Yo-Kai Watch 2: Bony Spirits and Yo-Kai Watch 2: Fleshy Souls Review
Yo-Kai Watch is a strange property. I thought it was huge, not as huge as Pokemon, but still a force to be reckoned with. But then I always had trouble seeing it as anything more as some kind of off-brand version of Pokemon. To top that off, with my now trademark cynicism, I just felt like the rather lacklustre game was designed to just sell other merchandise. Whether it be toys, figurines, plushies or even the Yo-Kai Watch itself. I still feel that way, and a second Yo-Kai Watch game, this time available in two very macabre flavours, was not enough to sway me.
The story of Yo-Kai Watch 2 is devilishly simple. One night, a new set of mysterious Yo-Kai appear and conveniently wipe away the memories of your character and the Yo-Kai they befriended in the previous Yo-Kai Watch game. Your character is then taken through an overlong series of events filled with buzz words and an interesting yet contrived plot surrounding the origins of the Yo-Kai Watch itself. It’s hard to not be cynical at this point but the story is simple and straightforward enough for kids to play along. Which is the point, I suppose, but the overbearing focus on this drab story really drags down Yo-Kai Watch 2.
With the first Yo-Kai Watch, I could forgive the game for lacking depth or for lacking appeal to my older self. But with the sequel it just feels like a bit of a disappointment. There’s little innovation or development of the features implemented in the original game, and while this is great for the younger audience it just feels like a retread of very familiar territory. The game comes in two forms this time around, and much like Pokémon before it, it changes up the Yo-Kai that players will come face to face with as they play. It feels like a slightly cynical cash grab, but it’s no different to bigger franchises so it’s hard to complain about.
One of the fundamental issues I had with the original Yo-Kai Watch unfortunately rears its heard in the sequel. The system for catching Yo-Kai can be wildly inconsistent and falls victim to the dreaded random number generator you hear about in other role playing games. You don’t damage them until you can catch them. You just feed them food until they’re on your team. It sounds fine – but sometimes you’ll feed a Yo-Kai only for it not to befriend you.
While I understand this system it can be incredibly frustrating to spend hours battling a Yo-Kai over and over again only to not actually “catch” it. Yo-Kai Watch introduce a new feature to remedy this problem, which is a special power of the watch itself that allows you to poke Yo-Kai to improve your odds. It makes sense on paper but it never truly improved my experience and I still felt at odds with the game’s random aspect.
The combat itself is also quite simplistic to the point where it’s a frustratingly passive experience. You battle with three Yo-Kai at a time but you’ll have six on yourself. Much like it’s contemporaries, you can queue up attacks, healing items and switch the Yo-Kai out to change the tide of battle. Only you’ll never really have to as the game can be mind numbingly easy and many of the battles feel like they’re over before they’re just getting started. But I’m self-aware enough to realise this is truly a game made for younger players – but it’s disappointing to see no hidden depth in the battles like games like Pokémon to woo in older audiences.
On the plus side, Yo-Kai Watch 2 is such an open game with so much content that it’s hard to imagine any of its target audience blazing through it rather quickly. There’s heaps of quests to do, over four hundred Yo-Kai to catch and other collectibles to find and uncover. Issues with its depth aside, there’s heaps to do and see in Yo-Kai Watch 2 – so much so that most players will take at least 20 or so hours to complete its lengthy main quest line.
In a move that arguably should’ve been in the first game proper, Yo-Kai Watch 2 also lets you battle and trade your Yo-Kai through the Nintendo Network. This is a great feature especially for younger players who want that rare Yo-Kai, but the thrill of battle is nerfed significantly by the rather bare bones battle system. There’s just not enough depth or strategic thought required for the battles which translates to a rather boring ho-hum feature.
From a visual standpoint, Yo-Kai Watch 2 is nothing but quirky and charming. There’s heaps of style to the monster designs, both new and old, as well as the attack animations which are notably improved from the first game. But this is a gamethat’s still running on the 3DS hardware, and despite the highly-stylised look that the game is sporting, it does feel like it’s struggling to run at times. From a sound standpoint, the soundtrack and voice work is energetic yet cheesy and melodramatic.