Yo-kai Watch is a 3DS JRPG that is known in Japan as being the new torch bearer for the monster collecting games. It has a collectible toy line, several games in Japan, and an anime that are all very popular overseas. This week however the first game was released in North America. Yo-kai Watch has stirred up a lot of controversy pre-release. We will be taking a look at the world of Yo-kai and clearing up some of the concerns of its similarity to Pokemon in this review and showing the new things Yo-kai has to offer. It’s time to clear up all the mystery and confusion surrounding this newly ported title and learn why Yo-kai is a smash hit overseas!
First off, Yo-kai Watch is developed by Level 5 games instead of Nintendo, but is being licensed to help with the US release under its name. Yo-kai in Japan is only on 3DS and Wii U consoles and plans to stay that way. As for it out-selling Pokemon, that is true in the past few years, but Pokemon is still nowhere close to being unpopular. Players really enjoy both and most Pokemon fans consider Yo-kai as a welcome alternative. Where pokemon are just cute creatures you generally collect and befriend, Yo-kai are creatures that cause real world problems and can be completely malicious or innocent. The games do both draw from Japanese culture and folk lore which is often mistaken here for copying, but they are actually really different. Comparing them is like expecting Street Fighter to be like Mortal Kombat, they’re both fighting games but have huge differences between them.
So then what is Yo-kai Watch if not just another Pokemon? Well it’s like if you took every crazy Japanese ghost story, cryptid, and urban legend and stuffed it in a game. Almost every creature is one of these, just made to look colorful and appealing. It’s also more similar to a JRPG than a turn based strategy game like Pokemon. It has the complete checklist for being an RPG and its battle system is real time based instead of the normal turn by turn we see in most 3DS games. It also has a story with different chapters and inserted cut scenes you have to progress through. The best way I can describe it is if you mashed the Tales Of series with Pokemon and then took the cute designs of Harvest moon and dashed some Final Fantasy into it to round it off. It’s weird and it feels great to have in your hands and play.
The story in Yo-kai Watch is told through a series of chapters that happen in your hometown of Springdale. Each day is a small adventure that slowly progresses the over arching plot and has you exploring the town. Everything starts off with you trying to catch bugs to impress your friends and wandering into an off limits area. There you find a Gachapon (capsule machine) and it begins demanding in song you give it a coin. After the coin is given, a cut scene plays and you meet your new Yo-kai butler, Whisper, who then teaches you the basics of the game. Afterwords you go home to find your parents fighting in the next chapter and seek out Jibanyan to help defeat the troublesome Yo-kai. As you help out more with friends who have been inspirited by Yo-kai you learn there’s something bigger going on and you have to help stop it.
The Yo-kai Watch is the most important part of the game. When you are given the watch you are told it is what lets you see Yo-kai and use their friendship medal. The watch also has upgrades you have to get from the watch shop to progress through the game. The base rank is E and progresses up to S. With each new upgrade, your watch increases one letter and grants you access to harder Yo-kai and opens up new dungeons and parts of the map to explore. The watch also has a radar that alerts you to how close you are to a Yo-kai and lets you scan the area to find and fight them.
The gameplay has a lot of things going on like quests, terror time, and collecting. The map for this game is pretty big and has a lot to offer. There are quests and favors sprinkled all over town for you to get experience and items from. Quests usually recruit you to defeat a certain number of Yo-kai that are causing trouble, and Favors are usually a simple fetch quest you can do quickly. There is also Terror Time which causes you to enter a dream dimension while walking through town at random times and is filled with items you can collect and keep by safely making it through the maze to the exit. The Terror side to Terror Time is that in order to get out with your items you have to stealth around Yo-kai guards so they wont call the Oni who will chase you down. On top of all this there is a bug collecting mini game you can choose to do and over 200 Yo-kai to search around and collect as well as evolutions to earn and fusions to make. As an added bonus this game also has a boy and girl choice for main character as well as three save files so you can share this game with others.
Details in this game are also a huge focus, there are even some small details the average player may not notice immediately. There are a lot of little touches like taking your shoes on and off when you enter a house that really make the visuals pop. The dialogue also generally feels like it has work put in to it and the NPCs (non player characters) feel like they could just be regular people rather than robots. As you progress through chapters you will notice NPCs move and have different speech depending on the situation. The audio in this game is also great especially with the addition of each of the Yo-kai saying their name when they’re befriended and the voiced cut scenes have a really great dub. The music is also very traditional Japanese and it really pushes the overall tone of the game perfectly.
Combat in this game is very different than anything I have ever played before. The combat works on a real time system and is almost always a 3 on 3 scenario. You fight with a team of 6 Yo-kai that you can rotate at any time before and in battle by spinning a wheel. After you pick your team positioning and press fight the battle will turn real time and both sides will constantly fight. You must rotate in your healers and use items to keep your Yo-kai going as well as keep track off the item usage cool down time. There are also “soultimate” moves that when powered up require you to do a quick mini-game to do massive amounts of damage to your enemies. On top of all that your Yo-kai can become inspirited by enemy Yo-kai to hurt your battle strategy and you will have to switch them out and purify them by beating a mini-game. Capturing Yo-kai also isn’t really a focus however, you can throw them their favorite food and if it works they will approach you after battle and you can choose to befriend them to receive their medal. Out of battle if you want to heal you must go to a flame marker on the map and talk to it to heal and also save. Lastly there are tribes that your Yo-kai fall into and by lining up tribes in your watch you can earn a boost in battle that can save you during a boss fight.
So who is this game for? Honestly, everyone! This game has blown away my fears and expectations. If you played the demo like me, you know that it was kind of bare bones and worried me but the actual game has given me the same feeling that I had on Christmas morning when I first played Pokemon Blue and Red. I absolutely recommend giving this a shot if you’re an old school game fan. It may have newer graphics but it captures a feeling that has been lost in most games these days.
Let me know how you feel in the comment section below. I’d love to hear if anyone else has tried the anime/demo/game and how it sat with you or ask me any Yo-kai Watch related questions and I will try my best to answer them!