When time came close to the release date of YO-KAI WATCH 2, I was nervous about how the Western reviews would fare. I have known for a while that reviewers in the West tend to be more harsh, but maybe there was hope for better ratings than the first game. When those review embargo was lifted for YO-KAI WATCH 2, some of those reviews unfortunately turned out to be negative.
While there have been some positive reviews for YO-KAI WATCH 2 (ranging from 7.0 to 8.5), big gaming sites like IGN and Gamespot gave the sequel low scores. I was in shock and very confused. The game is currently sitting around an average of 68 in Metacritic for Bony Spirits. I personally played through the entirety of YO-KAI WATCH 2. In contrast to negative reviews, I honestly thought YO-KAI WATCH 2 was a far better experience than YO-KAI WATCH 1.
|Game Review Site||Score||Comments|
|LevelUp||6.3/10||Whit no animation upgrades and a corny narrative, Yo-Kai Watch 2 is an RPG that took one step forward and two —or maybe three— steps back by not contributing with something fresh.|
|Nintendo Life||6/10||Instead of evolving, Yo-kai Watch 2 plays it safe by fusing new content – some good, some trivial, and some bad – onto a recycled frame, and the result is what we refer to as a sophomore slump.|
|IGN||5.5/10||For every new story idea or impressive blend of humor and pathos in its writing, Yo-kai Watch 2 fails to breathe life into the act of actually playing it.|
|Gamespot||5/10||The game feels old hat, taking you through well-trod ground–albeit with a fresh coat of paint and a few new faces.|
|USgamer||5/10||If you’re looking for an alternative to Pokemon, you might want to see if the next game fixes Yo-kai Watch’s woes—if it gets localized, that is.|
I asked myself, why are Western reviews for YO-KAI WATCH 2 this way? Was the problem the unchanged battle system that made reviewers angry? Were those reviews rushed? Did reviewers just not care about YO-KAI WATCH in general? I personally believe that it is a combination of all of those questions.
I will be looking over some of the major reviewers’ negative points. This article will be giving an in-depth personal analysis and a fair take on YO-KAI WATCH 2 while also taking my personal experience I had with the sequel. This article has spoilers for YW1 and YW2. Be warned. It will also help to read the negative reviews linked above to get a better understanding of my article.
Is YO-KAI WATCH’s battle system bad? In my opinion, no. It is just different from monster RPGs with the non-traditionally auto-turn based battle system. I can totally understand that because for the longest time, the biggest monster RPGs have maintained turn-based battle systems. Trying to get used to YO-KAI WATCH’s battle system can be confusing at first, but it is not as bad as reviewers make it seem. Let us look into the battle mechanics further.
The Battle Mechanics of YO-KAI WATCH Explained In-Depth
What makes YO-KAI WATCH’s battle system unique and engaging? Your Yo-kai fight on their own, instead of you commanding their every action. Instead, you will be actively managing other actions such as rotating between Yo-kai, targeting, using Soultimates, purifying, and using items.
While Yo-kai fight on their own, they have four main actions they can do: Attacks, Techniques, Inspiriting, and Loafing. Attacks are your Yo-kai’s physical attacks, while techniques are your Yo-kai’s special elemental attacks. Inspiriting is your Yo-kai’s special ability that can positively or negatively affect your own Yo-kai or the enemy with certain status effects. Loafing is how often your Yo-kai do not attack or inspirit. Soultimates do come into play too, but you have manual control for these powerful moves.
Battles have a simple goal, manage and guide your Yo-kai. You act more like an active sports coach planning your moves ahead. It is easy and simple to understand this once you play around the battle mechanics for yourself. YO-KAI WATCH’s battle system is engaging in its own way, not in the same way Pokemon and Digimon are. However, there is much more depth when you choose to dig deeper.
Tribes and attitude also come into play as they define the Yo-kai’s play-style. There are eight different tribes in YO-KAI WATCH that each have their own style of battling. Attitudes that affect what actions a Yo-kai will do more. There are also abilities, stats, and elemental weaknesses that define a Yo-kai’s capabilities.
Knowing how to best utilize each Yo-kai’s action and managing your team can help you win battles with more satisfaction. It might seem confusing the first time you play around YO-KAI WATCH’s battle system, but once you get used to the battle mechanics, these battles do become easier to manage and more enjoyable to play through.
