Yo, Yo, Yo-kai Watch!
Yo-kai are everywhere, Causing you problems messing up your hair, They’ll trip you up, give you a flat tire, Or make your socks go missing in the dryer.
Yo-kai make mischief anywhere, And you may not even believe they’re there, But let me introduce you to my friend, He’s found a way to connect with them, He’s got a…
Yo-kai, Yo-kai Watch
He’s going to build a supernatural entourage
He can talk to the spirits
He doesn’t have to fear it
And they’re always going to hear it
Cause you know he’s got a Yo-kai Watch
Ahem, now I got that out of the way… the latest Japanese phenomenon from Level 5, YO-KAI WATCH, which has sold over 10 million copies worldwide so far, is finally heading to Europe next week. Nate lives a fairly peaceful life for a 11 year old boy, he goes to school, plays with his friends, and catches bugs for his Summer project. His world is suddenly turned upside down that one day in the woods, now he can see all these mischievous beings known as Yo-kai. What’s worse is that there is an unnerving power which is increasing their disturbance in the Human Realm.
Will YO-KAI WATCH be inspirited for success, or will it stink more than a Cheeksqueek? Find out in our in-depth review, after the break!
Nintendo 3DS Family Systems
Developed by Level-5
Published by Nintendo
Released: 6th November 2015 (NA) 29th April 2016 (EU)
Review copy provided by Nintendo
Screenshots/Art Courtesy of Nintendo
YO-KAI WATCH follows the story of Nate (or Katie, should you choose the female option), a young boy who resides in the town of Springdale. While his friends are showing off their work for their Summer projects, Nate realises that he hasn’t even started yet, so he decides to set off and do the same project, catching bugs. While searching for bugs at Mt. Wildwood, he is disappointed that he has yet to catch any rare ones, and thus decides to venture deeper into the woods where, to his surprise, he finds a crank-operated capsule machine that begs him to put a coin in it. That is the moment his life changed forever. After inserting the coin, the machine releases a capsule, upon opening it, a strange being is released, the self proclaimed Yo-kai butler, Whisper. To thank you for releasing him from his 190 year prison, you are gifted with the titular Yo-kai Watch, which allows you to see Yo-kai as well as call up those you have befriended. Whisper also decides to tag along with you, offering you all sorts of useful advice, and acts as your guide in the game. He has become concerned however, there seems to be a much higher level of Yo-ka activity than normal, which could cause some serious issues within the human realm down the line. But just what are Yo-kai?
Yo-kai are mysterious beings not of the human realm, most people are unable to see them with the naked eye, but they are there. Yo-kai are essentially the embodiment of human emotion, and are often the cause for many problems they encounter on a day to day basis. For example, do you tend to say whats on your mind without any filter? There may be a Tatletell about. Perhaps you just can’t satisfy that hunger? Hungramps will do that to you. Did you forget you we reading this review? I bet you’ve become victim to Wazzat. Though they are often pests, they usually coexist peacefully with the humans, and are always up for making new friends. It is your job to befriend as many Yo-kai as you can, uncover the dark forces at work in Springdale, and stop them from taking over the world. One thing which I absolutely love is just how much personality each Yo-kai has. This coupled with their movements, physical appearance, and small voiced excerpts just make them so loveable (mostly). With over 200 Yo-kai to encounter, there is a huge variety of Yo-kai, some of them are cute, some are butch, some are shady, and some are just plain weird looking… for example, Cheeksqueek basically has a butt for a face… seriously!
Befriending new Yo-kai can either be fun, or tedious, this mostly depends one how lucky you are. This is because befriending is completely random for the most part. At the end of some battles, a Yo-kai may approach you and request that you become friends with it. This is mostly a random occurrence, though you can slightly improve your chances by feeding a Yo-kai their favourite food during battle. Unfortunately the game doesn’t give any clue to what a Yo-kai’s favourite food is, so it comes down to mostly trial and error. Fortunately, a lot of quest related battles will automatically get you to befriend a Yo-kai. Once you have befriended a Yo-kai, you will receive a medal from that Yo-kai to put in you Medallium, a sort of encyclopaedia for all the Yo-kai you encounter. While at your house or certain areas of Springdale, you can swap out Yo-kai Medals to put into your Yo-kai Watch to call into battle; you can have up to six medals in your watch at a time.
