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Monster Hunter: Stories is a delightful surprise.

Having just recently gotten into the world of Monster Hunter with, well.. World (and Iceborne); and subsequently seeing the trailers for Monster Hunter: Stories 2, I was tempted to try out the first game. From the new trailers, and looking up the first game, it almost looked like a legitimate JRPG, and not just a weird cash grab for the IP.

So I looked to see where I could get it and for how much, a Switch port maybe? Nope, it was only listed on the 3DS store. I didn't want to dust off my 3DS, so I almost just said forget it. Until I read a post about it being ported to iOS. So I picked it up there and…

It's great! Turns out the mobile port came with some visual upgrades, and the touch controls were actually a really solid way to experience the game. In the end it was a really polished experience, a real JRPG. While admittedly a bit lighter on the story side than your usual fair, it's no MMO or typical lazy, mobile game non-story. What's there is earnest, cute dialogue, an actual plot with character development, it's really enjoyable.

The gameplay loop is super satisfying, and while there aren't as many creatures to collect, I honestly found it to satisfy the Pokémon fantasy more than any of the recent entries out of that franchise. You battle side by side with one monster of your choosing that you've collected, completely controlling your characters attacks and actions, while having some ability to order your partner to do certain attacks. You build up this kind of bond gauge by trusting your partners move and using something that synergizes with it. Once that's full you can ride your monster to combine some of your stats and, when an opening presents itself, unleash an ultimate move that's unique to each monster. It's a flashy, quick, and surprisingly deep combat system that stayed fun for 40 hours.

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Not to mention the collecting itself. You find monster dens, which are basically mini dungeons, at the end of which is an egg nest. It might be guarded by a large monster, and you can do various things to ensure you're going after specific types of monsters. Once you get to the nest itself you can choose one egg to take with you that will become one of your buddies. The eggs come in all kinds of colors and patterns that correspond to different monsters. But it's almost like a fun surprise present (free of any microtransactions) each time you get one.

And the game is gorgeous. It doesn't have the highest poly counts or texture resolutions, but the art direction is spot on, the game will age well for sure. There's a great use of color, an ample amount of character customization, and all the armor designs are really cool. It'll make you want to craft tons of sets just to get the new looks.

Overall it's a great 8 ~ 8.5 out of 10 little RPG, and I'm super excited for the sequel to blow things out with what looks like a solid budget and PC release. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone looking to fill the void left by GameFreak lately, and anyone looking for a lighthearted adventure to go on.

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