Whisper is your new best friend.
Nintendo hit it big with Pokémon years ago, and the train of popularity hasn’t stopped since. Now, a new game in collaboration with level-5 called Yo-Kai Watch is finally releasing in the US on the 3DS, and some folks might be asking themselves “What’s a Yo-Kai watch?” While it has some similar ideas to Pokémon, it ultimately has a style all its own, and 3DS/RPG fans will want to take notice. If any company has a chance to catch lightning in a bottle again with a cute franchise, Nintendo would be the one.
The star of the game is a young boy named Nathan. One day while exploring in the forest he comes across a weird looking device with capsules. Upon opening it he is greeted by a Yo-Kai named Whisper. Now Yo-Kai is another term for spirit, and soon after meeting Whisper, Nate received a watch. Whisper explains that Yo-Kai are all over the world, and most folks can’t see them. Just like people, not all Yo-Kai are friendly, and thus begins the adventures for Nate and Whisper.
Price I’d Pay: $39.99
Multiplayer: 2-player fights
How long to beat: 10+ hours
Now the reason for comparison to Pokémon will be pretty clear almost immediately. As players explore the town of Sakura looking for Yo-Kai and helping solve the various problems around the city, collection becomes a huge factor. First, radar is used to signify when a creature is around; once near the location, the player can use the lens to see the hidden Yo-Kai and after keeping them in the spotlight for a significant amount of time, it will attack the player. This is where the collection aspect comes into play, as each time a fight occurs there is a chance for that Yo-Kai to ask to join the team. Soon there will be an entire catalog to choose from, and this is also where some of the strategy comes into play with the unique combat system.
Combat here takes place in real time, but has a menu much like a turn based game. The player can have up to 6 creatures to choose from in battle that can be adjust at the touch of the L and R buttons. The Yo-Kai will attack the enemies on their own, but where the player input comes from is in knowing when to heal, when to use the special attacks, and more. When selecting the spirit to use, the bottom of the screen get a mini game that players must complete to initiate the attack. From tapping coins, to spinning a wheel, or tracing lines, it’s unique to say the least.
At first I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy the system as it takes my eyes off the battle, but at the same time it keeps me super engaged. Not only am I always having to know which spirit to select depending on what we’re fighting, but sometimes points of interest on bosses have to be selected to do damage and the dynamics change. Some enemies can curse the spirits so that they can no longer be used, and in essence the player must then purify them in battle. While the main enemies can be fairly easy, the bosses are what can provide a challenge and really showcase the battle system at its best.
The game has an extremely charming visual look, with bright colors and weird yet colorful Yo-Kai. I knew the moment I ran into the story of the cat that wanted to defeat a truck due to his misfortune, I was in for a fun and humorous time. The dialog and interactions from characters are downright hilarious at times, and had this 32 year old chuckling, so it’s apparent this title can cater to players of all ages. There are only a few areas where the title stumbles. The core story can be completed rather quickly, so if just playing for the story, it could prove a bit short in comparison. Why players wouldn’t want to do the side content or try to catch all the Yo-Kai spirits is anyone’s guess, but it needed to be mentioned.
Also, the plot feels more as if it’s broken in episodes, and the story isn’t one that’s going to blow people away. It’s a refreshing idea about finding, collecting, and yet helping others. The battle system is also one that will divide players, as it’s just different. I wasn’t sure about it at the start, but grew to love how it kept me engaged, even if the mini games got a bit tedious after so long. Still, I can never quite sit comfortable just picking an action from a menu and I really appreciate that.
Surprisingly similar…yet fresh
Yo-Kai Watch is another game to add to 2015 that surprised the heck out of me. I’ve tried countless times to get into the Pokémon games before and they just never pulled me in, even though I appreciate what they offer players. Here, the idea of spirits, the charm, the writing, the battles, and the style just immediately sucked me in. I wanted to explore the world, find the spirits, and help people. It’s a great start to a new franchise, one of the best looking 3DS games I’ve ever played, and if you’re looking for a RPG with heart and spirit, Yo-Kai Watch is the right choice and a great start to a new franchise.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.