Thank you Nintendo for sending us this game to review!
Yo-Kai Watch was originally released in Japan in 2013 and sold quite well. Australia and North America got their launch at the end of 2015 while Europe was finally able enjoy this game in April of 2016. In the fall of last year, the sequel arrived in two parts: Bony Spirits and Fleshy Souls. Like Pokémon, each game offers different Yo-Kai that are exclusive to them.
Yo-Kai Watch and Pokémon are very similar, but Pokémon is all about catching monsters while Yo-Kai Watch revolves around catching spirits that are only visible with the help of the special watch. At first, your character is not aware of the presence of Yo-Kai and is focused on catching rare bugs for their science project. While travelling deep into the woods they discover an old looking capsule machine and like any child would, they insert a coin and turn the handle. The child (whom you get to name and choose their gender) is then introduced to Whisper, a typical ghost looking Yo-Kai that gives him/her a watch and explains how to use it.
Some Yo-Kai are peaceful and mind their own business while others are more mischievous and cause people to argue, forget, be indecisive, or even lose cell phone signal. While the victims act like they are demon possessed, only the forgetfulness requires direct contact from a Yo-Kai; the rest of the odd behavior is done by nearby spirits. Only a few Yo-Kai are out in the open as many of them need to be located after you pick up their auras on your watch. Your watch will notify you when you’re near a Yo-Kai and you’ll then have to use your lens to spot and track them until you get locked in on their location. They’re usually not happy about being discovered and will pick a fight with you soon afterward. If you fight well enough, they may offer you their friendship and give you their medallion to summon them by. Most of the time you’ll have to get them to like you more in battle by throwing some food that they like their way.
There are many places to search for bugs and Yo-Kai. Be sure to look under cars, vending machines, in the grass, as well as up trees and telephone poles. The higher the Yo-Kai rating, the harder they are to lock in on. In order to see higher level Yo-Kai, you’ll need to have your watch upgraded a few times.
At first, you’ll need to locate the parts needed to upgrade your watch, but after that you’ll have to defeat stronger Yo-Kai to prove that you’re ready. The battle system provides plenty of strategy and variety. Up to six Yo-Kai can be in your party and each Yo-Kai has a certain type/affinity, and when you have the same kind adjacent to each other, you’ll unlock various offensive and defensive boosts. There are other attributes to take into consideration as well and there’s nothing worse than having a loafing Yo-Kai that barely fights.
In battle the Yo-Kai will attack automatically unless they’re too lazy and don’t feel like it. If their soul meter is filled up, you can do a special attack or ability. Activating one of these special moves requires completing a random mini-game. Sometimes you have to tap on falling coins, trace rune-like symbols or simply spin a wheel until it fills up with energy. When an enemy attacks, your Yo-Kai may get dispirited/debuffed and you’ll have to break that curse by completing a different set of mini-games. Those games have you rubbing or tapping away the spell that’s on them. The last thing to look out for is the health meter of your Yo-Kai; you can send them food items to replenish their health. You can only do it occasionally so it’s important to have healing Yo-Kai in your party. If a Yo-Kai falls in battle you can revive them if you have medicine on hand. Thankfully, their defeat is not permanent, as they’ll be revived with one health point after the battle. If all of the Yo-Kai are defeated, you’ll lose the battle.
When you’re not hunting or battling Yo-Kai, chances are that you’ll be in the middle of a story or side-quest. This game is broken down into episodes like its TV show. After completing each episode you’ll be prompted to save and see “To be continued….” Upon finishing a side quest, you’ll be rewarded with some experience, money and/or items. You’ll also get to see a random animated short that lasts a few seconds.
With the silliness that delves into some potty humor, I’m sure kids will find this game entertaining. Adults may want to think twice about the lessons that this game teaches. On a positive note, I like how Yo-Kai Watch encourages honesty and following traffic signals, but it teaches a bunch of other things that makes me want to keep it out of my children’s hands. Some of the story quests involve breaking and entering into buildings at night. Besides encouraging breaking the law, there are many occult references including Yo-Kai possessing people or influencing them to do things out of character. The whole aura sensing and using crystal balls to foresee the future go against Biblical teachings (Deut 18:10) as well.
I have yet to play a bad Level-5 game and Yo-Kai watch is definitely no exception. I have put in roughly twenty hours before completing the game and there is still plenty more to do after the credits roll. The limited voice acting is well done and I like how each Yo-Kai says their name when they become your friend. The cut-scenes are fully voice acted as well. Most of the game is text only though. The background music is good and has a haunted theme throughout the game.
Graphically, the game is well done. The Yo-Kai for the most part look cute and creepy at the same time and that’s a tough balancing act. In your world are several different colored boxes that have items inside and these boxes have an eye on them which is rather weird. When you visit the Yo-Kai world later in the game you’ll have to pass through several gates which also have a huge eye on them as well. With over two-hundred Yo-Kai there’s quite a bit of variety among them, though many of them are stronger with palette swaps to differentiate them.
While I didn’t experience any system crashes I did have to resort to a search engine to find out why I couldn’t climb up a rope ladder once. As it turns out this particular ladder required pressing the joystick to the right instead of the logical direction, up. Other than that, this game is very intuitive and easy to play.
In the end Yo-Kai Watch is a fun game that children will certainly enjoy. Adults should be aware of the potty humor, breaking and entering, and occult references before giving this game to their children though. If that’s not an issue, this game sells for less than $30 for a physical copy on Amazon. The digital version still goes for $39.99.