an ingame screenshot of the player flying on a bazelgeuse over a beach

im going to be real. i never finished monster hunter stories 1. i really liked what i did play of it - i got up to the point of unlocking expeditions, for reference - but around the same time i found out how easy it was to obtain the shiny charm in pokemon sun and moon and instead got seriously into shiny hunting for the first time. i originally got MHS2 as a christmas present a couple years ago along with my switch, but i didn't get around to actually playing it until much more recently.

like pikmin 4, MHS2 became my "play this in bed" game. every night i take my switch and fiddle around with it until i get sufficiently sleepy or pass out altogether. most of the time this results in slow but consistent progress, which i think i enjoy quite a lot more than powering through these games as fast as i can. at the time of writing i've completed the main story and a lot of the postgame of MHS2, but i haven't been able to defeat the "true" final boss due in large part to the frustrating behavior of the AI companions. in the meantime i've been trying to perfect my monsters' genes, which has been a decent substitute for making progress. my "mains" so far are Purrcival the Nargacuga, Uriel the Nergigante, and Hotwire the Stygian Zinogre. The rest of my team currently consists of an unnamed bazelgeuse, molten tigrex, and kirin, though they're "low priority" as it stands.

status pages for the player character, a nargacuga, a stygian zinogre, and a nergigante

some of my "retired" monsters include Tiger the Zamtrios, Delta the Royal Ludroth, and Igneous the Basarios. i've discovered i really, really like basarios, by the way. really all of the monsters i've used have grown on me significantly but i think basarios is up there now as one of my favorites next to, like, dodogama and red khezu. pretty impressive.

there's a lot i really like about monster hunter stories. i appreciate that the battle system isn't just pokemon A Second Time - something that a lot of other creature collectors resort to, much to my disappointment. the rock-paper-scissors-style head-to-head mechanic is simple, but it's fun to learn the attack patterns of monsters as you discover them. breaking parts is also very satisfying, especially with the hammer skills that deal increased damage to them. the kinship skills didn't really interest me at all until i realized how strong they are as defensive tools despite just looking like strong offensive moves on the surface - the ability to heal yourself and skip an enemy's turn is EXTREMELY useful.

i'm... still not entirely sure how i feel about the rarity system? i was pretty upset when i realized that new, rarer monsters would probably just continuously outrank my team and end up replacing all of my favorites, but i'm pleasantly surprised that my 4-star nargacuga is still pretty viable among the 7-star elder dragons with the right genes. it may not be minmaxing but it is fun. and brother. i am living the dream over here

egg hatching screen showing several eggs with different colors and patterns in nests

speaking of, i'm a big fan of the gene bingo system. it's really fun to experiment with builds and mix-and-match moves from different monsters, though it can get a little tedious trying to hatch monsters with the genes you need. i've gotten a lot of use out of fluffderg's book of genes helper and u/DoragonKeiyou's gene planner spreadsheet for putting stuff together in advance.

that all being said... it's definitely not a perfect game. i have a couple personal criticisms ranging from "minor nitpick" to "frequent annoyance:"

ingame screenshot of the player standing in front of a nargacuga in a field of cherry blossoms

would i recommend monster hunter stories 2? probably not for full price, though honestly i'd hesitate to recommend just about any game over thirty bucks nowadays. if you like creature collectors and you can get it secondhand or on sale i would say it's pretty good. i sure enjoyed it.

RATING: 7.5/10

FAVORITE CREATURES: i couldn't actually decide how to pick out my favorites given i really like a lot of the monsters in this game so one of my friends said i should rank them by how legibly i could draw them in 1 minute

six crudely-drawn monsters labeled by name: red khezu, basarios, stygian zinogre, cephadrome, royal ludroth, and nargacuga. each one is filled in with a single solid shape of color

see, i think red khezu is cheating a little because i've already drawn khezu plenty in the past so that one is just normal. basarios is distinct enough in shape and concept that i think hes pretty easy to convey just off of that. stygian zinogre is on like the opposite end of that in being super complex but the horns, face shape, and shoulder plates are all super recognizable. cephadrome could stand to be more stretched out but the boomerang head and fins are there. i'm not going to lie i completely forgot what royal ludroth looked like i could only remember the neck frills. i did not give nargacuga feet. goodbye!