In the game, kids play as Nate, who sets out in search of insects for a school project, only to find Whisper, a self-proclaimed Yo-kai Butler. Whisper gives Nate the Yo-kai Watch and sets him off on his journey to find as many Yo-kai as he can, befriend them, and convince them to use their powers to help people in need.
Whisper guides kids along as they play, setting them up for different missions and helping to locate hidden Yo-kai. Kids can utilize the Yo-kai meter in the corner of the screen, which dials up to red when Yo-kai are nearby. With more than 200 Yo-kai to find, kids will discover them hiding in the bushy treetops, swimming in the lake, hanging with people, or inhabiting inanimate objects like vending machines.
When players find a new Yo-kai, it’s time to assemble a team and head into battle. Kids can call up six Yo-kai in the watch, spin the wheel, and select three to fight the opposing Yo-kai. Some teams are stronger than others, so kids will have to use skill and strategy to make sound selections.
Once their team is ready, kids can choose between four actions: Soultimate, Target, Purify, and Item. Most basic Yo-kai battles won’t require kids to perform many actions at all, but for battles with big-time Legend Yo-kai, kids will have to make lots of moves. Soultimate allows Yo-kai to perform signature moves, such as Jibanyan’s Paws of Fury, to do damage to a foe. Target lets kids use the touch screen to hone in on opponents’ weak spots, and purify allows kids to bring damaged Yo-kai back to full health. And lastly, Item allows kids to give their Yo-kai a boost, or put some more damage on an opposing Yo-kai by using items they have found and stored throughout the game.
After the Yo-kai is defeated, kids may get the option to become friends with the mischievous little spirit. If the player accepts, the Yo-kai will give him or her a Medal—a token of friendship, if you will—which kids can store in their Medallium.
The more Yo-kai you battle, the more money and experience points you earn, helping your Yo-kai to level up and eventually evolve.
The game is extremely story-driven, closely following the animated series. In addition to battling Yo-kai as they find them, players will also be given additional tasks, like finding lost objects and helping people and Yo-kai in need. Players can use the map to find their next mission, and Whisper will continuously guide kids and remind them about what they are looking for, perfect for a younger audience who may need more direction.
Yo-kai Watch even has some learning built in, teaching kids important life lessons as they play, such as the importance of being honest and why stealing is wrong. They’ll even be reminded to wait for traffic lights to turn green before crossing the street (or a giant Yo-kai will attack—and he’s really hard to defeat. Trust.)
The Yo-kai themselves are mostly adorable, full of silly, imaginative quirks. Undoubtedly, kids will quickly name a favorite. Mine? Jibanyan. Hands down. This pointy-toothed, short and squat, chocoloate-loving cat is quite the slacker. Even when he’s summoned, he typically needs a little convincing before he’s ready to fight. Jibanyan is all like “yeah, we’re friends, but like… free will.” I totally relate.
Another Yo-kai kids will meet early on in the game is Walkappa. Most kappas stay in the water, but the one kids will find in this game loves to walk on dry land. He keeps a bottle of water to pour on his head to stay wet, though—because if his plate dries out, he’ll lose his powers!
Then there’s Tattletell, a mischievous Yo-kai that resembles an elderly woman with oversized arms who hangs from your earlobes and makes you reveal your secrets. Scary.
Each Yo-kai belongs to one of eight tribes, such as Charming, a tribe full of cute Yo-kai that have lightening-fast attacks, and Heartful, a tribe of serene Yo-kai that have superb healing powers. Yo-kai that are from the same tribe share a special bond, increasing their abilities and strength when they battle together. Kids will have to take the tribes into account when assembling their teams.
The game has hours of play value, from running around locating new Yo-kai to boss battles that take a few tries to master (best of luck on the Fish King. It took me four tries to take him down!). Kids should have a descent grasp on reading comprehension, since a lot of the story is told in speech bubbles. From seek-and-find to strategy, Yo-Kai Watch will provide kids, tweens, and teens with hours of entertainment.
Parents: Don’t be alarmed if suddenly kids are claiming Yo-kai are to blame for all of their bad behavior. Just remind them: Yo-kai are used for good just as much as they are for mischief!