Boss Battles and Online Battles: The Real Nitty Gritty
In online battles and bosses, managing actions is a serious key goal. Before battling, there is a high level of customization you can play around with your Yo-kai team. Tribe bonuses, item-holding, attitude-changing, Yo-kai placement, and more mechanics come into play with these particular battles.
In boss battles, you must find out where the weak spots are by targeting so that Yo-kai focus on attacking those spots, while at the same time managing your team to protect from inspiriting and attacks to win. Bosses are usually intense, and figuring out their weaknesses can be very rewarding when you actively manage your team right. While these battles do not require much preparation and can be finished easily, online battles are where the real meat begins to grill.
Online battles are more intense and require more focus. Online players have the same flexibility of Yo-kai team customization as you. You have to really think about your actions such Yo-kai placement, when to rotate between Yo-kai, your Yo-kai’s play-style, type weaknesses, and the stats and abilities your Yo-kai have to retain victory.
For example, say you are a newcomer in online battles. You have all attackers and one healer for your Yo-kai. The enemy team has two inspiriters, one defense tank, one healer and two attackers. An enemy team can slowly inspirit your entire team and have their attackers come at your healer Yo-kai while you are occupied purifying your inspirited team that is currently unable to attack. In that situation, your chance in winning the battle are very low because you lost your healer and you have no one that can remedy your attackers easily. Thinking about your Yo-kai team is essential to winning these battles.
It can be extremely rewarding to win these kinds of battles once you figure out how to manage and conquer with a good Yo-kai team. The kind of customization and difficulty of these battles in YO-KAI WATCH heavily reminds me of the Xenoblade games, which also has an auto-turn based RPG battle system and has an emphasis on mental managing and thinking. There may be a lot that comes into play when you are battling, but once you get the hang of everything, battles can be thrilling experiences.
YO-KAI WATCH has enough depth to battling to offer a potential competitive scene and I can see that growing exponentially once more people really get the hang of the battle system and the mechanics. Battles are more active as it will require mental focus and quick thinking, which could make Yo-kai battles fun gambles to watch. It is sort of like fighting games like Super Smash Bros and Street Fighter, where you take advantage of techs and timing your moves to gain the upper advantage. However, the competitive scene will entirely depend on the community’s will to push for that scene for YO-KAI WATCH, but I know that the potential is there since the game allows such customization.
It just seems like reviewers never really explore these mechanics like attitudes, abilities, and tribes further. They just come to make an illogical conclusion that the battle system is not in-depth, which is simply not true. I can understand that reasoning though. Reviewers do not get to explore that depth because regular battles in YO-KAI WATCH tend to be short. Many wild Yo-kai can faint pretty quickly, thus these mechanics cannot be flexibly experimented. The tutorials and regular battles in YO-KAI WATCH do not do the greatest job at teaching or demonstrating mechanics further in-depth either.
In boss battles and online battles, those mechanics are fully utilized to make players think about their decisions in management. The most notable thing I see in reviews is how online battles are never mentioned or is covered very briefly. Online battling is one of the biggest new additions in YO-KAI WATCH 2, and it seems that reviewers do not care for the mode. Instead, they complain how online has the same problems as regular battles in single player.
I can understand this though. In the situation of making reviews prior to YO-KAI WATCH 2’s release, there likely has not been any competitive teams to battle against to find any value in online battling. I would at least hope reviewers would experiment with Yo-kai, stats, and abilities to get the most out of the game, but they have not. With my personal experience with online mode, I found online battling in YO-KAI WATCH to be mentally challenging and fun and it is not as simple as waiting to win for high rank battles.
These are not the only things reviewers complain about. The most notable things I see get criticized in YO-KAI WATCH 2 reviews are the slow beginning in the main story, side-quests, transportation, and befriending. Usually, reviewers tend to combine all of these issues to explain why YO-KAI WATCH 2 overall is a bad game.
I definitely understand where these opinions with these issues come from and I am not saying those opinions are wrong, but there are some things reviewers say with these problems that feel unfairly over-exaggerated. There are a couple of things in YO-KAI WATCH 2 that make these issues less problematic that I would like to point out.
The Beginning of the Story
The story tends to get major flak for the slow start with re-introducing the same elements in YO-KAI WATCH 1 such as re-introducing Jibanyan’s story, catching bugs, and reliving the experience of getting the watch before introducing the new time travel story. While I can see that the beginning can feel a little cliche in the first 10 hours, I also understand that the beginning is there to get newcomers properly introduced to the game.
