New mysteries are abound in the two-for-one special, Yo-kai Watch 3. Join Nate, Whisper and Jibanyan in the fictional American town of BBQ, while also cracking the case in Springdale with new protagonists Hailey and Usapyon, seamlessly switching between two distinct stories. With an updated battle system designed for strategic players, a host of minigames, quests and sub-plots, Yo-kai Watch 3 is jam-packed with quality content for the Nintendo 3DS. Yet despite the effort made to pull together the two storylines into one ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ space adventure, the cracks are apparent, quickly unravelling what could have been the best iteration of the series yet.
Developed by famed storytellers Level-5, Yo-kai Watch 3 was originally released in Japan for the Nintendo 3DS back in 2016. Similar to the second game, the third was split into three releases under the names, Sushi, Tempura and, a few months later, Sukiyaki. Known as the definitive version, Sukiyaki contains all of the game’s updates, all three versions of ‘exclusive’ Yo-kai, and additional post-game content such as quests, favours and the Blasters Treasure mode. For the localised versions, Level-5 and Nintendo opted to publish the definitive version for the North American and European markets – a sound business move given that Yo-kai’s influence isn’t as large in the West. However, it is worth noting that Dream Medals (and thereby the ability to scan them into the NFC reader on the Nintendo 3DS) were removed from the localised versions.
In a bold move by Level-5, and a first for the series, there are two playable characters in Yo-kai Watch 3. While you can still play as the fan-favourite Nate with his two sidekicks Whisper and Jibanyan in the new American town BBQ, the third instalment introduces a new playable character, Hailey, and her befriended Yo-kai, Usapyon, to fans of the game series.
First appearing in Season 2 of the Anime series, Hailey is an eccentric character with a love for anime, space, aliens and mysteries. Played out in exactly the same fashion as the Anime series, she heads over to the AnimeChum store to buy the latest edition of the Sailor Cuties figurine, which is unfortunately sold out. In her despair, Hailey notices a UFO watch which can discover and identify hidden aliens. Of course, it’s no mere alien tracker but is instead a Yo-kai Watch Model U, which can discover all types of Yo-kai, including ‘Merican ones. She meets Usapyon, who attempts to tell her how he’s trying to find his human friend, Dr Hughly, though Hailey isn’t interested and continues to yelp and scream ‘PSYCH’ at everything in sight. Over the course of the first chapter, Usapyon manages to explain his predicament and so Hailey sets up her own Detective Agency in the hopes of unearthing Springdale’s wondrous mysteries.
The first 20 hours of Yo-kai Watch 3 – approximately half of the 40-hour game – is somewhat comparable to eating a melt-in-the-middle chocolate pudding. Sometimes, Level-5 gets it right, baking it without burning and opening up that deliciously gooey, warm chocolate inside. Other times, the pudding is half-baked, stodgy and the chocolate doesn’t ooze, it coagulates. Since both character stories take place in different cities, players will need to train up two separate teams of six Yo-kai, handle two inventories, two medalliums and two sets of key quests to progress the main storyline. It’s disparate, fragmented and joined weakly at the seams with a ‘Story Link’ feature. That is until Chapter 6 begins.
Once you complete Hailey’s story arc in Springdale, both characters are invited to Yopple Inc., the game’s knock-off Apple Inc., where they will meet Steve Jaws and Mark Orkerberg (yes, you read those names correctly). Only then will you be able to share one medallium, Yo-kai medals, inventories and your bug and fish collection, as well as any Yo-kai applications you’ve unlocked over the course of the game.
While it makes complete sense to combine the two characters’ into one, it takes 20 hours of monotonous grinding, aimless backtracking and switching (without the use of Mirapo’s teleport) to get to this point. And that’s the biggest gripe of Yo-kai Watch 3, since the second half of the story dramatically improves in its execution and overall playability, particularly in Chapter 7 which feels like your very own Crystal Maze or escape the Labyrinth show. Compared to its predecessors, though, the Avengers-come-Guardians of the Galaxy storyline lacks real flavour. And although the script-writing is sub-par in 3, you can still count on Whisper and Jibanyan’s wit and banter to lighten the mood. In fact, they can be quite the little charmers. Hey, there’s a silver lining to everything, right?
With the main storyline set aside, Yo-kai Watch 3 incorporates plenty of updates, minigames and ingeniously designed new critters from ‘Merica. The battle system has had a significant overhaul, too, with a 3-by-3 grid format on the touch screen replacing the circular format seen in the first and second games. Named the Tactics Medal Board, Yo-kai can now be strategically placed on the board in offensive or defensive stances, and can move freely around the board with a cool-down time limit to avoid enemy Soultimate moves or pick up health or soultimate drops. Players will still only be able to use three Yo-kai at any one time, but can have their three ‘sub’ Yo-kai in reserve and ready to switch at any moment. Level-5 has also spruced up the Soultimate and Purify mechanics within the battle system, so it’s great to see the stylus being used in different ways.
For the most part, the refreshed battle format makes for much more intense and strategic online battles. Unlocked early within the game, you can challenge friends in local wireless or over the internet as well as find random matchups online. Plus, you can try your hand at the Blasters sub-plot in Nate’s story in either single or co-operative mode, which sees players take control of a team of four Yo-kai in a free-roaming dungeon crawler mode. Pick up key items, befriend Yo-kai and fight bosses as you race against the clock to escape the dungeon. The Blasters Camp is a great change of pace, giving fans quality content without feeling shoe-horned into the game.
If you’ve played Yo-kai Watch 2, you’ll remember the brutal hide-and-seekathon also known as Terror Time. A mode that’s quite literally the stuff of nightmares, players need to navigate the streets of Springdale to avoid the Gargaros, Ogralus or Orcanus and their creepy spies in order to reach the gate to escape from the Oni dimension. Not only does Terror Time make a return in the third instalment, you now need to find the key to the gate in order to escape. While Terror Time’s appearance here is not as egregious as it is in Yo-kai Watch 2 (thankfully), it’s still a part of the storyline. Trust me, I tried to avoid it at all costs. But if you enjoy navigating the Hellmouth without the aid of a weapon or Watcher, be my guest.
On a similar note, Nate’s story is plagued by Zombies rather than Onis. However, it incorporates a much more inventive mechanic. While you still can’t face zombies head-on, you can sneak up behind them and bash their brains into oblivion (or the Hellmouth, whichever is nearer) in order to forge a path towards the mourning bell. With more control and a handy weapon, Zombie Night is a thrilling minigame which takes both brawn and brains to navigate. Zombie Night is in stark contrast to the Adventure Raft mode, however, which feels clunky and slow to navigate.
The sheer amount of content on offer outside the main storyline is, quite possibly, what makes Yo-kai Watch 3 so interesting to play. Between side quests that feature all your favourite Yo-kai, Blaster Camp, the deliciously tantalising Boss Rush mode (though, let’s never speak of Agent X again), the fun (but gimmicky) Build-a-Nyan mode, online battle and post-game content, there’s more than enough to sink your teeth into; whether you’re a casual fan or a competitive player. It presents a highly polished front with some significant updates to gameplay, but it lacks the charm, witty jibes and magical moments found during the first and second titles. Usually you can find me chuckling in my seat, admiring the fantastic script-writing during a Yo-kai game, but for the third instalment it just wasn’t to be. Let’s hope the next instalment brings back that missing magic.
A review copy of Yo-kai Watch 3 was provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK.