Just in time for Halloween, Level-5 and Nintendo of America have favored us with another dose of supernatural silliness in the form of Yo-kai Watch 2. How does it stack up to last year’s stellar series starter? Read on to find out.
This is the weird Japanese ghost game, right?
It is. Yo-kai Watch 2 again puts the player in the role of a young protagonist who acquires a special timepiece that allows him (or her) to see, battle, and eventually befriend Yo-kai, mischievous spirits that live alongside humans and surreptitiously affect everything from actions and behavior to natural phenomena.
How does it differ from the original?
While the original game was a solitary release, Yo-kai Watch 2 comes in two distinct varieties, Bony Spirits and Fleshy Souls, representing dueling factions of Yo-kai. While the core gameplay is the same, Yo-kai Watch 2 goes out of its way to pile on the content. This includes a bigger map with more locations to visit, tons of new Yo-kai to battle and collect (and the ability to swap out your Yo-kai Butler, Whisper, with another spirit to follow you around on your adventures), the addition of the Yo-kai Watch Model Zero (which allows for even more powerful attacks in the form of “M Skill” Yo-kai combo moves), and new gameplay modes.
The versus mode, formerly limited to local wireless, has now been expanded to allow you to face off against your friends (or even complete strangers) via wireless internet. You can also team up in the “Yo-kai Watch Blasters” mode; therein up to four players can assume the roles of their favorite Yo-kai and band together to try and defeat the dreaded Oni—usually only seen in the game’s Terror Time events.
Are there any big differences between the two versions?
Bony Spirits and Fleshy Souls each boast a number of exclusive Yo-kai, à la the classic Pokémon formula. (But fret not; you can exchange Yo-kai Medals freely between both copies of the game to help—if you’ll pardon the pun—flesh out your collection.) Depending on which title you buy, you’ll also contribute points to Team Fleshy/Team Bony based on your performance in multiplayer matches.
The most noticeable difference, though, is in the form of the pack-in included with each (physical) version. Another new addition to Yo-kai Watch 2 is the ability to unlock multiple versions of a Yo-kai’s powerful Soultimate Move, and you can use the QR code on the bundled Yo-Motion Medal to power up your trusty cat Yo-kai Jibanyan with the Soultimate Move “Nyaight” (Bony Spirits) or “Nyext” (Fleshy Souls).
That said, my personal favorite version difference has to do with the intro videos. Clearly, this is only the most cosmetic of changes, but I found it delightful. Yo-kai Watch 2: Bony Spirits opens with the rocked up remix of the theme song from the animated series (featuring vocals by Swampy Marsh of Phineas and Ferb fame), while Fleshy Souls instead kicks off with a more hip-hop-tinged take on the track.
What if I didn’t play the first game? Will I be totally lost?
As I’ve said before, Yo-kai Watch leans heavily on Japanese cultural tradition, and some of it just doesn’t translate well because there are no congruent American sensibilities. Still, the initial game went to great lengths to relate things as clearly and as simply as possible—Yo-kai Watch 2 even more so.
The game acknowledges that it’s a sequel and that the protagonist has had previous adventures in the world of Yo-kai; however, the title opens with both his memories of this magical experience and the Watch itself being stolen by a powerful pair of Yo-kai.
From there you must reclaim the Watch, reacquaint yourself with the series’ combat system (which relies on a 6-Yo-kai team arranged on a rotatable wheel so that only half of your squad is positioned to attack enemies at any given time), and rebuild your Yo-kai Medallium, the collection of Medals used to summon your supernatural soldiers.
Admittedly, the “kid with amnesia” trope is the oldest trick in the JRPG book, but, in this case, it works equally well for newbies and for returning players who may have let their Yo-kai battle skills get a little rusty.
So what’s the basic plot?
A civil war has erupted between two factions of Yo-kai, the Bony Spirits and the Fleshy Souls, and it’s up to you, with the power of your Yo-kai Watch, to get to the bottom of this conflict. Once again you’re aided by your trusty Yo-kai companions Whisper and Jibanyan (and a potential cast of hundreds) as well as your human friends and family.
This time, however, you’ll travel far afield via train, bus, and bike and explore not only your home city, Springdale, but the surrounding hamlet of Harrisville and seaside port San Fantastico. Along the way you’ll dine, shop, run errands, and uncover mysteries.
You’ll even travel into the past to discover the origin of the Yo-kai Watch and unlock the aforementioned Yo-Kai Watch Model Zero. You will also spend and exorbitant amount of time purchasing, consuming, and pondering the vast historical importance of doughnuts.
Did you say… doughnuts?
I won’t get too spoiler-y, but an impressive number of the game’s plot points are doughnut-related. Obviously, the team at Level-5 takes their fried confectionaries incredibly seriously. (Okay, so technically the in-game treat in question is the Japanese manjū, but it’s been localized as doughnuts for us English-speakers.)
Can younger kids play this game?
The only things you really need to enjoy Yo-kai Watch 2 are basic literacy, ample free time with your Nintendo 3DS system, and a thirst for adventure. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ample supplementary products specifically tailored to the enjoyment of the youngest Yo-kai enthusiasts.
The Yo-kai Watch Model Zero is an oversized dress-up toy that, like the previous Watch model, interacts with this game’s physical Yo-Motion Medals. However, instead of just playing a snippet of dialog, the Model Zero additionally projects a short animated image of the Medal’s featured Yo-kai performing its signature move onto a nearby wall (or other suitable flat surface). Hasbro has also rolled out a new Medallium Collection Book—this one in a handsome blue as opposed to the original’s deep red—in which to store all of your real-world Yo-kai Medals.
Do the toys interact with the game?
In addition to the Yo-Motion projection afforded by the Yo-kai Watch Model Zero, the Yo-kai Medals can be scanned into Yo-kai Watch 2 to unlock new content like Soultimate Moves and coins for use in the game’s Crank-a-kai prize machine. They can similarly be scanned into the Yo-kai Watch Land smartphone app to further explore the weird and wonderful world of Yo-kai Watch.
Where do I get these medals?
Though I received a single blind-pack of Yo-Motion Medals alongside my other review products from Nintendo and Hasbro, this series doesn’t yet appear to be available “in the wild.” Previous-generation Medals, however, can still be found online and at brick-and-mortar retailers nationwide. And note that, while they lack the titular animation feature of the new Yo-Motion line, they can still be used in your Model Zero Watch and also feature QR codes that can be scanned into Yo-kai Watch 2.
Is this a must-buy, a pass, or something in-between?
Last year’s original Yo-kai Watch was a huge hit in my house. I enjoyed it, my children adored it, and it has since joined Pokémon, Animal Crossing, Mario, and Kirby as one of those beloved family franchises that we all look forward to.
We each had high hopes for Yo-kai Watch 2, and the game has doubtlessly delivered. It offers a noticeably bigger world with a lengthier adventure, but it still retains every ounce of the charm and whimsy that originally enchanted us. While Fleshy Souls and Bony Spirits offer what is essentially the same storyline, there are enough minor differences to keep things interesting and make it an ideal purchase for families with multiple Yo-kai Watch fans.
If your kids enjoy the Yo-kai Watch cartoon—which is represented throughout Yo-kai Watch 2 in the form of unlockable animated shorts—these titles will easily draw them into a world of helpful spirits, sinister (but ultimately less-than-frightening) forces, and an engaging story about the importance of friendship and understanding.
And if you, as an adult gamer, enjoy quirky portable RPGs with a heavy focus on collecting and combat management, you’ll likely want to score a copy for yourself as well. Contrary to the lyrics of the theme song, Yo-kai may not be everywhere, but they definitely deserve a place in your 3DS library.