NS Review – YO-KAI WATCH 2: Bony Spirits & Fleshy Souls (3DS)
Although the Nintendo Switch is now out and slowly building up a respectable library of games, the 3DS is still going pretty strong this year, with the most recent games being YO-KAI WATCH 2: Bony Spirits & Fleshy Souls. The YO-KAI WATCH games are a series of monster collecting RPGs, featuring spirits called Yo-kai, which are the causes of daily problems and annoyances. However, they can also be befriended to solve them too. Much like other monster collecting games, it comes in two versions, but aside from exclusive Yo-kai and minor story differences they are pretty much the same game. With so many RPGs available on the 3DS, does YO-KAI WATCH 2 stand out amongst the myriad of titles already available on the system?
The story begins with the player character’s titular watch being stolen, which pretty much serves the purpose of a reintroduction of the main characters from the original YO-KAI WATCH. Those that are new to the series won’t be missing out on anything by not playing the first game as the story has essentially been retconned. On the other hand, those who have played it may find the first couple of chapters all too familiar, retreading through the same areas and tutorials as the original. As somebody who has replayed the first game more than once, the first few chapters definitely felt like a slog. It is not until a few hours in that the story becomes more compelling, by time travelling to the past to find the origins of the Yo-kai Watch. Overall the story is a definite step up from the original’s episodic nature, if you can get past the first few chapters.
Gameplay-wise, it is a pretty standard JRPG aimed at younger players, with its own twist on the formula. There’s a fairly large world to explore, plenty of sidequests to complete, and hundreds of Yo-kai to collect. The map that is always present on the bottom screen has been improved greatly from the original, labelling all locations of interest so it is much easier to traverse. The developers have done a lot to make the town of Springdale to feel real, for better or for worse. Notably, the new train system’s map can look intimidating at first and I think I speak for all commuters in saying that I’d rather not have any semblance of realism when it comes to public transport in video games. You’ll quickly find that dialogue within these train segments gets reused frequently and sometimes there will be points where you are simply waiting on a train with no gameplay happening at all. There are only a few required train segments before fast travel is unlocked, but those few were really not needed and could have easily been skipped. Nobody asked for realistic train journeys in video games, but at least these trains show up more frequently than their real life counterparts.
During combat you do not have full control over your team of Yo-kai, and they use their moves on their own. As the player, you feel more like a coach to your team of Yo-kai, periodically switching, healing, and purifying Yo-kai as the battle goes on. The main control the player has is over Yo-kai’s super moves, called Soultimates, by completing a simple mini game on the touchscreen. At the beginning of the game, the weak enemies may make this battle system seem uninteresting as foes will fall to a few Soultimate moves, but it truly shines during boss battles where micromanagement is key. Thankfully, there is also the option to speed up battles by pressing X to quickly run through tedious encounters.
The battles will seem very similar to those who have played the original, though an additional watch is added during the story which will change battles somewhat. One thing that unfortunately hasn’t changed from the original however, is the RNG aspect of Yo-kai befriending. Although the ability to see what food a Yo-kai likes has been added to the game, it is still mostly a coinflip whether you will actually befriend a Yo-kai or not. It is probably the biggest detriment to the game, where one of the draws would be collecting all of the Yo-kai now seems like a near-impossible feat. This is somewhat alleviated by the the ability to trade with friends online, which is a new feature added to the sequel. It makes unlocking seals to powerful Yo-kai much easier, though some rare Yo-kai have been made harder to get compared to the original to balance this, which will be frustrating for people who don’t have friends playing this game or would rather have a single player experience. For a casual playthrough however, the game gives you more than enough freebie Yo-kai to make a team out of so if you are not interested in the RNGfest of befriending your own Yo-kai there’s a good amount to choose from by just playing through the story.
YO-KAI WATCH 2 has amazing presentation for a 3DS game, the developers at Level-5 clearly understand the strengths and limitations of the hardware. The world is colourful and very detailed, and the Yo-kai themselves really show their personalities through their variety of animations. Music is also varied, with traditional Japanese themed music for boss battles with Classic Yo-kai, and plenty of overworld themes that fit the mood of the area, a lot of care was put in to ensure the audio matched the visuals in terms of quality. It’s hard to not find this world charming. The game can also be played fully in 3D if that is your preference, though as I almost always have my 3D disabled I don’t really know how good the effect is compared to other games.
Overall, YO-KAI WATCH 2’s unique battle system and great visual style sets it apart enough from the endless sea of 3DS RPGs that I would recommend it to those looking for an enjoyable and not overly taxing adventure, however those with less patience may get less mileage out of it due to the amount of randomness of some gameplay elements. The Yo-kai collecting aspects here are definitely flawed, and playing it more for the story and setting is far more enjoyable in my opinion. I would suggest checking out the demo on the eShop beforehand as the battle system is definitely not for everyone. The demo has a town to explore with secret boss battles and gives you a decent idea of what the full game is like.