The Yo-Kai Watch series was the hottest thing around in the early days of its existence. Level-5 was riding high on that wave of success, which in turn, sent the series exploding into all different directions. There were Yo-Kai Watch toys, cartoons, movies, and so much more. For awhile there, Yo-Kai Watch was everywhere you looked in Japan. Unfortunately, it seems that insane explosion of Yo-Kai Watch content is what caused the series to cool down so quickly.
When it comes to Yo-Kai Watch in the states, there was never really the spark that sent fans into a frenzy. The first game certainly made waves when it jumped across the pond, but things seemed to sputter quickly after that. Still, the franchise has its die-hards here, and it seemingly does well enough to warrant the localization of subsequent titles. That brings us to Yo-Kai Watch 3, the latest installment to release worldwide.
Yo-Kai Watch 3 launched in Japan all the way back in July of 2016. There were two versions made available, and then a third version called 'Sukiyaki' released shortly after in Dec. 2016. In both North America and Europe, we're only getting one version of Yo-Kai Watch 3, and it contains all the content found in the three different versions released in Japan.
Fans outside of Japan have waited quite a long time for Yo-Kai Watch 3 to be released. Now that it's finally here, was it worth the wait? For those who really love the franchise, the answer should be a resounding yes. For those on the fence or new to the series, it could be somewhat of a tough sell.
When Yo-Kai Watch was originally revealed, many people saw it as a rip-off of Pokemon. There's certainly a similarity between the two, as the main mechanic in both involves collecting creatures and battling with them. The thing is, that's pretty much where the similarities end. The two franchises handle nearly every mechanic quite differently from one another, and those differences grew from the first to second Yo-Kai Watch. With Yo-Kai Watch 3, the franchise takes its biggest leaps yet in differentiating itself.
Without a doubt, the biggest change between Yo-Kai Watch 3 and the previous games comes from its battle system. Things have been given a complete revamp with the brand-new Tactics Medal Board. In a very welcome improvement, you are now able to move your character around during battle. You do this by moving Yo-Kai Medals representing your Yo-Kai on a grid, which you handle via the touch screen. You can't move anytime you want though, as you'll have to go through a cool-down period after moving a Yo-Kai. Still, if you pay attention to what's going on with the enemies during a battle, you should be able to shuffle your Yo-Kai about to somewhat avoid attacks. You can even start each battle by aligning your Yo-Kai Medals in whatever layout you want, in order to try and give yourself the best start to a fight. Some specific Yo-Kai types/layouts will net you bonuses during battle as well.
Not everything has changed with battling, though. You'll still be performing Soultimate Moves and cleansing Inspirited Yo-Kai. Just as with previous games, selecting these options will bring up a mini-game that you have to play through to activate the desired move. Mini-games involve drawing circles on the touch-screen, tapping circles that pop up, stopping slot machines, connecting dots, and more. You are without-a-doubt going to need to keep your stylus in-hand while you're playing the game, as it'll be constantly in use during battle.
One element that is unfortunately unchanged from previous Yo-Kai games is the fact that your Yo-Kai still 'loaf' during battle. This means sometimes your Yo-Kai will just sit there on the battlefield and do nothing. You'll have activated a move, or you want to go about setting something up, and your Yo-Kai decides they don't feel like doing it just yet. This can be extremely frustrating when you're in an intense battle, as sometimes your Yo-Kai's reluctance to perform their move can result in a death. Dire results like this don't happen often, but you will certainly deal with the annoyance of loafing Yo-Kai quite frequently.
With the addition of Tactics Medal Board, battles in Yo-Kai Watch 3 are the most frenetic yet. At first it can be a bit much to take in, as there's so much going on in a battle at any given time. It can be quite hard to keep tabs on your health, build up your Soultimate moves, purify inspirited Yo-Kai, move them around on the board, 'Pin' enemies to focus your attacks on them, play mini-games to activate your moves, collect health and items that drop on the board, target goodies/bonus items floating around the top screen, cure status ailments, and much more. No, I am not kidding one bit. All of that can go on in the course of a single battle. I honestly never felt like I had a true handle on doing all of it at once. I just focused on the elements that were necessary, like battling, healing, and cleansing, and usually let the rest work itself out. How in the hell is a kid supposed to handle all this!?
To tell you the truth, while Yo-Kai Watch 3 is certainly a game aimed at children, there's quite a few elements which might push kids away. While I'm not sure if this is true, it seems like Yo-Kai Watch 3 has more text than any other game in the series so far. There's tons and tons of dialog going on throughout the entire experience. Mainline stories, side missions, backstory tidbits, and more all throw text boxes at you. Throw in the fact that characters talk in various dialects and sprinkle in other languages, and it becomes harder still to understand how younger kids will ever be able to play this by themselves.
All that dialog can really drag the game down, too. There are some portions where you feel like you can't get away from dialog and in-game cut-scenes. You walk outside, you get a cut-scene. You walk into the next part of town, you get a cut-scene. You enter a building, you get more cut-scenes. It's dialog box after dialog box, and it can be frustrating when you want to just play the game without interruption. Things do open up from time to time, but for me, I found the flow of the experience interrupted far too often.
Here's the worst part, though. The beginning of the game is an absolute slog. Without a doubt, it's the worst offender when it comes to not letting you play. No joke, it took me 1.5 hours alone before I completed the first chapter. While there are some quick storyline battles in there, the vast majority of that 1.5 hours was spent learning mechanics through text, and getting backstory dumped on me. It would take a super patient kid to sit through all of that content and not get frustrated, or bored to the point that they'd just give up on the game. You really do have to power through those opening moments, especially if you're already familiar with how Yo-Kai Watch works. Things open up once you hit chapter 2, but honestly, you're still going to have a bunch of new things to learn for hours to come, and you'll never fully get away from cut-scenes that seem to drag on far too long.
The good news is, when you actually get to play Yo-Kai Watch 3, there's an insane amount of things to do. There might even be too much! You'll have the main story to take on, as well as some side-missions that end up being required. There's also plenty of optional side-missions to beef up your Yo-Kai, randomly generated dungeons to explore, treasure to collect, 'Wanted' Yo-Kai to hunt down, and more. There's even zombie missions to take on at night! This game has some insane variety in gameplay and missions to take on.
Even if you're aiming to just collect all the Yo-Kai alone, you've got over 600 to hunt down! That's going to take an ungodly amount of time to accomplish, especially if you're just trying to discover them naturally with your Yo-Kai Watch. I didn't come anywhere close to doing all extra content there is in Yo-Kai Watch 3, but I'd imagine a hardcore fan of the franchise will be ecstatic to see how much there is to tackle.
If you're not the completionist type, the main story itself offers up plenty of exploration, story, and battling to take on. This is because Yo-Kai Watch 3's story is split into two different pieces. You'll be playing the roles of returning protagonist Nate, and new protagonist Hailey Anne. These two stories are played in parallel, and you can switch between the two characters at any save point. There will be multiple moments in stories where you hit a roadblock, which means you're forced to jump over to the other character to further the story. One side of the story will unlock a new path ahead for the other side, leaving you free to once again jump between the two at your leisure.
It's definitely an interesting idea which is implemented well, and it helps keep things fresh. Seeing how the two stories come together at certain points is always fun, even if a bit predictable at moments. The good news is that each side of the story has a very unique tone, thanks to characters with completely different personalities, and locations which are worlds apart. It feels like playing two games at once, and you always feel motivated to push on and see how things will finally come together in the end.
It doesn't hurt that the localization for Yo-Kai Watch 3 is absolutely top-notch. I'd imagine working on localizing this game had to be an absolute nightmare. For example, one part of the story takes place in what is basically Texas, and everyone speaks with a Southern drawl and rural dialect. The way words are combined and strung together is really impressive, and the Southern charm really comes through. It's one thing to accomplish this with voice acting, but to do it with text is extremely impressive. This isn't the only time/place unique dialects are used, either!
The localization also does a great job with making sure the humor comes across. Humor is actually a big part of the Yo-Kai Watch series, and this third installment really goes for broke. There are more jokes, puns, and groan-inducing quips than ever before. For example, there are Blunder and Folly, two characters who spoof Mulder and Scully from the X-Files. In Yo-Kai Watch 3, the duo are FBY agents who come to town to investigate a mysterious UFO crash-landing. The banter between the two is pretty spot-on for what you'd hear in X-Files, but with a kid-friendly and humorous tone. While not all of the gags in Yo-Kai Watch 3 are as enjoyable as Blunder and Folly, by and large, what you see hear will at least get you smirking.
The same amount of care has also gone into the game's visuals and audio. Just as the previous games, Yo-Kai Watch 3 is a beautiful game to look at. It's one of the best looking games on the 3DS hands-down. There's a lot of action on any given screen, animations are top-notch, and the entire game is alive with color. The in-game cut-scenes look equally as impressive, and the animated footage scattered throughout is the icing on the cake.
As for audio, Yo-Kai Watch 3's tunes might be the best of the series. There really are a ton of great songs here, most importantly being the battle tunes. You're going to hear those songs a lot, and it seems extra care was put into making them enjoyable no matter how many times they pop up. Truth be told, the music in Yo-Kai Watch 3 is so great that I'd love to grab a soundtrack version if it ever saw release here. The entire soundtrack has a very classic anime feel to it, if that makes sense! Something akin to what you'd hear in Chobits, for example.
Overall, Yo-Kai Watch 3 operates from the mindset of bigger being better. For the most part, that's true. The same charm and enjoyable gameplay from previous titles is here. I really respect the decision to revamp the battle system in some areas, adding in greater control and more to do, even if it does feel overwhelming at times. The story is simple but enjoyable, and the presentation feels like a AAA portable title. Gripes come from the characters who never seem to shut up, the cut-scenes that bog things down, the absolutely drag of an opening act, and the seemingly high barrier set for children who just want to jump in and play. With all that said, if you enjoyed Yo-Kai Watch titles in the past, you should find plenty to enjoy here. It can be a good-to-great game, but ends up getting in its own way a bit too much.
With the 3DS winding down and new software extremely scarce, Yo-Kai Watch 3's release is definitely welcome. It's chock-full of content, and it just feels like a high quality adventure. For Yo-Kai fans, those looking for a reason to dust off their 3DS, or anyone clamoring for a game to really keep you busy, Yo-Kai Watch 3 is definitely worthy of a spot in your collection.