Released in 2013, Yo-Kai Watch was initially a slow seller in Japan. However, this all changed when the anime adaption became a massive hit, and game and merchandise sales started to increase. With the upcoming release of Yo-Kai Watch 3, Level-5 have quickly constructed a series that rivals Nintendo’s own Pokemon in Japan. Nintendo are looking to bring this success story to the West and in doing so hopefully have another hit franchise.
Yo-Kai Watch is Level-5’s take on the monster battler RPG genre that was made immensely popular, and is also dominated, by Pokemon. Unlike most company’s entries into the genre, Yo-Kai Watch has succeeded in capturing the imagination of a wide audience. While Yo-Kai Watch may be similar to Pokemon, there are many factors that make it different.
You play as Nathan or Katie, a young child who is on a mission to collect all the Yo-Kai that they can find. You are able to see and find Yo-Kai thanks to the titular Yo-Kai Watch that you found in a capsule machine at the start of the game. Thanks to this, you are able to use a detector on the watch to see when a Yo-Kai is close by and also what its rank is. Once you know a Yo-Kai is close by, you scour the environment until you find a prompt that shows something is there. One Yo-Kai we found was inside an old Japanese house, on the top floor and looked similar to a wizened old creature.
How Yo-Kai Watch handles its battles is another differentiation from Pokemon. You still have a team of six monsters, but all six are effectively in battle at once. All six Yo-Kai are shown on the face of your watch, with the top three facing your enemy in battle. Your front facing Yo-Kai will automatically attack the enemy, with you being able to rotate the watch and change which Yo-Kai are facing the front at any time.
This means that while your Yo-Kai will attack automatically, you have to pay attention to ensure that you’re rotating out Yo-Kai before they become too injured. Your Yo-Kai also have special abilities which trigger a mini-game that you must complete. One mini-game had us tracing basic kanji letters, while another had us tapping our stylus to the rhythm to trigger the attack.
Overall, Yo-Kai Watch could be big hit for Nintendo if it takes off with kids. The gameplay is certainly fun and the map makes it seem like there’s a lot to do. The cutscenes are also rendered in the same way as the TV show, which makes it a pretty attractive package overall.
Yo-Kai Watch is coming out in 2016, exclusively for 3DS.