Seeing how YOKAI-WATCH mostly appears to be a kids game (though there is still plenty to be enjoyed by all sorts of people) I like to view it as a really good introduction to RPG mechanics. If you are a massive RPG fan, then the combat system may disappoint you, but it’s perfect for those who are new to the genre as it mainly focuses on getting to know your Yo-kai, and figuring out how to set up your team well. Most Yo-kai you uncover with your watch will want to pick a fight with you, to be fair, if someone disturbed me while sleeping they would certain deserve a punch in the face. When you begin a fight, a wheel appears on the bottom screen with the six Yo-kai you have assigned to your Yo-kai Watch. The three at the front are the ones doing the fighting, and the three at the back are the reserve, you can spin the wheel at any time during battle to change which Yo-kai are currently fighting. Unlike most RPGs, the majority of the combat takes place automatically. Each Yo-kai has three types of move, and will perform one of them at random during their turn. They can either attack, perform a technique, inspirit an enemy or friend. A Yo-kai’s technique is either a healing move or a element based attack, whereas an inspirit will inflict an effect on a Yo-kai, this can range from an enemy receiving poison damage after every turn, an turning an enemy on itself, and making itself less likely to be attacked. The strategy mainly lies down on how you select your Yo-kai. Each Yo-kai has different attitudes which can affect how they fight, for example, a careful Yo-kai is more likely to guard more, and a stiff Yo-kai is less likely to loaf around. What’s cool is that you can give Yo-kai certain books which can remove or add attitudes, they are especially good if you want certain Yo-kai to stop loafing around so much. There are also different tribes of Yo-kai (eight to be exact) which also affect how they fight. Heartful Yo-kai will mainly heal its fellow Yo-kai, and Eerie Yo-kai focus more on inspiriting its enemies. You can also place Yo-kai of the same tribe next to each other to receive a unity bonus, for example, placing two or three Charming Yo-kai together will increase the speed stat of your Yo-kai while those Yo-kai are summoned.
The combat isn’t completely passive however, as there are certain action which you can do to aid your Yo-kai in battle. Pressing the Item icon will allow you to use certain items on your Yo-kai to either heal them or give them a temporary stat boost, you can also feed enemy Yo-kai some food to try and increase the chance of them befriending you. Sometimes your Yo-kai may receive an ill effect from an inspirit, just spin them to the back of the wheel and press purify, once you complete a short mingle on the touch screen, that Yo-kai will be as good as new. Want to target a certain Yo-kai? Tap the Target icon, throw a pin, and your Yo-kai are more likely to attack that enemy, this can also be used to target certain areas of boss Yo-kai, or to pop wisps for a bonus effect or item. Finally, to perform some incredible damage, wait for a Yo-kai’s soul meter to fill up, then give the Soultimate icon a quick tap. You’ll be presented with a short mini game, such as having to trace three shapes or spinning a dial quickly, once the mini game has been completed, a Yo-kai of your choosing will unleash a devastating attack. Be careful however, as activating a so ultimate move won’t only distract you from combat, but your chosen Yo-kai will also stop attack while charging up the move, which is more than enough to open a window for a fatal attack from an enemy if you aren’t careful.
Every successful battle will net you some money to spend at the various shops, as well as rewarding your Yo-kai with some experience points, which can be used to level up your Yo-kai. Levelling up will increase the stats of each Yo-Kai and may even grant them more powerful moves to use in battle. Some Yo-kai, once levelled up enough, will have a chance to evolve into a much more powerful version of itself. One thing I feel is a nice touch is the fact that you are given an option whether or not you want your Yo-kai to evolve, if you decline, then you will still be given the option the next time they level up. You can also create new Yo-kai though the power of fusion. Some Yo-kai can be fused with other Yo-kai (and even some items) to create Yo-kai hybrids!
Once you become more confident, you can speed up battles to take up less time with a simple tap of a button, though there are some battles which will definitely require your full attention. A boss battle will await you at the end of most chapters (which are presented in an episodic manner), some of these guys can be a real pain and pose was a test to see how well you have bonded with your new Yo-kai friends. This is also where you really want to use the Targeting Pin. For example, one porky fellow will hid his week point with some wooden buckets, so you first need to pin his head until he drops his buckets, then lay a plethora of Soultimates on his bulging belly, oink oink! You definitely don’t want to take these nasties, not only can they perform devastating attacks and inspirits, but they are definitely not interested in befriending some human. Unfortunately, it seems that the boss fights make up the majority of the difficulty in the game as regular battles are won fairly easily.
