Handheld games can be a mixed bag, and no one but Nintendo seems to find consistent success in them. Systems like the PlayStation Go and the Vita suffer from low adoption rates, while the 3DS flourishes. The success comes down to the quality and quantity of games produced for the platform. Yo-Kai Watch is just another example that Nintendo and the team over at Level-5 can add to their long list of successful handheld titles I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of.
Yo-kai Watch released recently in the States after taking Japan by storm in 2013. Like I mentioned earlier, the game was developed by Level-5, best known for the Professor Layton series. I can’t seem to find a reason, other than longer than normal localization time, that it should have taken this long to hit our shores. However, the end result is a beautiful game with so much content.
Your Spirit Guide
You play as a boy named Nate (or a female character version) who goes looking for bugs one day and comes upon this tree where he finds this toy capsule machine. You know, those little dispensers you put a quarter in, spin the knob, and get a gumball or one of those sticky hands. Anyway he puts a coin in the machine and out pops a capsule that contains his new friend and butler, Whisper. Whisper is a Yo-kai, basically a monster spirit. You and Whisper go on adventures using the Yo-kai watch he gives you to detect other Yo-kai that are causing mischief around town and disturbing the citizens.
The adventure is a lengthy one, and along the way are a ton of side quests. Some are quick, like stopping parents from fighting by exposing and defeating the Yo-kai that is inspiriting them. Others are more drawn out, or have several steps that take quite a bit of time to complete. This adds great pace to the game. You don’t necessarily have to speed through the main story. I find myself picking up on the little blue quest flags on the map just to get some extra experience for my team to make them stronger for the next challenge.
Battling Yo-kai is also a huge challenge that can present itself when you want it to in most situations. You have to go looking for the little spirits most of the time, unless it is in an alley, sewer, or what I call a “Boss Area”. These are areas that lend to the story and have monsters chase you around until they run into you, causing a battle to ensue. Defeating your enemy takes a combination of skill and endurance, and a great team of Yo-kai.
The Dream Team
During your adventures you are tasked with befriending all different types of Yo-kai in order to put together the best team. This proved a challenge for me, however, since the befriending mechanic is a little odd. During a battle, you can use food items on your opponent in hopes that they like the bribe, enough so that they are swayed to join you after battle. Herein lies the problem; there is no indicator that what you are doing is actually working. I have tried endlessly to befriend certain spirits, but to no avail.
With over 230 different Yo-kai, befriending all of them could take ages if you don’t know exactly how the “catch mechanic” works. Food and items used to attempt friendship are by no means hard to acquire, since you get money after every battle (my character is like 10 and has over $2,300 in his pockets….). You can go to shops in town, which is helpful for the tireless effort to make friends with every Yo-kai you encounter. Once you have a squad comprised of your greatest fighters, it is time to do battle.
Fight for Your Right to Yo-kai
Your team is composed of 6 Yo-kai who can come from 6 different types. Each type has its own set of abilities and added extra effects to help you out when placed next to creatures of the same type on your team. Normally you fight 3 Yo-kai at once, meaning you get to use your 3 out of 6 on your Yo-kai team. This is why team construction and placement of your spirits on your wheel is important.
To fight, you spin your wheel using different combinations of Yo-kai, depending on the order they are set on the wheel itself. They attack by themselves, doing regular damage based on their attack power. You can also unleash a power attack called a Soultimate. These attacks require your soul gauge to be full, which happens during battle or can refill with item use. When you initiate a Soultimate, you must complete a mini game event on the bottom screen. You either spin a wheel, trace some shapes, or pop some bubbles to get the attack gauge to fill. Once full, your little buddy will unleash a powerful attack or lay a status effect on the other team.
On the other hand, your opponent can inspirit you, causing a Yo-kai on your team to be unable to fight to its full potential. To cure this, you must spin your wheel so the affected monster is not on the battlefield. You can then cleanse them by using a mini game similar to the ones from your Soultimate.
The fights are fast paced, which is great because you don’t have to have a lot of time in one sitting to get a little bit done. I like that I can pick this game up and in ten minutes have 4 or 5 battles done. And you wont run out of locations to battle either.
A City of Life (More or Less)
There is a lot of ground to cover in this game. Countless alleys, beaches, and forests line the borders of the vibrant cityscape. Though there is one deep, dark, hidden secret….the map. The map is very, very hard to follow when doing side quests. When checking on a location for a mission in the quest guide, it will say something along the lines of “Abandoned Tunnel” or “Shopping Alley” and show you a blue marker on THE ENTIRE ZOOMED OUT MAP! This leaves you to guess the location of your objective, and at times is very frustrating. I have heard the map described as “utterly useless”, and that wouldn’t be far from the truth. The map displayed on the bottom screen during gameplay, however, is pleasant to look at. It highlights places of interest in color.
Biking through your surroundings is rewarding. You can pick up little containers that will give you items, trees and grass can yield bugs for your collections, and water is full of fish for quests and funsies. Even when you are not hunting new Yo-kai, there are explorations which expand the game into something more than just battling.
The Final Verdict
Like I stated earlier, I have no idea why it took so long to bring this title to the US. Like instant hit series, Pokemon, which is still spawning sequels today, the game blew up on release. Yo-kai Watch is addictive and will keep you playing for hours on end without feeling like hours. It is a definite holiday buy if you are a handheld fan and looking for a new obsession. With its charming designs, endless quests, expansive map, and well rounded battling mechanic, Yo-kai Watch will be a mainstay on the 3DS. And I’m more than okay with that.
Dashing Nerds gives Yo-kai Watch an 8.5/10
- Easy to pick up
- Fast-paced battle system
- So much to do
- Unusable Quest Map
- Unclear capture system