By: Ashley Quirke
As a huge Pokémon fan, when I first heard about Yo-Kai watch, I wasn’t convinced. I thought for sure it was just going to be a dumb Pokémon knock-off that doesn’t nearly measure up. It turns out that I hadn’t done my research. Believe it or not, Yo-Kai watch actually out-sold Pokémon in Japan in 2014! It’s a big thing over there, and now it’s come to try to take North America by storm!
I impulse bought this game one night after hearing a friend and a gentleman working at EB Games sing praises about it. The next morning I turned it on and away I went. What I’ll say first that that while this game is geared towards children, it’s definitely something that adults can enjoy as well. The game has its heavier moments that I’m not sure kids will be able to appreciate as much as a more mature player would. It also seems that the game is trying to teach is players’ values and life lessons. Such as having to press and wait for a walk signal to make sure it’s safe before crossing the street, the importance of helping others, and that actions can have consequences. This game takes road safety SERIOUSLY. Try crossing the road helter-skelter for a while and you’ll see what I mean. I learned this in-game lesson the hard way.
In Yo-Kai Watch, you are a young student wandering around your home town of Springdale solving problems for others and searching for creatures called Yo-Kai, who are often the cause of said problems. Yo-Kai Watch doesn’t use the same kind of random encounter that Pokémon does, instead, your watch will alert you to the presence of a Yo-Kai as you walk around town. You can then choose whether or not to engage it. If you decide you want to encounter it, you have to play a mini game that involves keeping the moving Yo-Kai within your watch lens for a certain amount of time. If successful, you enter a battle. If you fail, it runs away. Yo-Kai are everywhere and anywhere, from hot tubs to underneath parked cars. You’ll have to look all over to find them all!
Gameplay centers on the player going around town solving various problems – 99% of the time these problems are caused by Yo-Kai themselves, and just going about their life. Every day is a new adventure in this game. There are also side-quests aplenty to keep a player busy if they need a break from the main storyline. While there are some fetch quests, I found for the most part each adventure was pretty unique. It didn’t feel like I was just doing the same stuff over and over again.
The battle system is also pretty different than anything I’ve ever experienced. You battle with up to three Yo-Kai out at a time, but you can have a total of six ready to go. Picture it like a spin wheel. You can turn the wheel at any time during the fight to change which Yo-Kai are partaking, but you can’t make them swap places with eachother. They have to stay in their spot on the wheel, as seen in the picture below.
Battles in Yo-Kai Watch move forward without you even having to do anything, your monsters will just attack on their own without your input, but there are ways you can help out your battling buddies! It’s your job to tell your Yo-Kai when to use their soultimate move. This is a powerful move that is unique to each Yo-Kai species. Some species will unleash attacks that do a TON of damage. Others have status afflicting – also called inspiriting – soultimates that can stop an opponent in their tracks. Once you use a soultimate move that Yo-Kai will have to wait a while to be able to use it again. Also, the use of each soultimate move requires a player help their Yo-Kai charge up by playing a quick mini-game. The quicker you’re able to complete the charging, the quicker your Yo-Kai will be able to use their ultimate move!
Sometimes during battles, your Yo-Kai will be inspirited by the enemy. This means they won’t be able to fight again until you purify them. Purification can be done during battle and involves a quick mini-game similar to the one before using a soultimate move. Your Yo-Kai will be back to fighting fit in no time flat!
Are your Yo-Kai friends low on health? You can feed them to give them back HP. Food can also boost their soultimate meter, and provide other bonuses as well. Also, you can befriend enemy Yo-Kai by throwing food at them. Different monsters like different types of food, so you have to experiment a bit. The more they like the food, the better chance they have of joining you.
In closing, this game is a well-written and witty introduction in to the world of Yo-Kai. I’m definitely a fan, and I look forward to seeing what else this series has in store for us North Americans. If you’re looking for another Pokémon game, you won’t find it here. Yo-Kai gives a fresh take on collecting and battling monsters. Is it better than Pokémon? I’m not sure I can answer that. They’re two very different takes on a similar concept. Is it enjoyable? Absolutely. So get your watches ready and keep your eyes peeled! Yo-Kai can appear even in the most unexpected of places.