Yo-kai Watch 2: Bony Spirits/Fleshy Souls (3DS) Review

Build a Supernatural Entourage

The Western release of the original Yo-kai Watch for Nintendo 3DS finally brought Level-5’s Japanese monster-collecting RPG phenomenon overseas. The first game had flaws, notably its battle system, monster-befriending mechanics, and fragmented story progression. While the game gained a following, it didn’t live up to the lofty precedents from its home country. Despite this, Nintendo and Level-5 have given the franchise another chance in the West with Yo-kai Watch 2 for 3DS. À la Pokémon, the game has two versions: Bony Spirits and Fleshy Souls. Each come with its own set of exclusive monsters but are otherwise similar. While it is easy to compare this series to Pokémon, Yo-kai Watch is its own unique breed. With general gameplay improvements over the original and plenty of new quirky ghouls, Yo-kai Watch 2 may find a home in the hearts of monster-collecting fans.

Story

Yo-kai Watch 2’s story builds upon the Saturday morning cartoon concepts of its predecessor. Yo-kai are mysterious ghoulish creatures that cause numerous daily problems. For example, if you suddenly forget something, begin to sweat profusely, or get over-excited, you may be inspirited by a Yo-kai. Many Yo-kai are based on Japanese myths and folklore, and a stellar localization ensures that fans outside Japan can appreciate the cultural creatures. For example, Predictabull is a human-like bull based on a mythical beast that can predict misfortune, but the localized name itself helps unfamiliar players understand some of the significance. The quirky Yo-kai are easily the stars of the game, and with over 180 additions in this installment, there are hundreds of fun spirits to befriend.

yw2_giantnyan
This Yo-kai makes objects big…

YW2 begins with the (male or female) protagonist forgetting all memories from the first game. While it is a common trope, he quickly regains the memories following a helpful tutorial, which streamlines the gameplay elements from YW into an easily digestible two-hour lesson. Following that, the hero is able to go back in time 60 years to meet his grandfather, who also has the ability to see Yo-kai. As you travel between past and present, you discover a scheme that could alter both time periods. The story is more cohesive than the original’s, with less filler elements breaking up the pacing. The main plot is still divided into episodes, but nearly every part contributes something meaningful. The game is even more humorous with tongue-in-cheek jokes reminding players to simply enjoy the wacky world. As a result, YW2’s campaign is more satisfying.

Gameplay

There are several improvements over YW, but the battle system and befriending mechanics are mostly unchanged, for better or for worse. Using Yo-kai that you befriend throughout the game, you build a team of six monsters. Unlike traditional RPG battle systems, Yo-kai fight on their own, creating a more passive experience. However, don’t confuse passive with easy or boring. Rather, it’s better to think of the player as a general commanding Yo-kai troops in battle. While the Yo-kai battle on their own, you are in control of several aspects. For instance, you decide which three Yo-kai are in the frontlines at any time. Although you bring in a team of six, only three can fight at the same time. However, you can literally rotate your team around using a wheel on the bottom screen. By spinning the wheel, you can substitute in benched Yo-kai to continue the battle, effectively making your team a revolving door of creatures.

YW2_Bottom Screen.jpg
Battles are three-on-three affairs. Use the touchscreen to rotate your frontlines and activate Soultimates.

The player also decides whether to strike hard or get back and recover. When a Yo-kai’s Soul Meter is full, you can activate its Soultimate move, which manifests as either a strong special attack or helpful recovery/stat boost. Upon using a Soultimate, you engage in a brief touchscreen minigame like tapping bubbles or spinning a circle. When your own monsters are inspirited, or debilitated, by enemies, you can rotate them to the back and engage in a similar touchscreen-enabled purification minigame. There are only a few minigames, and only a couple are new, so it can get tedious if you do them often. The new Yo-kai Watch Model Zero tweaks the battle engine a little by allowing two new actions: M-Spirits and Poking. M-Spirits are supercharged Soultimate moves that draw upon the Soul Meters of the Yo-kai next to the user. Meanwhile, poking a Yo-kai in certain sweet spots nets bonuses such as a higher chance of befriending the enemy. Lastly, players can target which opponents to attack and use items to affect the flow of battle.

There is clearly more to the auto-battle system than meets the eye, and it can get overwhelming keeping track of everything during a fight. Boss battles especially can get heated since you must strategize and target weak spots, similarly to fighting bosses in platformers and adventure games. Unfortunately, those who didn’t like the battle system before will likely not change their opinion. Since Yo-kai act on their own, they may not always perform your desired actions. Depending on a Yo-kai’s attitude, it may even loaf around in battle. There is quite a bit of dependency on luck, which may turn off some.

YW2_Boss.jpg
Bosses are fun to fight and strategize against.

Continuing with the “Yo-kai General” analogy, preparation is half of the battle. Where you place Yo-kai on the wheel is important. For example, you may want a balance of offensive and defensive Yo-kai, or you may want to put a healer next to a weak creature. Additionally, Yo-kai belong to one of eight tribes, such as the strong Brave tribe and the quick Charming tribe. When putting two or three of the same tribe in the frontlines, they receive “Unity” stat boosts. Yo-kai attitudes also matter greatly when building your team, as they affect stats and likelihood of loafing around during battle. It’s fun to come up with team strategies that produce the greatest chance of success.

Befriending Yo-kai was one of the big complaints from the first game, and it sadly doesn’t change much in the sequel. To add a Yo-kai to your collection, you must first have the Yo-kai randomly approach you after battle to join you. You can throw its favorite food at it to improve your odds, and thankfully, the game tells you what Yo-kai like when you hover your target over it. However, it’s discouraging to use up an expensive slab of meat on a creature only to have it ignore your advances. Even worse, you must finish a battle before you can find out if it has deemed you worthy. If it doesn’t join you, you must find another one to battle. There are some additional actions you can take to improve your chances, such as “poking” a Yo-kai’s sweet spot and having the right equippable items. While this makes befriending more likely, the mechanic remains a strictly luck-based affair that is more frustrating than fun, particularly for completionists.

yw2_battle
Befriend and build a unique team of Yo-kai.

There are no random battles; you either find hidden Yo-kai with a special lens or engage them in dungeon areas and alleyways. In a clever effort to highlight their role as spirits that affect the world, the game introduces Baffle Boards, in which you must guess the name of a Yo-kai using clues. Once you do so, summoning them to that spot changes the world slightly. For instance, putting a Hungramps in front of the convenience store will bring in hungry customers, allowing the store to provide big discounts on its products. You can fuse certain Yo-kai together, evolve others into stronger creatures, or transform them into equippable souls that benefit their holder. Finally, you can have your favorite Yo-kai follow you around, which is a small but fun feature.

The game is immersive, leading to some of the game’s greatest strengths and weaknesses. As in the first game, most of YW2 takes place in the large town of Springdale. Though many assets are reused, there is still plenty to do and see, even if you played the first game. You can run around the town, rest at the bathhouse, give offerings to a shrine, and even attend a festival. The town of Springdale is alive, filled with interesting people and Yo-kai alike. The addition of two new areas, the rural Harrisville and the port town San Fantastico, bring more variety to the world. The game is sometimes immersive to a fault, most evidently through the game’s train, in which you must wait at every stop until you get to the right one. This is a minor issue, as it soon gets rectified once you can warp. Regardless, the few times you are forced to use the train are a waste of time, considering there is nothing to do at most stops aside from a couple of sidequests.

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The large world of the first game has expanded in the sequel.

Replayability

There are a lot of Yo-kai to befriend and sidequests to complete. An enhanced map, that both labels landmarks and guides players using arrows, heavily improves the original’s convoluted quest structure, making it more enjoyable to complete the quests. Besides NPC requests, you can also search for hidden Yo-kai Spots, enter Gate of Whimsy challenge rooms, collect new rare Yo-kai using the daily Crank-a-Kai capsule machine, and obtain a large number of achievements. An extensive postgame keeps the game alive long after you beat the 15-20 hour story.

