in all the ways that keep me coming back for more. Maybe that’s why I’m enjoying it so much, but it isn’t just serving to scratch that modernized retro itch; this little powerhouse game is also showing that there’s still plenty of life left in Nintendo’s aging handheld.
Even though I’d have preferred Capcom’s cute take on its long-running beast-hunting series be unleashed on the more powerful (and all but abandoned) PlayStation Vita, the general appeal transcends console horsepower. Though on that note, I find it endlessly fascinating how successful Nintendo’s DS—in all its interesting upgrades, colors and flavors—has been and continues to be in 2017. In a way, its monumental run parallels that of the original Game Boy’s, a sustained rise to excellence through an endless parade of iterations and variants. The 3DS was initially released in 2011 and, against all odds and market predictions, is still receiving quality games worth playing. Even though the aforementioned and relentlessly charming roleplaying title first hit Japan back in 2016, the excellent localization of Monster Hunter Stories is case in point.
As far as I can tell, the surprisingly deep RPG doesn’t require New 3DS hardware to properly operate, which is honestly shocking, because the game looks low-key incredible. Character and monster (or Monsties, as the game adorably calls them) models are well-drawn, full of detail, and almost cell-shaded, with smooth animation and plenty of personality to keep things lively. Environments are sprawling and richly embellished, with draw distances that go on way farther than they should on a Nintendo system that hit stores more than half a decade ago. There is a small degree of nagging pop-in when exploring some of the more vastly expansive areas, namely huge fields with lots of unique geometry, but even so, the graphics engine is ridiculously impressive, especially by portable standards.
Combat is turn-based and moves quickly, relying on an elaborate game of rock, paper scissors where players choose between tech, power and speed options. Studying enemies attack patterns is vital to choosing the right move during battle, and if you time it just right, you can double up for a mega attack with your pet Monstie or even hop onto your beastly companion to unlock more elaborate tactical maneuvers. And speaking of Monsties, you can spend a ridiculous amount of time seeking out and obtaining eggs to hatch, which in turn award you with brand new monsters to raise, fight and level up. It’s one part Monster Rancher, one part circa 2001 Sega action-adventure romp.
And that’s not even mentioning the overwhelming amount of story, side and around-town quests you can participate in. When it comes to dialogue and narrative bits, the translation reads well enough, and even though it can get a little anime-over-the-top at times, I still find myself enjoying the innocent wackiness. I wouldn’t be shocked if, after all is said and done, there’s between 40 and 50 hours of gameplay tucked into this homage to early millennium games. It’s got me unbelievably excited for the upcoming Monster Hunter World, though its cute factor won’t come anywhere close to matching what’s in Stories.
At this point in time, it’s hard to know exactly how long Nintendo will keep the oil burning for its geriatric 3DS. As we’re approaching what has to be the handheld’s inevitable twilight, it’s safe to assume that at some point in the near future, the Switch will probably demand all of the company’s attention (which could be true now, really), and the dual-screen wonder will either gracefully fade into history or receive a weird, non-Switch successor. But for the time being, it’s cool to see that we’re still getting exciting software washing up on these shores.
Disclaimer: Nintendo provided a review code to make this article possible.