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Posted on Oct 2nd 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (bombatomba)
Posted under spirits, pokemon, yokai

At first glance there really isn't much that I should like about Yo-kai Watch: I am not a fan of anime in general, I am not a huge fan of the Pokemon craze, and I am certainly not at the age to which this games humor is targeted.  Nonetheless, I was pulled into Yo-kai Watch hard, and it has everything to do with the setting.

Okay, so the setting didn't exclusively keep me playing Yo-Kai Watch for twenty hours, but rather a combination of things.  Part of it is the price (bought for $5 due to a post by Fleabitten on our own Hot Deals, Promotions, Giveaways, and Sales thread in the forums), and part is the gameplay, but a good part of it is the setting.  The main character is a child living in, for all intents and purposes, a Japanese city (though it is called Springdale in the Western release), and for some reason I took to this fictional town much in the same way I took to Liberty City in GTA3, only no murders or robberies or anything like that.  It's like getting to tour an idealized and cartoonish version of Japan without the issues of massive cost and language/cultural barrier.  It felt very familiar, but also quaint enough that I wanted to explore every turn, especially since the town and it's surrounding area never feels cut and paste.  Bug collecting is part of the game, which brought me back to one of my favorite games series, Boku No Natsuyasumi, in which insect collecting (a big past time for a certain age group of kids in Japan) was a key component.  Okay, we need to switch gears for a moment, before this turns into a Japan-summertime lovefest.  Make things a little more formal.

Yo-Kai Watch is a monster collector-based role playing game released in 2013 in Japan, and 2015-2016 in the rest of the world.  The game follows the rough formula of the main series Pokemon games, where one needs to catch monsters (in this case, cartoonized yo-kai, which are Japanese spirits) to build up teams to fight other monsters, as well as to collect.  Ostensibly, that is Yo-kai Watch.

A candy shop run by a stereotypical grandmother, a mainstay for kids even today

Before writing the game off as another Pokemon clone, we should note a few key differences.  First is the collection method.  Yokai are hiding everywhere, and first must be rooted by using the lense on the Yo-kai Watch (the object, not the game).  Once you do so, battle is initiated.  A few Yo-kai will try and join you after battle of their own volition, but the vast majority first have to be bribed with their favorite food, which can be purchased at a myriad of food stores throughout Springdale (such as convenience stores, fish markets, bread stores, Chinese food stalls, etc.).  I need to note that even though this is the main way of getting yo-kai (you do get some as part of the story), I never seemed to have a lot of luck.  See, yo-kai have ranks (E-A, then S) which denote how easy they are to catch, with higher ranks being opened up as part of the story, but despite that it still seems to be very random.  You can get better chances by getting a yo-kai with a popularity skill (like Casanuva), but sometimes you will just have to keep trying.  It can be a little frustrating, but it helps enhance the rarity of certain high rank yo-kai: getting a high level pokemon is relatively easy, but if somebody has a non-story "S" rank yo-kai on their team, you know they earned it.

Another big difference over Pokemon and other RPGs iis the battle system.  To start, you don't have direct control over your yo-kai's actions, which when I first played the demo years ago turned me off.  No control?  Seems silly, yet I have found the combat in Yo-kai Watch to be the most engaging of any RPG I've played, second only to Xenoblade Chronicles.  You have a maximum of six to a team, set on a wheel, with only three facing "front" at the same time.  At any time you can spin the wheel to put different yo-kai at the front or back.  This is very important, as you will constantly need to be throwing items for healing and stat boosting, "purging" inspirited yo-kai (which can only be done in the back row) and in the case of bosses, throwing "target" pins on vulnerable areas to focus attacks.  The battle system is the third reason I got sucked into this game, and while some bosses are extremely frustrating (the Tarantudor was one of the worst) I always picked it back up after a bit of brainstorming, and won in every instance.