By far, the biggest enhancement to replay value is the new online battle and trade modes. You can take on other players’ teams online in engaging six-on-six battles. Though it’s possible to get competitive, the fact that Yo-kai attack automatically makes battles somewhat dependent on luck. Nevertheless, online functionality is a huge improvement. Online trading also helps for completionists, especially since exclusive Yo-kai are split between the game’s two versions. No matter which version you have, trading makes it easier to obtain a full collection of the 300+ Yo-kai. You can also engage in these social features locally, as well as a bonus game, “Yo-kai Watch Blasters.” This multiplayer-enabled action game, based on the in-game “Terror Time” stealth-esque segment, lets you directly control a Yo-kai to battle evil Oni demons in 2D Zelda-like gameplay. It’s a decent diversion that only adds to the fully-featured package.

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Battle Yo-kai in both the present and past.

Graphics and Sound

The graphics contribute much to the game’s charm. The Yo-kai are all well-animated with standout designs that speak just as loud as their descriptions, and each Soultimate attack features its own mini-cutscene. The multiple towns, both past and present, are filled with intricate details and add to the immersion. Animated cutscenes look just like the anime.

The music remains as catchy as ever, with upbeat ghoulish and cartoonish battle themes and nostalgia-inducing town themes. The voice acting is fun, and each Yo-kai has at least one spoken line upon befriending, giving it personality. Some cutscenes are also fully voiced and give vibes of Saturday morning anime. Level-5 did a tremendous job with both graphical and sound design, making the world feel alive.

YW2_Banner.jpg
Yo-kai is Why

Conclusion

Yo-kai Watch 2 provides a more fulfilling experience than its predecessor. Although there are still some aspects that could be improved like the befriending system, the game makes many other improvements in story flow and sidequest structure. Battling remains a passive experience, but once you learn how to affect the tide of battle, the system can grow on you. YW2 builds upon the original’s biggest strengths, giving life to an immersive town and hundreds of Yo-kai. The 180+ new Yo-kai add to the charming roster of hilarious souls and spirits, and learning about each one is smile-inducing. The game won’t appeal to everyone, but monster-collecting enthusiasts should give Yo-kai Watch 2 a try. The only question is: will you go Bony or Fleshy?

Score: 8/10

Note: The version used for this review was Yo-kai Watch 2: Fleshy Souls.

What do you think of Yo-kai Watch 2? Do you have any experience with the Yo-kai Watch series, whether games, anime, or toys? Which would you choose: Bony Spirits or Fleshy Souls? Please share any thoughts you have in the comments section below!

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33 thoughts on “Yo-kai Watch 2: Bony Spirits/Fleshy Souls (3DS) Review

  1. Awesome, comprehensive review, as usual! I’ve seen bits and pieces of Yokai Watch but haven’t yet played it myself. I’ve been a long time fan of the Pokemon series and have an affinity for collectible monsters. Yokai Watch’s battle system sounds like it takes some getting used to. I like the concept of having a rotating wheel that you can control during battle, but it’s different not having direct control of the monsters themselves. Also, getting the Yokai to join you sounds kind of hit or miss. Some of those Yokai names are pretty clever, though, and there certainly are a lot of them. I remember Cheeksqueek from the first game! I think I might find the game funny. Sounds like a fun game overall. I want to try getting into the series at some point. I missed out on the first one, but this sounds like a much better sequel. Maybe I should get Bony Spirits so I can trade with you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much! Yes, if you’re interested, get Bony Spirits and we can trade exclusives! As you know, I’m a big Pokemon fan. I originally thought Yo-kai Watch wasn’t worth my time. I did try out the first game, and it was okay. As you probably told from my previous review of Yo-kai Watch, I was ambivalent towards it. I liked the Yo-kai, and the series itself was charming, but I couldn’t get into it. They’ve made small improvements, but I think they clicked a little better for me. The battle system grew on me, and the befriending got slightly better. Honestly, they have made befriending easier, but you have to really make an effort to make that happen. That small alteration does help me get more Yo-kai though. And there are significantly more, which is something I also appreciated from the first generation jump for Pokemon. The story is also better, and there’s online play. These changes were enough for me to actually care about the series and its post-game. I’m really glad I didn’t just give up after the first game. The second game’s definitely a worthy diversion while waiting for Pokemon Sun and Moon! Thanks again for your awesome comments! Let me know if you try out the game or the demo!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Miketendo64! The News, Reviews & Personal Views Website On All Things Nintendo and commented:

