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Hitting consoles and PC this June, Monster Hunter Stories is looking like a must-have for JRPG fans

Originally released on 3DS, Monster Hunter Stories offered players the chance to enter the world of Monster Hunter via the role of a rider rather than a hunter. And that wasn’t the only major change: along with an anime visual style, it was also more story-focused and featured turn-based battles. Now, some seven or so years later, it’s gearing up for a release on PS4, Switch and PC, remastered and enhanced for modern audiences.

Monster Hunter Stories begins with three young friends, all with ambitions of one day being monster riders, making a discovery: an egg which they hurriedly encourage to hatch with makeshift ‘Kinship Stones’. The monster inside – a cute, newborn Rathalos – instantly takes a liking to you. The lives of the trio take a turn for the worse when they arrive back at their village, however. In addition to being chastised for their exploits, they soon witness their home attacked by a Nargacuga that seems somewhat possessed. Your friend Cheval loses his mum, while Rathos gets hurt defending you, falling into the void.

The action then picks up a year later, and it’s the day you realise your dreams of becoming a rider. You need to pass a trial first, though, and in the process you meet Navirou, a Felyne who becomes your companion. Quickly after, you learn of something called the Black Blight, which is probably the reason why the Nargacuga attacked.

And so, following the ethos that with great power comes great responsibility, it becomes your goal to find out more about this threat. You’ll need to develop your rider skills and raise the power of your Kinship Stone to be able to combat it, though.

Monster Hunter Stories body 1
Image: Capcom

Playing through the opening hours of Monster Hunter Stories on PS4 for this preview, it’s clear to see that it’s a charming game which successfully takes the Monster Hunter series in a new direction. This is a Monster Hunter game through-and-through. The monsters you know and love are here, such as Velociprey, Hornetaur, Rathalos and more.

There are lots of familiar elements such as resource gathering, crafting and upgrading gear as well. But here, befriending and raising monsters, affectionately known as Monsties, is the focus rather than slaying them. Though there is a lot of that to be done, too.

Related: The best games like Monster Hunter on PS5

Venturing out beyond the safety of your village, you’ll complete a range of story-progressing main missions while also entertaining the odd sub-quest along the way. But rather than engage your enemies in combat in real-time, you’ll fight alongside your friendly monsters in turn-based battles.

What makes the combat system stand out here is that when attacking, you have to choose to focus on power, speed or technical, with your choice being particularly important if you’re attacking an enemy which also plans to attack you. You see, power beats technical, speed beats power, and technical beats speed. Successfully predicting your opponent’s attack can mitigate damage while maximising your output.

Monster Hunter Stories Body 2
Image: Capcom

There are other interesting features when it comes to the combat of Monster Hunter Stories, too. Kinship earned by attacking enemies can be used to perform a wide range of skills, for example, much like in other JRPGS. And if you play well and raise your Kinship level you can ride your monster, combining your strengths. This allows you to make use of a powerful Kinship Attack, with more damage being inflicted at higher Kinship levels. Throw in things like team-up attacks that sometimes trigger when both you and your monster attack the same target, and combat is surprisingly engaging and fun.

Your Monsties aren’t just useful to you in battle, either. Being a rider, you can also hop on their backs when exploring fields. Each Monstie has a range of unique abilities, making them helpful to you in some way. Volociprey, for example, are great at jumping, so you can use them to cross large gaps and access areas that would be otherwise out of your reach.

And so, to explore more of the world and give you more options in combat, you’ll want to find monster dens and escape with an egg as often as possible. Your success in the game is largely tied to the number of Monsties in your collection, and your work in developing them.

It’s clear from our hands-on time with Monster Hunter Stories on PS4 so far that it’s going to be a treat for both Monster Hunter and JRPG fans. Its 3DS roots are clear, but the visuals have been nicely tidied up and there are seemingly no performance issues to worry about. In any case, what really matter here is the gameplay, and it still shines.

Monster Hunter Stories launches 14th June on PS4, Switch and PC.

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