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Monster Hunter Stories Review

Monster Hunter Stories Review – Written by Jose Vega

Product provided for this review was done by Nintendo.

Monster Hunter… known to be a series where players team up to take down monsters that would normally tear them apart. It’s one of Capcom’s profitable franchises and is been going strong. A spin-off of the series titled Monster Hunter Stories, was released in Japan last year to great success. Its success would lead to an animated adaption called Monster Hunter Stories Ride-On. A few months later, Capcom brings the game overseas. Now that it’s released, does it carry the tradition that the main series has always had?

Let’s start with the story. The story is set in Hakum Village, an isolated place where riders coexist with monsters. You play as Lute, a child living in the village until a monster infected by the Black Blight attacks the village causing much tragedy. Now much older and having earned the right to be a Rider, Lute must venture the outside world, alongside his companion Navirou to seek out and befriend monsters known as “monsties” and find a way to deal with the threat of the Black Blight.

The story is basic but easy to get in to. Most of the stuff can be a bit predictable but it’s not in a level that’s considered bad. It’s more light-hearted but it does have its dark moments. Personally, it kept me intrigued and I wondered how things turn out so the story is a positive for me.

Monster Hunter Stories is a departure from the main series in terms of its gameplay. For starters the game is an RPG adventure. As a Rider, you battle monsters, explore Dens to steal eggs, hatch eggs and train Monsties to make them stronger. The game splits between two sections: Field and Action. On the field you can explore and do many things like travel to towns, find items, accept side quests and so on. It’s standard stuff. Sometimes you find eggs in Monster Dens and you head to towns to hatch them. In turn you can choose up to 6 Monsties to have in your party, similar to Pokémon. But you only have one to have with you and you can change at any time. Monsties also have skills that help in various areas. With Quests, they come in two varieties: Story and Side Quests. Story Quests are accepted automatically and they’re needed to continue the game. Side Quests however can be done anytime and they depend on the request. They can be accepted via bulletin boards or by the NPCs you meet in towns. Completing them nets you money and experience, which can be used to buy gear and strengthen your party.

Battles however are where the game differentiates from the main series. The combat is traditional RPG-based with you and your monsties fight opposing monsters, sometimes up to 3. You can attack, choose a kind of attack and see what happens. You can also choose Skills to have your character do various things. As you battle, you have access to three kinds of attacks: Power, Speed and Technique. The game follows a rock-paper-scissors on how battles go with each type having an advantage over another. Sometimes using some attacks can result in combos dealing more damage. Getting the advantage in battle is a necessity especially for your side because you get a boost in damage and kinship. The fights also have quick time moments, depending on the monstie, where motions or button presses are needed to win the fight and deal damage. There’s a lot to do and they help make the fights feel intense.

Speaking of which, the Kinship Stone is an important feature. As you battle against monsters and succeed in clashes, the kinship gauge fills and when it’s full, you can ride on your chosen Monstie boosting your attack but making you susceptible of falling off if you fail too many clashes. Succeeding levels up the Kinship and when the time’s right, your monstie can let off a powerful Kinship attack that can deal major damage, especially in boss fights. It also has a secondary use and it can be leveled up so you can be able to befriend Monsties of higher levels and rarities. The game has its fair share of boss battles with many having more than one section to attack. Focusing on each part and taking it down can help make the battles less stressful.

Another important feature is Monster Genes. Each monster has a 3×3 grid that contains various abilities. To add them, you can channel genes from one to another offering a plethora of different combinations. Matching three of the same kind causes a Bingo effect that boosts the Monstie’s stats. It provides unlimited possibilities for your Monsties to have all sorts of abilities and advantages, adding more to an otherwise huge game. Your player character can also be customized with various weapons and armor. With armor there’s a lot of different kinds. Weapons however, you are limited to four: Greatsword, Sword & Shield, Hammer & Hunting Horn, each with advantages and disadvantages. They can also be upgraded in exchange for money and materials just like in the main series.

All of this adds up to a game that offers a lot for your money’s worth. The game will take you a really long time, upwards to around 40-50 hours if you plan on completing every story and side quest. So there’s a lot to do and there’s more even after beating the game. You can also battle other players either via local, online or by Streetpass so you can put your skills to the test against others. The game is a wonder to look at. It’s presentation is to the point with each area being different to set themselves apart whether it be the plains, inside a volcano or even on a tropical island. Characters are expressive more in scenes where they talk with Navirou and the main character being very expressive. Cutscenes are good as well. The monsters are faithful to how they look in the main games with the Monsties being cute. Music is good to listen to and can get you pumped, especially in battles. There’s no voice acting but the cast like Navirou speak in a gibberish tone. It’s all right since their expressions can pretty much speak for them.

If there were any negatives, I’d say that the game doesn’t have multiple save files like in the main game. There’s only one file and if you want to try again and start differently, you got to delete it. In addition there isn’t much else in terms of post-game content aside from a tower you must trek making the replay value stagnant. Sometimes the game can get hard but grinding and leveling up can help. Like most Nintendo games, Monster Hunter Stories comes with Amiibo support. Tapping Amiibo from this game can net you bonus items and materials that can help with your quest. However they are only available in Japan and Capcom hasn’t decided on whether they’ll bring them overseas. Thankfully they are region free so if you are lucky to get them, they can be usable.

Overall, Monster Hunter Stories may feel like a Monster Hunter game but it offers a different experience. With RPG elements thrown in along with the ability to hatch and train Monsties, it offers a lot. The presentation is solid, the challenge is there and though there are some faults, Capcom did a stellar job providing a game that anyone can jump into. For anyone that’s new to the Monster Hunter series and want a first hand experience, this is the game for you. Be prepared to spend hours upon hours on this as once you start, it won’t stop until the journey is over. This game is a journey that’s truly well earned.