And in fairness, the game does a much better job at re-introducing gameplay elements through its key quests in the first few chapters of YO-KAI WATCH 2. There are also many new gameplay elements such as the Baffle Boards, Select-A-Coins, Gates of Whimsy, YO-KAI WATCH Blasters, and online trading/battling introduced that makes it hard for players to notice the similarities.
The beginning of the game is sort of like a soft reboot. There are enough new elements introduced in the beginning of YO-KAI WATCH 2 to make the game feel refreshing to play through. At most, it can be a bit repetitive for YO-KAI WATCH veterans, but not really boring to play through.
I never felt weary because I was captivated by the better presentation, charm, and other improvements in YO-KAI WATCH 2 offered to care about the beginning bits of tediousness. The feud between donuts and the Mega Watch situation had me interested to push through the game further. Once YO-KAI WATCH 2 was done with reintroductions, the game got far more interesting with the time travel aspects and watch origins.
The particular issue I have seen from reviewers with side-quests are the fetch quests. Fetch quests in YO-KAI WATCH 2 are usually quests when players have to collect items. I will give reviewers some credit. These types of side-quests can be admittedly annoying, as there is little to no direction on where players can find these items and the reward for completing these particular are not exactly great.
However, in terms of the side-quests that are mandatory to move the story forward, there are only about four side-quests in the main story that actually involve fetching items. Most of these side-quests are pretty easy to power through and there is full guidance for all four quests, so you can find these items when you do them. They can be somewhat annoying in the third and last story fetch quests, but fetch quests completely disappear after that. So the point is eventually moot.
I do not see why fetch quests in the game are one of the most problematic things about the game. There are lots of story quests in YO-KAI WATCH 2 that are not fetch quests that are enjoyable to play through. Side-quests that involve Yo-kai and helping citizens in Springdale are quite entertaining to play through because players get introduced to new Yo-kai and many wacky situations with characters that make side-quest experiences constantly engaging.
Can fetch quests be annoying and time-consuming? Yes to a certain extent. These particular missions are at most annoying, but not frustrating to the point where players will want to quit the game. Outside of story fetch quests, fetch quests with orange flags are completely optional and not mandatory for completion. So if you are not in the mood to do a fetch quest, you can skip them with no restrictions in the way. There are much more side-quests not mandatory to the story that are more fun to play through.
At least it is not how YO-KAI WATCH 1 handled side-quests. When talking to Gargaros in the final part of the game, he starts judging players on how many sidequests they did. If players didn’t do enough side quests (which was at least 23 required), Gargaros would send them to another area to play an annoying mini game of finding a certain Yo-kai in the area. This completely breaks the flow of the game, and can ruin a player’s experience of wanting to progress. YO-KAI WATCH 2 does not punish players as much.
The only story quests that do somewhat break the flow are the Watch Rank side-quests. YO-KAI WATCH 2 does not explicitly tell players that those particular quests are needed to progress the story. It can be frustrating to travel all the way to the story quest destination, only to realize you need to upgrade your watch to move through the story. Watch Rank quests can temporarily crush my mood, but it only happens around three times during the story and faster traveling options are available throughout the game to make those certain side-quests less frustrating to play through.
Transportation is mainly complained by reviewers because of the train station system. The train station is usually hated because of how long it takes to reach your key destination. In fairness though, they do mention that Mirapos do become available eventually and trains quickly become a non-issue. Although, it does feel over-exaggerated with the way it is harshly said or written in certain reviews.
The way I see it, the trains are a pretty cool addition to YW2. When I first rode the train, I had this special moment of gazing my eyes on the new views of Springdale and enjoy the wait to my destination. I had enjoyable conversations with my Yo-kai and from other people in Springdale in the train to keep me engaged. The train felt more of a special moment rather than boring altogether.
I can only find the train to be an issue for those very impatient. Trains are not as bad as reviewers make it seem. If it does become an annoying issue quickly, you will eventually have easy teleportation access to areas after those train segments are done anyway. In my opinion, these little gameplay additions like the train just add to the charm of the game.
The biggest complaint I seen for YO-KAI WATCH 2 is befriending Yo-kai. This is one of the few gripes said from reviewers that I can legitimately agree to be a problem to some degree. There are a few things I would like to point out with those complaints, as a few big reviewers do not know additional gameplay aspects about befriending that were added in the sequel that makes the process easier.