    Oh my swirls! Hey everyone! Mr. Panda here, with a review of Yo-kai Watch 2: Bony Spirits/Fleshy Souls for the Nintendo 3DS! This Japanese monster-collecting RPG phenomenon carries its own unique, quirky brand of humor, setting it apart from the Pokemon series. Featuring hundreds of spirits to collect and a time-travel story spanning 60 years, this sequel improves upon the original game, but is it enough to make an impact? Check out my review to find out!

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    1. Hopefully, the third game is localized. It’ll probably depend on how the series is doing in the West. As far as I can tell, it’s doing better, but not stellar. I haven’t heard much about the new features in that title, but I hope it improves upon the battle/befriending mechanics even more. Either way, Yo-kai Watch 2 is a good place to start and has a pretty fun story. It’s certainly a better starting point than even the first game. If we never get the third game, then these will be the ones. We’ll see! Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I played the first, and like you mentioned, befriending is pretty annoying. At least it sounds like they did some improvement in that area. I’ll almost certainly pick up YW2 to support the series, but I’m waiting for a sale.

    The anime is pretty cute as well, but I just don’t think Johnny Yong Bosch is a good fit for the lead. He just doesn’t fit the role of a young boy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If befriending were improved in such a way that you could befriend before ending a battle, then I would be addicted in trying to get them all. The difficulty and luck with the current system is what hurts post-game the most. I do like the Yo-kai though, and this game is still better than the first. Great that you want to support the series though. It needs the help in western markets, it seems. I actually think the anime is pretty fun, having finally seen the whole first season on Netflix. I’ve gotten used to hearing Johnny as the lead. I’m surprised he’s doing it since I thought his days of voicing young boys was pretty much over. He’s doing a pretty good job though and trying his hardest to sound so young. I like it. Thanks again for reading and commenting! Let me know if you pick up either version, and perhaps we can trade or battle online!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review! Yo-kai is an interesting title that seems to slowly be making its presence known. The only question I have is whether it will have much success in the west due to the popularity of Pokemon? It definitely seems to give a unique spin on the monster collecting sub-genre and I am considering possibly picking up a copy since reading your review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I appreciate it! This is somewhat related, but I recently had the opportunity to watch the Yo-kai Watch movie in a special theater event. The theater was packed with kids and parents, as well as older people who liked the series. They all seemed like big fans and knew the names of every creature that appeared on the big screen. It seems like the movie was a hit for the singular showing it had all around the US. So I think it is gaining steam, though I can’t tell if it’s from the most recent game or because kids are enjoying the show and toy merchandise. Also, I’m fairly certain at this point, with Pokemon GO and Pokemon Sun/Moon being big, Yo-kai Watch will likely never reach Pokemon levels of popularity in Western markets.

      Regardless, as a Pokemon fan who warmed up to Yo-kai Watch, I can say that this game is worth it if you want to try something new, but related to the monster collecting sub-genre. It’s awesome that you’re considering picking up a copy. Please let me know if you do get it and which version you pick up. We can even trade! Regardless, if you do pick it up, I would love to hear your thoughts.