I give Monster Hunter Stories a solid 9 out of 10. It’s worth the purchase and you will not be disappointed.


Metroid: Samus Returns Review

Metroid: Samus Returns Review – Written by Jose Vega

Product provided for this review by Nintendo.

It surprises how in one year a franchise can go from having an uncertain future to a ray of hope. Last year, Nintendo released Metroid Prime: Federation Force to commemorate the franchise’s 30th anniversary. It bombed, bringing with it a cloud of uncertainty and worry that Metroid won’t have much of a future. That changed in E3 2017 when Nintendo announced not only a sequel to Metroid Prime 3: Corruption but also a reimagining of an old classic. Metroid: Samus Returns is a retelling of Metroid II, released for the Game Boy in 1991. Did Nintendo learn their lesson from Federation Force and delivered something that would bring the franchise from the brink of death?

Since Samus Returns is a retelling of Metroid II, the story follows exactly as the original. Chronologically, it is set after the events of Zero Mission, the Metroid Prime series, and Federation Force. In the year 20X5 of the Cosmic Calendar, the Galactic Federation dispatches a squad of elite soldiers to investigate SR388 only for them to disappear. Upon receiving info, the Federation realizes that the Metroids would continue to pose a threat to all life in the galaxy. By unanimous decision, they contact Samus Aran with one simple objective: Travel to SR388 and exterminate the Metroids once and for all.

Unlike the original Metroid II, the game delivers the plot in style. There’s impressive artwork that details the events, setting up the game with great music to back it up. I’m happy this game provides something that sets things up. But once the game begins, the story takes a backseat until later on but it won’t stop anyone from enjoying this experience.

Metroid: Samus Returns is just like the original but the gameplay has been streamlined, following later entries in the series like Super Metroid, the Prime series, and Metroid Fusion. If you’ve played any of the games then you will feel right at home. They feel familiar, refined and just so satisfying. Samus still has access to most of her skills & abilities but there are a few new ones that give her some needed leverage. You can shoot in all eight directions but you can also go into a precise aim with the L button. Useful if players wish to use precision to shoot down enemies. In addition, there’s the Melee Counter. Many enemies will rush in to deal damage to you but with the Melee Counter, you can parry the rush and follow up with a damaging blast. It’s especially useful in fights against Metroids, as they lead to a cool cinematic where Samus goes in and deliver multiple missiles at them. I find it to be extremely useful, helping the flow of the battle and at times can turn it to your favor. However, expect to use it a lot. This game is a challenging one. Samus also gets access to Aeion, an energy source that adds additional abilities to her Power Suit, such as the Scan Pulse and Lightning Armor. They do take up energy but the unique skills offer Samus various functions to help with her exploration.

I mentioned that Metroid: Samus Returns is challenging and it’s no exception. The game will put your skills to the test as you travel through eight different areas within SR388’s confines and wipe out the Metroids. Like in the original, there are Metroids and they can evolve becoming more dangerous with powerful attacks, forcing you to plan and strategize to ensure survival. Metroids are also needed in order for the player to advance further down. New to the game is a Chozo gate that shows how many Metroids that need to be eliminated before you can progress. If you played the original, you get the idea. However, unlike the original, the remake also adds a few challenging bosses. This helps add a bit of variety and it’s better than going from one area to another taking down Metroids. Samus Returns can take around 6-10 hours, depending if the player wishes to collect all the items and upgrades. Yes. It isn’t Metroid without collecting and the game has plenty. The map thankfully details where the item can be but finding it will require skill from the player. Save points are aplenty along with recharge stations for health and weapons. Elevators are used for Samus to head up or down and if that isn’t enough, there are also warp stations. Warp Stations are useful to travel to an area real fast. Load times are minimal and acceptable at best, around 8-10 seconds.

As far as the presentation, the graphics are a big improvement compared to Federation Force. Being able to play as Samus is satisfying and she controls real well. The locations, characters, enemies and bosses are really detailed and expressive. Music in the game is amazing. Some of the songs are remixes from previous Metroid games but it doesn’t matter. They are just awesome to listen to. There isn’t much in terms of negatives but I feel the game is real challenging. In fact, Samus Returns is harder than the original Metroid II but it’s a good kind of challenging. It shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the game. Metroid: Samus Returns is awesome and I am happy that the series has a chance to shine once more. The game is also compatible with Amiibo. Scanning either the Smash versions of Samus or Zero Suit Samus can net some added firepower but scanning either of the new Amiibo will unlock some additional content after completing the game such as concept art and a harder difficulty mode. I am bummed that a harder difficulty mode is locked behind a figurine but I wish that Nintendo would give those that can’t get the Amiibo an option to unlock it without having to waste money for it. Replay value is very high if you want to complete it 100% with the fastest time, just like in every Metroid game.

What else is to say regarding Samus Returns? For a remake, it is a big step up from the original, offering a challenge while providing new features that add to the experience. It follows the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” to a T. It delivers in so many ways and personally, it seems that Nintendo got the message and realized they dropped the ball. Federation Force nearly brought the Metroid franchise into uncertain doubt with many say that there’s no hope. Nintendo proved them wrong and delivered a game that is awesome on all fronts. Samus Returns is an immediate recommendation and I hope Nintendo sees the demand for more Metroid. If you haven’t gotten this game, do so now! You will not regret it.

I give Metroid: Samus Returns my highest rating ever… 10 out of 10. It earns my Seal of Approval and this game is a DEFINITIVE MUST BUY!