There is a Yo-Kai will a butt, for a face. Yes, you read that right. Remember that episode of “South Park” where Trey Parker and Matt Stone make fun of Ben Affleck and Cartman calls him Ben Assfleck? It looks something like that. For reasons like this and thanks to a fun battle system and even more over-the-top characters, it’s obvious you are not in Pallet Town anymore. Yo-Kai is not Pokemon. Stop thinking that. Featuring the type of story that makes the plethora of fetch-quests enjoyable and palatable, “Yo-Kai Watch” is the best (North American) 3DS game of 2015.
Those looking for a cheap-Pokemon clone will be disappointed. Away from creating a team and collecting these unique characters, there aren’t nearly as many similarities as you’d think. Not only is Yo-Kai completely original in terms of a story, but the battle system is the complete opposite of Pokemon. Using a “Spirit Meter,” similar to the old Limit Break system of the PlayStation One Final Fantasy Games, Yo-Kai is all about unleashing special maneuvers. While you’re never in direct control of every move of your team, you can control who is in battle and when they use their special abilities. It may take some time to get used to, but it’s a unique battle system that grows on you the more you play.
At the same time, the game is filled, perhaps stuffed to the brim with fetch quests. Go here, get this, then do this and then do that, all before you are able to progress to the next mission or story advancement point. The same thing goes for the side quests, which are all designed to get you running around the map, where you will not only finish those missions but will find a ton more and along the way, befriend more Yo-Kai. It’s a devilishly designed gameplay system and it works. You will find it almost impossible at times to put the game down.
But things get tough at times thanks to a map that is annoying and not nearly as functional as it should. Although it works fine in the beginning when you are confined to a smaller area, after five or six hours when the map opens up more, it becomes a chore to navigate. When a simple side quest has you spending more time walking or riding your bike than fighting, it gets to become tedious. Luckily, the urge to befriend a cool slew of Yo-Kai is something you can always do. There are always characters hiding and stores to go into and other side missions to take on. If you want to stay in a certain part of town, you can. Because of this, “Yo-Kai Watch” makes the most out of every opportunity, and even its biggest weaknesses can’t destroy the fun.
In terms of story, “Yo-Kai Watch” definitely has elements of a TV show, with far more humor, wit and silliness than Pokemon. As well, as mentioned earlier, the designs of the Yo-Kai are off the wall at times. You will not see a cute dragon with fire on his tail, even though you will see a few different cat designs. The fact that the Yo-Kai can speak also adds a lot more personality to the series. Although, much like Pokemon, “Yo-Kai Watch” is a coming of age story, wrapped around a kid who has a whole new world exposed to them, this adventure relies much more on its supporting cast to fill in the blanks of the story.
The premise of “Yo-Kai Watch” is a simple one. People are inherently good, but Yo-Kai, essentially spirits, enforce their own wills on the living and force them to feel other emotions. This can cause a myriad of emotions, but most of the time, it results in mischief. That’s where Nate or Kate come in and thanks to Whisper, their Yo-Kai butler, they ensure peace and harmony among the people and Yo-Kai. It also helps that characters and Yo-Kai are introduced in fun ways, with plenty of cut-scenes and backstory. Hardcore Pokemon fans may scoff at the world at first, especially the game’s theme song, but the sheer size of the map, tough battles and likable characters will pull them in quickly.
This is a situation where gamers will feel the need to pick a side- Pokemon or Yo-Kai. But with no major Pokemon game until next year, any Pokemon fan would be insane not to experience this adventure. So similar in feel, yet so different, it’s just another great game, with plenty to do and experience.
Take night time in the game for instance. It’s almost like playing Pokemon with “Persona” mixed in. The entire world changes. Badass Yo-Kai come out and you have to make sure you don’t get caught or you get sent back to your room. During the day, you have to follow traffic laws or a tough Yo-Kai crossing guard will send you packing. For reasons like this, “ Yo-Kai Watch,” even with its handful of annoyances, always brings something different to the gameplay experience. Even in 15-minute bursts, on the bus, or train, you can be surprised.
In the end, with the differences in story scale and the battle system, comparing the two seems unfair. While both are RPGs that live and die on the customization options of their characters and teams, they both tell largely different stories. Even if the feeling of befriending a Yo-Kai feels similar to when you catch a Pokemon, the relationships you forge along the way on this journey has a far funkier flavor. As a result, “Yo-Kai Watch” may be looked at as a Pokemon-clone to many, but those who invest their time in it will find it an adventure that creates a similar aura as Pocket Monsters, but one that has a completely fresh destination, one that holds it own thanks to humor and Japanese myths, as well as pop culture. It may not be as sexy as Pokemon, but it’s ultimately just as cool.
Soundtrack: Away from the corny opening theme song, “Yo-Kai Watch” has an impressive score that rivals “Pokemon,” thanks to a ton of depth and fun. From the intense battle tracks to the easy-going ones you’ll hear while riding your bike around town, it’s a game you’ll want to keep the sound on for.
Tons To Do: To say that you can get lost in “Yo-Kai Watch” is an understatement. With a variety of items, Yo-Kai, side quests and a beefy main story, there’s easily over fifty hours of gameplay.
Great Story: It’s not quite as far-reaching as Pokemon, but it draws you in from the start. You’ll feel needed and important and as a result, you won’t want to put the game down.
Unique Battle System: Using the stylus works great and the mini-games and the added strategy make for the type of combat system you’ll remember for years o come.
Addictive Gameplay: The charming characters and combat, as well as the “befriend em all” concept, make for an RPG that is incredibly difficult to put down.
Poor Map: The city is a big one with plenty to see and do. With so many side quests, a solid map could have made this great game near flawless. Simply put, traversing the area is far too annoying at times.
Fetch-Quest Filled: The game goes here and go there mentality can get a bit draining, especially considering how lackluster the map is.
Lack of Battle Options: The boss battles are a blast, but the average encounter becomes boring at times due to the fact that all of the characters have just one special maneuver.
“Yo-Kai Watch” is an immersive, hard to put down RPG with tons to do that will more than fill up the time until the next real Pokemon game. Although the fetch quest-filled gameplay and mediocre map take away some of the fun, it’s still a tough game to put down and the best new Nintendo 3DS series in North America of 2015. In the end, “Yo-Kai Watch” is not “Pokemon,” but it’s just as cool, in its own unique way.
“Yo-Kai Watch” is set for a Nov. 6 release on the Nintendo family of handheld consoles.