When upgrading the watch to D-Rank, players gain the ability to find a Yo-kai’s favorite food. This small new feature makes the process of befriending much easier. Admittedly, the game does not tell players this in the tutorials and it can be understandably hard to discover this secret because players generally do not have enough time to play around with the targeting mechanics in regular battles to discover this little helpful feature.
Even though this form of help is available, befriending can still take a long time. Thankfully, players can also boost their chances of befriending Yo-kai if they have befriending boosting Yo-kai on their team, popping floating wisps, and poking Yo-kai with the Model Zero to make the process easier. Some of these befriending options in battle are obtained through progressing through the story.
There are so many options available for befriending that it does generally ease the general frustration of failing to befriend a certain Yo-kai. It can feel incredibly rewarding to befriend Yo-kai you want, especially with befriending rare Yo-kai. If befriending gets too frustrating even with the methods provided, there are still more ways to obtain Yo-kai.
These other methods of obtaining Yo-kai includes meeting Yo-kai in the train, Crankakai, special Yo-kai spots, Yo-kai Watch Blasters, Infinite Tunnel, online trading, and side-quests that reward Yo-kai. There are also enough Yo-kai that are befriended automatically through the main story so players do not feel that their befriending luck is decreasing.
Overall, I do not see the issue of befriending Yo-kai in YW2 being a big deal, unless you choose to complete YW2 by befriending all Yo-kai. Completing this huge task can be somewhat frustrating and requires patience, but it is not entirely bad. It can definitely be rewarding to obtain a new Yo-kai and see the Yo-kai being added in the medallium, bringing players motivation to collect more unique Yo-kai.
Why YO-KAI WATCH is so beloved?
When I initially played the first game, I was amazed by how polished the world of Springdale was. There are citizens actively walking around the city with cars constantly driving in roads. The attention to detail with graphics pushes the 3DS to the limits that helps make the world feel alive. Springdale is a world that is very memorable to explore and it makes me wish that I lived there myself.
The characters are also unforgettable, specifically Yo-kai. Each Yo-kai has their own personality and inspiriting ability that gives them a weird charm. They may seem ugly and unpolished to some, but once you understand and look into YO-KAI WATCH more, you learn to appreciate each Yo-kai, especially when you get to learn about their youkai mythology. These Yo-kai are the main hook of YO-KAI WATCH 2 that pushed me to continue the game and befriend more new Yo-kai.
To me, YO-KAI WATCH is like a special mix of Animal Crossing with RPG elements. You are able to catch bugs/fish, help citizens in Springdale, or explore the world on your free time when you are not in the mood of progressing the story. It is nice to freely immerse in this world through the perspective of a young kid and it gives this rich sense of childhood that I can truly admire the LEVEL-5 developers for accomplishing.
YO-KAI WATCH’s game structure reminds me of how Pokemon focuses on gameplay rather than story. YO-KAI WATCH 2 allows players to focus on other aspects such as side-quests, Yo-kai to collect, the huge world, and multiplayer to get players invested in the game. These aspects are the main selling points in YO-KAI WATCH 2 that makes the game fun to invest in, but it does not seem like reviewers care too much about those gameplay points compared to another recently reviewed game.
The Impact of YO-KAI WATCH 2 and Why Reviewers Should Care
When I got the chance to read the newest reviews for Pokemon Sun/Moon, specifically from IGN and Gamespot, I noticed how much reviewers seemed to care about gameplay additions. Granted, these are different reviewers, but you when read the reviews, you will notice the care put into properly detailing as many notable gameplay additions/modes as possible with the reviews of Sun/Moon compared to YO-KAI WATCH 2.
With YO-KAI WATCH 2, it seems like reviewers do not care so much about the new additions and improvements. The vibe I get from those reviews is that reviewers rushed the game, being far too critical of the “unchanged problems” and impatient while missing so many gameplay elements that make the sequel better. In contrast of YW2, reviewers seem to care more with reviews of Sun/Moon.
In Japan, YO-KAI WATCH 2 was beloved by Famitsu with a score of 36/40 and managed to earn the Grand Prize title in the Japan Game Awards 2015. Yet in the West, its reception is far more negative. Whether you like YO-KAI WATCH or not, YO-KAI WATCH has had major impact to the Japanese gaming industry. YO-KAI WATCH 2 feels alarmingly dismissed by reviewers even with its impact and do not realize the other impacts the sequel had with the newest games of two certain franchises.
