Reviews// Yo-Kai Watch

Posted 6 May 2016 13:09 by
Yo-kai Watch, the wildly successful ‘ghost’ collecting game from Level-5 (Ni no Kuni, Rogue Galaxy and Fantasy Life) has finally come West. The third game in the series is due out in Japan this year, so we have some catching up to do!

Mechanically Yo-kai Watch resembles games like Pokémon. You play as young child (boy or girl) who finds, collects and trains entities to fight for rewards and progression. This for me is where the similarities end. You start the game searching for bugs for a summer project and some friends from school tease you over your utter lack of bugs. This goads you to go out and try to find some super-rare bugs. The hunt goes poorly and you find yourself standing beneath a tree behind the local shrine looking at a gumball machine... which appears to be talking to you.

Reluctantly you put money in the machine and when you open the ball a Yo-kai called Whisper appears before you and gives you the titular watch. On this watch is a lens that allows you to see Yo-kai, a meter to detect them and a slot in which to put their friendship tokens that allow you to summon them to battle.

Why must they fight? Well, my fellow future Yo-kai Watchers, some of them aren’t very nice. A swift pounding will usually correct their ways and even make them cordial towards you, enough so that they’ll give you their token for future summoning. There are those that wish to rain down destruction on the human world, these are your boss Yo-kai and usually cap off the episode-like structure of each chapter. The giant creatures cannot be befriended and can be really challenging. All fights in game are real-time affairs that get really heated when you’re swapping your Yo-kai around to make the best of your team, getting them out of battle to ‘Purge’ them of status effects or rotating incapacitated Yo-Kai out of battle.

The story is broken up in to an episodic presentation that begins with a title and ends with ‘To be continued...’ these chunks of gameplay tend to be tailor-made for travelling with your 3DS – if you do nothing else but pursue the critical path each episode will last 10-20 minutes. Obviously this isn’t the ideal way to play Yo-kai Watch because the majority of its appeal is in exploration and creature capture. I’ve filled almost two-thirds of my Yo-kai compendium and I think I’m near the final few episodes and I’ve put an embarrassingly large amount of time into this game.

Visually the game is vibrant and wonderfully solid in its anime style. The city and surrounding environments will be instantly familiar to anyone who has ever watched an anime series set in modern-day Japan. Some of the Yo-kai designs can feel a bit forced, like the designers were trying a bit too hard to stick to the ghost theme, but overall the main cast of Yo-kai are wonderfully designed and excellently written. The localisation team has done a brilliant job with the puns that frequently pop-up.

I obviously really enjoy Yo-kai Watch, but now I’m going to say something possibly controversial – Yo-kai Watch outdoes Pokémon at its own genre in almost every single way. There is far more personality in this than its closest rival, the gameplay feels fresher, the art is beyond superior and having a goal that isn’t ‘be the very best’, but is all about helping people and Yo-kai co-exist elevates it far above Pokémon.

If you like monster collection games but feel that the usual suspects lack heart then I cannot recommend Yo-kai Watch highly enough. It is exactly what you have been wanting from this genre of videogames. It should delight the younger audience as much as the older (but still young at heart) gamers.

I’m now going to go and watch the accompanying anime series.

+ Addictively well paced gameplay
+ Variety of Yo-Kai designs
+ An actual story with following
+ Oozes personality

- We’re already two games behind
- A few Yo-kai designs feel a bit forced to match the theme.

SPOnG Score: 9/10

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