The town of Springdale is huge, so much so, it could easily be confused for a city (maybe it is a city and I’m just being a bit of a Wazzat). The town/city can be split into six main regions: Uptown, Downtown, Wildwood, Breezy Hills, Blossom Heights, and Shopper’s Row. There are lots of little secrets spread across the area. Aside from finding hostile Yo-kai under vending machines, cars, telephone poles etc., some Yo-kai may be impersonating things like statues or even other people, and they may give you some neat items for finding them. There are also various alleyways, waterways, abandoned buildings, and more where you can find hostile Yo-kai out in the open; these places are great for levelling up and finding some interesting items. While adventuring in Springdale, you will come across many different people who have a mini-quest for you. Some quests just require you to find them certain items, and others may require you to befriend a Yo-kai to inspirit that person, for example, a really popular schoolgirl wishes that people would stop chasing her, so you’ll want to befriend Dimmy who will make her more unnoticeable. Completing these side-quests will net you even more experience points and money, they will also show you a random but humorous cutscene involving Yo-kai. These cutscenes have up to three different endings which result in either Boo, Bingo, or Jackpot, getting Bingo or Jackpot will get you a super special item, which is a very nice touch. Though a lot of these side quests may seem tedious at first glance, I can’t help but feel compelled to complete them to read more into the character who set it for you. It always feels rewarding just being able to help out characters who are facing several problems.
The Yo-kai aren’t the only charm in the game, the charm also comes down to the characters and how they interact with each other. There are definitely points where the writing is smart. For example, if you cross the road at a crossing to many times without pressing the button, a powerful Yo-kai, Snartle, will appear to teach you a very painful lesson. After your Yo-kai have received a jolly good beating, Whisper will recommend Nate that maybe he should be less reckless, Nate will say that Whisper is acting like he is the only one doing it, and when Whisper say’s he isn’t getting the point, Nate just shrugs it off with a ‘Whatevs’. You can even interact with a lot of the NPCs which have very little to do with the story other than just being a resident of Springdale.
From time to time you may encounter Terror Time, a small phase which is powered by the nightmares of children. You’ll most likely be dragged into Terror Time during the early hours of the night, because its way past your bedtime, but it can also occur if the plot progression is being delayed too much. Once in Terror Time, the powerful Yo-kai, Gargaros, will appear, along with a bunch of his one minions, and your job is to get to the door before he has the chance to catch you. At first, Gargaros does not know of your whereabouts, but s soon as he or one of the one sees you, he will pursue endlessly until you are either caught or make it to the door. There are several chests scattered around which contain powerful items, but opening them will only make your escape more difficult.
For the most part, YO-KAI WATCH is bright and colourful, which once again adds to the charm. While playing, I actually really enjoyed most of the music, especially the theme that plays during boss battles, not only are they reminiscent of older RPGs, but they are catchy and really put you in an energetic move, perfect for kicking some Cheeksqueek butt (or would that be butts). Though the game is mostly aimed towards kids, Level-5 isn’t shy to include some pretty realistic and dark themes. For example, early on in the game, Nate’s parents become inspirited by Dimarelda, this causes them to fight constantly. Nate is worried that it could possibly lead to them of getting divorce, a fear that is unfortunately very real in real life. It’s good to see these more gritty themes as, in a way, the game isn’t being ‘dumbed down’ just for the sake of appealing to younger audiences.
At first glance, YO-KAI WATCH may seem like a cute little Pokémon clone, but once you have delved beneath the surface, it is so much more, it’s a fantastic RPG which can be enjoyed by almost everyone. The game is full of charm, character, and quirkiness, all of which really bring it to life. It’s combat system, though could deem disappointing to some, is incredibly unique and adds new strategy into RPGs, as well as providing a good introduction for those new to the genre. Best of all, the many side-quests, along with the main story, offer 50+ hours worth of gameplay. YO-KAI WATCH is definitely an essential for the 3DS, it’s just a shame that it took several years to finally get English localisation, but the wait was worth it!
If you aren’t interested in RPGs, or if, for some reason, you don’t enjoy quirky games full of personality and charm (perhaps you were inspirited by Dulluma), then perhaps this isn’t the game for you. If you are a fan of RPGs, love quirkiness, and are looking for a game that offers hours of unique gameplay, then we would definitely recommend YO-KAI WATCH for you!
Final Rating – 4 out of 5
YO-KAI WATCH is out now in North America, and will release on the 29th April 2016 in Europe, exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS Family Systems!
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