It is great to be back in Springdale. This riverside town is where we first learnt about the strange Yo-kai that inhabit our world, mischievous beings that remain invisible to most people and are usually the root cause of any unexplained problems in our lives.
Nate, self-proclaimed Yo-kai butler Whisper and the chocolate bar-loving Jibanyan are back, but there are far more sinister circumstances that kickstart their adventures in Yo-kai Watch 2.
The Nintendo 3DS exclusive sequel opens with evil twins Kin and Gin descending on Nate’s house while he is asleep. In conversation, they reveal how they see the Yo-kai Watch as a loathsome device that has no place in their ideal world, and, somewhat menacingly, choose to confiscate it.
Without the Yo-kai Watch, Nate is unable to see the quirky Yo-kai that surround him and, therefore, loses all memory of the friendships that he has created. It is only when Nick Nack lures Nate to the strange Memory Store that the situation is corrected, where the shopkeeper sell him a new Yo-kai Watch that, after a quick whirl on the Crank-a-kai, soon sees him reunited with Whisper – who remains to be the best character in the Yo-kai Watch universe thanks to his hilarious comedic quips and over the top reactions.
That is only the start to this dramatic Yo-kai tale, which, after Hovernyan uses a Time Stone to transport Nate and pals 60 years into the past, the young hero has the chance to meet his grandfather Nathaniel Adams for the first time. Caught in a war between two Yo-kai factions – Bony Spirits and Fleshy Souls – they must work together to end the chaos being caused by Wicked Yo-kai, with your time travels also letting players learn about how the Yo-kai Watch was created as well as discovering the Yo-kai Watch Model Zero.
If you know your Komajiro from Komasan, you will have already had hours of fun exploring Springdale in Yo-kai Watch and will already be patiently sat waiting for the postman to deliver Yo-kai Watch 2. For everyone else, this is a perfect entry point to LEVEL-5’s kooky creation.
We now have a more expansive world to wander, in which you will embark on an adventure on a far grander scale that is packed with more to see and do. After the story is given time to unravel, players can board a train to Springdale, Harrisville and San Fantastico, and, while a slightly tedious experience for grown-ups, this helps youngsters learn real-world skills in keeping an eye out for their destination on a route map or risk missing their stop.
With more ground to cover, it isn’t long before players are introduced to Mirapo and Miradox – handy Yo-kai that will let you fast travel and time travel, respectively. The story will push you to shift between past and present, with LEVEL-5 seeing that as an opportunity to introduce players to classic Yo-kai plucked from ancient folklore. The game packs more than 350 Yo-kai to befriend, with 100 of those being brand new – some exclusive to either the Bony Spirits or Fleshy Souls game version.
While you can spend your time in towns swiping at bugs on trees, catching fish, climbing up poles, taking part in bike races and helping troubled people to alleviate their Yo-kai woes, these are a simple distraction from your main task. As with Yo-kai Watch, players will primarily use the Yo-kai Radar to search for invisible Yo-kai, face them in battle, and hope that you can befriend them to strengthen your team.
These battle instances remain largely the same, with players taking on enemy Yo-kai with a six-strong team. These can be rotated in-and-out-of-battle using a wheel on the touch screen, which is important given that you will want to throw a new Yo-kai in to fight when another is knocked out. Yo-kai can also be inspirited, negative effects that make them less useful in battle. When swapped out of the fight, players can choose to Purify them to remove these effects – which sees you tap glowing balls, swinging a clock hand around or spinning the dial.
Yo-kai will build their Soul Meter gauge in battle, which, once full, they can unleash a powerful Soultimate move. If you let all three Yo-kai build their gauges, the Yo-kai Watch Model Zero will now let players unleash a more potent move called M Skill, while the device will also let you Poke Yo-kai in battle – which, while sounding pointless, may make them drop items.
These components allow battles to remain as engaging as ever, but it won’t win over those that were left unconvinced in Yo-kai Watch. With Yo-kai largely left to attack automatically, it lacks the strategic spark seen in elsewhere in the genre – even if it has been understandably simplified for the youngsters that LEVEL-5 hope will play it.
Where Yo-kai Watch 2 truly excels is in value, packed with enough content that will keep players exploring with their Yo-kai companions for months on end. There’s the Yo-kai Medallium to fill with Yo-kai Medals collected through hard-earned friendships, Yo-kai Spots to discover, Trophies to earn, the Critter Collection to complete, Yo-Criminals to nab, and that’s not all.
LEVEL-5’s clear goal was to make Yo-kai Watch 2 a more social experience, coming in trading Yo-kai Medals, battling each other, and taking on the new Yo-kai Watch Blasters mode – some of which you can play online for the first time.
The Blasters mode is the real star attraction, letting up to four players take on Oni – with each having their own role to play in the overwhelming fight that ensues. Whether that be Fighter, Healer, Tank or Ranger, success is a real, hard-fought team effort, and the mode will prove to be enjoyable with Yo-kai fans.
Quirky as ever, Yo-kai Watch 2 is more iterative in approach than revolutionary, coming packed with the same charming character and wacky moments that many came to love in the first game. The wider world and multiplayer aspects are the key successes, but LEVEL-5 needs to be more daring to make the next adventure stand out.