Yo-Kai Watch 2 Review: Spirited, Soulful Surprises

Credit: Level-5
Credit: Level-5 /

Yo-Kai Watch 2 heads west at last this week, looking to take advantage of the monster-catching craze in North America. But this is no simple Pokemon clone.

Developer: Level-5

Publisher: Nintendo

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Release Date: September 30, 2016

Although Yo-Kai Watch has enjoyed massive popularity in Japan (they’re already playing the third game in the series), it hasn’t enjoyed the same success in North America. That isn’t to say it doesn’t do well, but there’s just something about the Yo-Kai craze that doesn’t resonate as well in the west. But Level-5 is back for another go at it with the sequel: Yo-Kai Watch 2.

Yo-Kai Watch 2 is actually two games, divided into Bony Spirits and Fleshy Souls versions. The two versions are the same game for the most part, but with different Yo-Kai available in each. It’s a frustrating fact that should sound familiar to Pokemon fans annoyed by the need to double dip on the same gameplay to catch ’em all. Purchasing decisions aside, Yo-Kai Watch 2 brings plenty of reasons for 3DS owners to give the series a look even if they haven’t played the first installment, especially as new games for the system grow scarcer.

You play as either Nate or Katie, the protagonist from the original Yo-Kai Watch. If you’re unfamiliar with the series, don’t fret. The first few hours of the game take you through a simple, if heavy-handed, amnesiac adventure where you reunite with your Yo-Kai friends and recall your memories with them. As a human gifted with the mysterious Yo-Kai Watch, you have the ability to see Yo-Kai–mischievous spirits who inhabit the world alongside humans and regularly cause trouble. By battling Yo-Kai in certain ways, you can befriend these spirits and earn their loyalty and aid in future battles. The set-up will be familiar (perhaps too familiar) to those who played the first game. While great for newcomers, old hats may find the amount of similarities between the two games frustrating.

Credit: Level-5
Credit: Level-5 /

Yo-Kai Watch 2 takes place once again in the town of Springdale and the surrounding area. While the first few hours of the game hold your hand tightly as you wander its streets, at an early point most restrictions are removed, and you’re free to trot about town doing sidequests, explore, or progress the plot as you desire. Without playing it, it’s easy to scoff at a game taking place solely in one town for having a small map, but Yo-Kai Watch 2 has nothing of the sort. Springdale is a full-fledged city full of shops, natural areas, urban development, people, and secrets. I found it difficult to keep my sights on the main quest; there was so much to do!

The battle system of Yo-Kai Watch 2 is one of its best features.

While Yo-Kai Watch 2’s storyline involving mischievous Yo-Kai causing trouble in Springdale isn’t the most compelling tale I’ve ever heard, that didn’t matter much as I played. Springdale is stuffed with sidequests and secret areas, and the game is chock full of optional features to keep you busy for hours. You can run errands for townspeople for rewards, or hunt down rare Yo-Kai in areas off the beaten path. There are special challenges behind secret doors around town, visible only by searching with the Yo-Kai Watch. Terror Time is back, adding a nerve-wracking challenge to going out at night. You can collect items for Yo-Kai Fusion, engage in online or local multiplayer Yo-Kai battles, seek out hidden Yo-Kai spotted around town, stop criminal Yo-Kai from causing trouble, and so much more. Springdale also has a continuous day/night cycle and regular weather patterns that change up Yo-Kai habits and quest availability.

While some more dangerous areas have Yo-Kai just wandering around, ready to fight, the majority of Springdale is peaceful. By using the Yo-Kai Watch as a sort of radar, you can detect where Yo-Kai are lurking–in trees, grass, alleys, under cars, etc. Using the 3DS’s touchscreen, you can search for them and engage them in combat to gain experience for your current Yo-Kai team, and possibly add this new Yo-Kai to your lineup.

Credit: Level-5
Credit: Level-5 /

The battle system of Yo-Kai Watch 2 is one of its best features. You control a party of up to six Yo-Kai, with three in front at a time. You can rotate who is fighting using the L and R buttons, removing Yo-Kai as needed to heal them or change your strategy. While the Yo-Kai do all the fighting without your input, you’ll be required to Purify those Yo-Kai who have become Inspirited, unleash powerful Soultimate moves, use items, and place Pins in enemy Yo-Kai to seek out “sweet spots” your Yo-Kai can attack. The former two interactions are done via short touch-screen games such as wiping away a fog, breaking chains, or tracing patterns. The latter two can be done to increase your efficacy in battle (buffing your Yo-Kai, targeting weak spots) or increase the likelihood of befriending the enemy after the battle.

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There was a point around mid-game where I found the battle system to grow a tad stale, as there are only so many touch-screen inputs and the combat was a tad on the easy side. However, once Boss Yo-Kai kicked in later in the game, all bets were off. Battles become delightfully frantic as you make strategic decisions about party set-up and when to use Soultimates. Plus, the varied touch-screen uses keep fights from becoming a button-mashing grind.Yo-Kai Watch 2 is excellent at letting you know what kind of difficulty you’re about to walk into, so you can spend your time befriending or training against easier Yo-Kai, or tackle incredibly difficult challenges at your leisure.

With a wide array of features, over three hundred unique Yo-Kai to collect, and a huge town that was a delight to explore, it was easy for me to get excited about Yo-Kai Watch 2 in spite of never having played prior games in the series. Admittedly, Yo-Kai Watch 2 may have slightly less appeal to those unfamiliar with Japanese culture, simply because of the enormous amount of puns/references that are made to it. Yo-Kai Watch 2 is a fairly witty and punny game, and those in the know will find themselves chuckling at names like “Brushido” and the ridiculous food eating mini-game. Without context, it might be a bit baffling.

Yo-Kai Watch 2. 8. Yo-Kai Watch 2: Fleshy Souls and Bony Spirits are a surprising treat–especially if you’ve never tried out the series before. With hours of enjoyable and varied content and hundreds of Yo-Kai to collect, you’ll never be bored as you explore every nook and cranny of Springdale. Though some repetitious aspects can grow a bit stale, Yo-Kai Watch 2’s unique systems and spirited atmosphere are certainly worth your time.. Level-5.

Copies of both games were provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.