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Yo-kai Watch: The Biggest Craze Since Pokémon?

by Daniel Boylan



After 3 years on Japanese shelves, this year finally sees the European release of the hit 3DS role-playing game (RPG) Yo-kai Watch from developer Level 5. That developer’s name might sound familiar to DS and 3DS owners as they are also responsible for the hit series of Professor Layton games, which have been testing handheld fans’ brains for years. Yo-kai Watch has already made a big splash overseas, so now it’s our turn to get in on the action!
Every generation has their fair share of fads that come and go so fast, that you don’t even have time to get on the bandwagon before it becomes yesterday’s news. But every once in a while something comes along that has such universal appeal, that it crosses over the line from being just another flash in the pan, to a genuine phenomenon. Nintendo have a serious knack for delivering on the latter, with the creation of many characters and franchises that have remained a hit with each new generation of upcoming gamers.
One of the biggest and most mainstream of Nintendo’s past success stories is Pokémon, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year and shows no sign of going away anytime soon. Yo-kai Watch shares some notable similarities to the classic series, both in and out of the video game itself. Both titles already established themselves in Japan and the USA before launching on our shores, both involve the collection of weird and wonderful creatures and they both come alongside a range of merchandise that could fill entire shops on their own. Not to mention that just like Pokémon, Yo-kai Watch has its own cartoon which started airing April 23rd on Cartoon Network.

The plot of Yo-kai Watch centres on Nathan Adams (Nate), an average schoolboy who happens upon a strange old capsule vending machine in the mountains (as you do). He puts in a coin and is greeted by Whisper, one of the titular Yo-kai and a self-proclaimed “Yo-kai Butler”. He entrusts Nate with a Yo-kai Watch, which he can use to spot the normally invisible creatures and befriend them. Once they become buddies, the Yo-kai give Nate a medal which he can use to summon them when he needs their help. It doesn’t take long before Nate realises he can use their help with everyday problems, and who wouldn’t love that?! It’s not all good news though, as there are also Yo-kai behaving badly all over town who must be battled to put them in their place.
The game doesn’t leave out female fans either, with the option to play as either Nate or his friend Katie, or whatever name you decide to call them as this is customisable. Whoever you decide on, you’ll be taking on a serious task as there are over 200 Yo-kai hiding around town! You’ll need to use your Yo-kai radar to seek them all out, which is indicated by a twitching needle on your Yo-kai Watch. You simply press the Y button to look through the Yo-kai Lens for a closer look and if you’re good enough in battle, they might just offer you their Yo-kai Medal. Or maybe you could try a bit of bribery, if you have the right treats on hand, I know it would work on me…

Speaking of battles, these are controlled by the touch screen with a wheel of six befriended Yo-Kai you can rotate to swap between at will. You can also use the touch screen to cure Yo-kai of status ailments or to charge up their special abilities. Knowing how to use your team effectively is the real key to winning and is just as important as having strong Yo-kai at your side.
As with any good RPG, there’s a lot more to the game than just what’s presented in the main story. There are plenty of side missions that don’t necessarily need to be completed to progress through the game, but you’re going to want to do them anyway just for the fun of it. If there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, no need to call the Ghostbusters because chances are it’s just a Yo-kai acting up. They have a habit of possessing people and making them act weird so it’s your job to sort them out swiftly.
Going back to the similarities with Pokémon, another concept that Yo-kai Watch has borrowed, is in a Yo-kai’s ability to evolve into a new and improved version of itself when it has enough experience. However, Yo-kai Watch takes things up a notch with the possibility to visit Mr Zen, the monk in Shoten Temple, who can fuse certain Yo-kai together to make all new creatures. Certain Yo-kai can even be combined with different everyday objects to create a new Yo-kai altogether. Trying a lot of different combinations will be key to unlocking super rare Yo-kai.
Just a few short weeks after the game hits the shelves, the toy range launches on June 1st, so we can expect to see people walking around with their very own Yo-kai watches on soon enough. The medals from the toy watch can even be scanned into the 2DS or 3DS to unlock new Yo-kai and special items within the game. We can also expect the likes of figures, collector’s albums and stickers to be filling kid’s rooms over the next few months.
The only question that remains now is whether Yo-kai Watch will have the staying power to still be talked about in a year’s time and beyond. Only time will tell, in the meantime a playable demo is available free on the 3DS eShop to show you just how much you want to buy it, and trust me you will.