Monster Hunter Stories 1 & 2 remasters are looking mighty fine | Hands-on preview

by on May 20, 2024

I didn’t get to play Monster Hunter Stories on the 3DS when it first released, and in fact didn’t even really latch onto the franchise until World in 2018 – but I did review Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin a few years ago, and promptly fell utterly in love with Capcom’s incredible spin-off. I’d heard that both games were mechanically similar, so I didn’t worry too much about missing out on Stories 1 – but now I’ve had a chance to play preview versions of both on PlayStation 5, I’m happy to see how Monster Hunter Stories and Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin complement one another.

It’s the first game, though, that’s receiving the biggest remaster. For a start, the dialogue is now in full English as well as the weird hybrid Monster Hunter language that many of us are familiar with. It makes a huge difference to the storytelling and immersion. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the story focuses on monster riders, who use special Kinship Stones to bond with the beasts they ride (here referred to as “monsties”, rather irritatingly). Without going too deep into the greater plot, the catalyst for the whole adventure is the Black Blight, a mysterious corruption that is turning monsters rampant. So far, so Monster Hunter, right?

Monster Hunter Stories 1

But Stories tells its tale with genuine heart, weaving an exciting tale that primarily focuses on the power of friendship and teamwork. Nothing groundbreaking, certainly, but these are themes that will always be affecting when handled right, and they are handled right here. The voicework and writing are both solid, and the pace feels just so for the most part.

The first game has you heading out into the world looking for eggs to hatch into Monsties that then join your stable and can be ridden into battle or into the wilderness. There’s a bit of a nonsensical mechanic involving collecting egg scraps to make new eggs, which is thankfully ditched in the sequel. Combat is similar across both games though, with Wings of Ruin simply improving upon the base concepts

While you have a choice of several weapons from the greater franchise, the main focus in combat is generating Kinship in order to ride your Monstie and deal massive damage to the target. This is done through a “rock, paper, scissors” system involving Power, Speed, and Technical attacks and abilities. Each Monster you fight has a particular affinity, and you’ll need to identify and counter it maximise your efficiency. It’s a cool system that makes you think about your moves without making anything too complex.

Monster Hunter Stories 1

It’s a system carried over into Wings of Ruin and built upon, though most of what the sequel brings to the table is wrapped up in the visuals and bombastic action sequences when you launch a Kinship attack. Wings of Ruin looked pretty good on the Switch, but on PS5 it looks positively gorgeous with smoother, crisper textures and a higher framerate. Monster Hunter Stories 1 has had a huge graphical boost, too, upping the resolution and adding texture and detail to every scene. It still can’t match the sequel, but it looks much more modern and runs incredibly well.

Elsewhere, though, Wings of Ruin simply adds to the foundations that the first game had laid out. There are more weapons to choose from, a greater number of Monsters to hunt and tame, a bigger, grander story that follows many of the same beats, and the addition of extra party members with their own Monsties and weapon affinities. Who you choose to ride with is important here, though it takes a while before you have much of a choice between them. The sequel once again deals with a corruption affecting the land’s megafauna, this time nicknamed “Rage Rays” by the characters but ultimately doing the same as the Black Blight.

Monster Hunter Stories 1

Having reviewed Wings of Ruin previously it feels odd to preview a new version of it now, but I’m grateful to return to this world at all. The improved visuals make it striking as well as compelling, and even from the first few hours, I can feel myself getting hooked all over again. It just plays so fluidly and brings so much over from the main franchise that I find myself constantly smiling and nodding knowingly, as though the game is sharing secrets and Easter Eggs that only I can appreciate. And I’m not even a “veteran” of the long-running series.

Having played a few hours of each game on PlayStation 5 I can confidently say that fans of the franchise will absolutely adore the remasters of Monster Hunter Stories 1 and 2, and anyone who missed the first game on 3DS should really give it a chance, even if they’ve already played the sequel. Both games are superb and have a lot to offer, even if ultimately the sequel is just the stronger, more involved offering. Either way, this is a pair of incredibly well-made, lovingly crafted, and eminently playable adventures that I’ve no doubt will captivate a lot of new players upon their full release.