With Digimon’s latest iteration, Appli Monsters, it straight up takes the entire YO-KAI WATCH formula in the anime. The basic premise is essentially about an everyday student who has crazy things happening to him with strange problems technology surrounding him. These problems are caused by the Digimon, who basically “inspirit” other peoples’ technology to give them a hard time.
With Pokemon Sun/Moon, they basically took major game elements and vibes from YO-KAI WATCH 2. The newest games have a much bigger focus on exploration and personality than ever before. You can see this through some of Sun/Moon’s new game elements such as the Rotomdex, Poke Finder, and the return of integrating gameplay with toys with the Z-Ring in the main games.
These elements have striking resemblances to YW’s gameplay mechanics if you played both extensively. You can tell that the director for Pokemon S/M, Shigeru Ohmori, took inspiration from YO-KAI WATCH and its success in Japan. The Pokemon Sun/Moon anime even completely changed its tone from being serious to more expressive to closely resemble the YW anime.
Speaking of Ohmori, he is apparently good friends with Akihiro Hino (CEO of Level-5). At the Japan Game Awards 2015, supposedly Ohmori stood up and cheered on for Hino when he won three big awards for YO-KAI WATCH 2. If this can indicate anything, it is really good news. We would clearly know where some of the inspiration for Pokemon Sun/Moon comes from and really indicates the impact YO-KAI WATCH 2 has caused.
It should be noted this is not 100% certain, but I would not be surprised if this was true. Level-5 does have a close enough relationship with Nintendo with the portable lineup and localization to likely be able to communicate with the Pokemon Company once in a while. I would imagine that Hino and Ohmori talk about how their franchises are going, talking about influences from each other’s games and how they yielded success doing so.
Connecting these dots together, it makes me question how seriously did reviewers take YO-KAI WATCH 2 as a game. YO-KAI WATCH 2 had huge influence and impact in the Japanese gaming industry. I thought those aspects would have really driven reviewers to give the sequel further analysis and understanding for YO-KAI WATCH 2.
Unfortunately, that is not the case and I think there could have been more fairness given in some gameplay aspects being criticized. I really hope these reviewers give YO-KAI WATCH a fairer look if they come back to YO-KAI WATCH 2 again or review the heavily hinted YO-KAI WATCH 3 later. The critical panning this sequel gets feels largely unfair.
Beta64 put it best in his review of YO-KAI WATCH 2:
“Moral of the story, you just gotta be patient with this game, and that’s how most of YO-KAI WATCH 2 is. From the time it takes you to get places, to the many text-heavy dialogue sections, to the long missions you have to complete. While none of them are bad, they just take time. A lot of time.”
YW2 is not as bad as reviewers say. The lack of care put in some YO-KAI WATCH 2 reviews really makes me question the reviewer’s reliability in properly reviewing a game. In general, it seems like reviewers cared more about the pacing issues and how passive the battle system is rather than investing in the game. While some gameplay elements in YW2 take time, it is not to the point where the game becomes frustrating and boring.
The one important thing that should be noted is that YO-KAI WATCH 2 acts as an expansion to the world of Springdale rather than a full-step on sequel. The sequel may feel too familiar to YW1 in the beginning, but the story and creativity really begins to shine once you travel to Harrisville and go back in time.
YO-KAI WATCH 2 has so much new polished gameplay content and little gameplay additions to keep you captivated that it makes this sequel refreshing to play for veterans and is a huge step up in gameplay and charm to introduce the sequel to newcomers. For those who did try out YO-KAI WATCH 2’s demo, but did not like it, I suggest giving YO-KAI WATCH 2 a second look. You might just love the game, completely contrast of negative reviews.
I would like to thank so many YO-KAI WATCH fans that contributed to the article to make this article possible. They have been a huge help and their contribution means the world to me. Most of these people can be found on Twitter:
@S41tyPr3tz31, @YokaiChampion, @Jxbermudez27, @SeiferA, @GekkougaLarry, @JohneAwesome, @lizardboyprince, @ender5058, @Beta64Official, @evegurumi, @AbdallahNation, @TSS_Killer
If you want to see more interesting, in-depth articles surrounding YO-KAI WATCH, you can check out my articles about how we can love Pokemon and Yo-kai Watch and the article about the real reasons why YO-KAI WATCH was successful in Japan. I hope you enjoyed this read and learned many things from the article. If you want to discuss your thoughts on the article, let me know here in this thread.