Oh my gosh, the yo-kai; we have to talk about them.  Stat-wise they are far deeper than your typical pokemon.  As I alluded to in the previous paragraph, each yo-kai is part of a different tribe, for a total of eight tribes.  Each tribe has generally has a different role in battle, such as fighters, healers, etc.  I say generally because it isn't a hard rule, and you will find certain yo-kai that do not fit the mold of their tribe.  Also yo-kai all have different attributes (fire, lightning, restoration, etc.) and you will the same predictable vulnerabilities one would expect, though they tend to skew more to vulnerability to attributes than immunity from them.  Finally, all yo-kai have two different attitudes that affects how they act in battle.  The first dictates how likely they are to - well, loaf around and be lazy - during a battle.  The second shows their general behavior in battle.  For example, if my Tattletell is "carefree and gentle," I know she is more likely to use her heal technique in battle (gentle) but also very likely to start loafing about and not do anything (carefree).  To a certain extent this can be changed out of battle using book items, but certain yo-kai cannot be changed from who they are, which is interesting, I think.

Since this is October I should probably throw in something scary, right?  Well, during your wanderings occasionally everything will freeze, your watch icon will change to a red face, and you will get sucked into Terror Time, a minigame with a chance to pick up a total of five (often nice) treasures!  The first time it caught me completely off guard.  One moment I was walking out of my characters house, then the next moment the whole world went all Persona on me and I had to play cat and mouse with a massive Oni and his henchman.  I won't explicitly say I was scared, but when that thing started chasing me it really brought back some serious childhood nightmares as I ran for the "exit."  I'll admit that I kind of got caught up in the moment, and was gently told (by the game) that if the massive Oni managed to get me I would only wake up in my bed the next day, sans any goodies I found (which tend to be rather good), and not be messily murdered on the street as a giant Oni normally do.  Okay it didn't say the last part, but that is what I genuinely thought at the time.

The Fireworks Festival, very similar to the same Festival in Persona 4: Golden

While I didn't expect to, I ended up totally loving this game, warts and all.  When I bought it I lamented a bit, as I had no real intentions of playing it, rather the price ($5) attracted me, but now I find myself making changes I didn't anticipate:  I've completely shuffling around my "To Buy" list, adding several games Yo-kai games and purchased a "grip" for my 2DS XL so that it would be more comfortable to hold for long periods of time.  I've even looked ahead to the (hopefully) eventual Western release of Yo-kai Watch 4 on Switch, which makes serious changes to the game (full 3D and a battle system that resembles Ni No Kuni) that really have me both excited and curious for what the future holds.  But despite all of that, I can't forget the real reason I'm playing the game: The setting.  Well, almost.

NOTE: I originally wrote this at the end of August, within a week of playing and beating the game.  At this time, one could find the game at any number of Five Below stores but now I am not so sure.  However, the game can still be found in abundance on auction sites such as eBay, often for less than $8 shipped.  But if it is a possibility, I would still check Five Below.

Thanks for reading!

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I played Yo-Kai Watch basically when it came out (I got it for Christmas that year) and boy do I love that battle system. People just think it's a bad kiddy Pokemon clone but that battle system is SO much more involved than any pokemon game. I recall the boss at the end being pretty hard but mostly a huge task on me constantly spinning that wheel to heal and "purifiy"/"purge" my yo-kai. I still have 2 sitting on my shelf waiting to be played, maybe I'll play it sometime soon now that you reminded me how much I liked the first game.
This game is also being remade for the Switch as well!
@Lazyperson: I agree.  Slow turn-based battles are hard to get back into after Yokai, especially the bosses.  If you like one you will like two, I think.  There is a lot of filler in the story that slows it down a bit, but there is just so much quality content one could easily spend scores of hours plumbing the depths - and I have!

@Link41: I know!  Given how abysmally Yokai 3 sold in the West I've not holding out hope.  Maybe if Yokai 4 sells well...  I don't know.  If it came out I'd pay for it.
To be fair almost all the last few 3DS games that came out sold like crap. I'm assuming those last two Mario & Luigi games are what helped bankrupt AlphaDream...

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