This holiday, Western players will finally get the chance to play Yo-Kai Watch. The franchise (which includes video games, anime and manga) is already a hit in Japan, and for good reason. The series is often touted as a rival to mega-hit Pokémon.
The comparison, as it turns out, is a pretty apt one — though with a little Ghostbusters-like paranormal activity thrown in. Where Pokémon is all about befriending fantastic creatures, Yo-Kai Watch is about taming spirits (also known as Yo-Kai). During a recent E3 demo of the Nintendo 3DS game, I spent some time cleansing a tiny town plagued by possession.
Although Yo-Kai are typically not intentionally malicious, they have odd effects on humans. I ran into one person who was unusually hungry because of a nearby Yo-Kai; another felt overwhelmingly negative due to spirit influence. But finding victims is only half the battle. Once I found the general area of possession, I swapped to more specific tools — a radar in my upper right-hand corner that would dip into the red when spirits were near, and a special lens to locate and trap the Yo-Kai.
This is where Yo-Kai Watch's Pokémon-esque battles really come into play. I had a team of six spirits to help me fight, each of which could be swapped to by spinning a wheel on the Nintendo 3DS' lower screen. Before you can attack with anyone on your team, however, you have to power them up through short mini-games — thinking popping bubbles with your stylus or tracing different symbols. Once you defeat a Yo-Kai, you've effectively cleansed the area.
It's hard to not draw comparisons between Yo-Kai Watch and Pokémon, but its twist on the formula is a fun, catchy one that shows promise. For more on the game, check out the trailer below.