      As a final note, I’m sorry that my reply is so late. I actually found your comment in my spam folder. I’m glad I checked because I wouldn’t want your meaningful comments to be buried there! That’s just to let you know, so hopefully it doesn’t get stuck in there again! Thank you again for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re more than welcome. I’m happy to hear that I would already have someone willing to trade the little monsters with me. It is the kind of game that I would obsessively try to collect every creature and any help would be appreciated.
        I can’t speak for the US market as I live in Ol’ England. I haven’t seen much promotion for the product in the UK.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m not sure how much Yo-kai Watch is being promoted exactly here, but I assume there has to be a good amount for it to have a following. I assume that there will be more promotion in the UK once the second game comes out. I would be more than happy to trade Yo-kai with you and help you get them in your Medallium (this game’s Pokedex). I’m also the kind of person who loves to collect everyone in a game. Yo-kai Watch is a little harder because of how befriending works, but thanks to trading, it’s become quite manageable. I’m actually making headway into completing this game’s larger Medallium as a result! Hope you enjoy it if you pick it up when it comes out! Thanks again for your nice comments!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve got good news for you. Not only does Snotsolong come back, but your all-time favorite butt-for-a-face, Cheeksqueek, returns. He’s also brought his friend, Cuttincheez. Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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    1. Yes, I know you played through the first one as well. And you have Bony Spirits, is that right? I’m glad to say that if you at least thought the original concept was decent like me, then you will enjoy this one more. Having more social elements adds wholly to the experience, which I wish the first game would have had. Thanks for your kind words! Hope you enjoy the sequel as much as I did!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for your kind words! Great question! You don’t have to play the first game before playing YW2. The lengthy tutorial takes nearly the whole first game (which by itself was mostly a series of vignettes) and compresses it into 2 hours. The improvements of online trading/battling, more Yo-kai, and better plot make the second one more fun to play. You could play the first one, but it’s not necessary to enjoy this game. The Yo-kai from the first game don’t transfer to the newer ones, so it might be to your benefit to just start with the sequel.

      I wrote a review of the first one as well, and I thought it was decent. I liked it, but I wished there were more. For YW2, I actually played through the post-game, am trying to befriend them all, and am overall having a good time! So yes, play the second one, but feel free to play the first one. Just don’t expect that to be the polished version. Hope that helps! I believe you said you had the first one. Let me know what you think of that too, and also if you decide to get either of the sequels! I’d love to trade with you if you do get it! Thanks again for reading and commenting! I appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I put the first one on my to play list! No purchases as of yet. I think I might switch it out for the second now though.

        I’ll definitely let you know if I get them so we can trade! I’ll probably check out the second first since it seems to be the more polished version, and then I might go back to the first just for posterity’s sake.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Awesome! The first one is good for posterity as you said. But if you don’t have the first game, I highly recommend that you just start with the second. The online capability and the fact that you can’t transfer Yo-kai from the first game over makes the original an antique at this point! The second one is more worth it as a monster-collecting RPG. Do let me know what you decide! Thanks again!

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  5. Very good and thorough review! You know I’ve been a supporter for Yo-Kai for a long time now. I did like playing this second game, but I found some things got on my nerves. Like the endless fetch requests and the train rides.. not sure yet of what I think about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much! I appreciate it! The train rides are a waste of time. I’m all for how immersive the town is, but surely they could have come up with a better solution than forcing people to experience commuting within a video game. The fetch quests seem more or less like the original. I actually had a lot of trouble getting through the fetch quests in the original. There seemed to be a lot more random quest, and it was hard to follow because of the lack of details on the map. I was actually fine in this game, even through the story-related key quests. I’ve even gone on to do some post-game quests! I think the overall quality-of-life for this game is better, except for the train rides. There are also some other minor things like having to travel to the warp stations as opposed to having an instant warp like Pokemon’s Fly. Either way, I’m glad you are a supporter of Yo-kai Watch! I’ve slowly become more of a fan thanks to this game!

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