Yo-kai Watch 3 (3DS) Review

Gotta Watch ‘Em All!

There was a time when I was really into Level-5’s Yo-kai Watch monster battling series. I enjoyed the anime, saw the movie in theaters, and visited the official store in Japan to get plushies of my favorite Yo-kai monsters. Then, after Yo-kai Watch 2‘s 2016 release, the franchise seemingly vanished in the West, and I forgot about it…until now. Yo-kai Watch 3 is one of the last big games launching for the Nintendo 3DS, and it is certainly big.

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This is just one of many parodies in the game.

In Japan, Yo-kai Watch 3 launched with two versions, Sushi and Tempura. In a move similar to its competitor series Pokémon, a third edition Sukiyaki added more features and Yo-kai creatures to the base games. The Western release of Yo-kai Watch 3 is an even more expanded version of Sukiyaki, and it includes every single Yo-kai, totaling well over 600. There’s no need to trade for exclusive monsters. In the same vein as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, everyone is here, from the adorable catlike “nyan” creatures to Cheeksqueek, the monster with a butt for a face.

In addition, the game features two protagonists, each with their own storyline. Nate, the hero of the first two games, is back, but now he has moved from his Japanese-inspired town to St. Peanutsburg, BBQ. It’s a large, bustling US-based city where everyone speaks with exaggerated Southern drawls and novel ‘Merican Yo-kai reside. In this foreign land, Nate and his Yo-kai partners, the red cat mascot Jibanyan and the ghost Whisper, run around BBQ with a new friend to unravel conspiracies. Meanwhile, the new character Hailey’s story takes place in Nate’s hometown, Springdale, an equally big area familiar to fans. Hailey’s bubbly otaku personality provides a good contrast to Nate’s, and her anime-inspired adventures as a Yo-kai Detective are fun to play out. Although the colorful, detailed top-down 3D visuals and goofy, upbeat music haven’t technically changed much over previous games, the American-style town and secondary protagonist mark a fresh change for the series.

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Nate, Hailey, and a bunch of marketable Yo-kai.

The story does not take itself seriously, but rather embraces its craziness with caricatures of real people like CEO Mark Orckerberg and direct parodies of properties like The X-Files and Godzilla. As funny as the humor is, it doesn’t save the game’s prodding pace. You play as both Nate and Hailey in two separate storylines for the price of one. Although it sounds like a good deal, both stories have lengthy expositions. It takes several hours for any semblance of plot to develop, and the characters are stuck completing menial but mandatory sidequests. Both maps are huge with plenty of miniature dungeons, alleyways, and buildings. However, it takes long to travel between areas until you unlock fast warp. To make matters worse, there are several moments when one character will be gated off until you play more with the other. The result is a slow beginning where it feels like neither character’s story is progressing. I would have preferred the ability to continue one’s story as much as I wanted or the option to skip the other character’s story. About halfway through, the stories do converge, which fixes the pacing on top of introducing much more exciting narratives. It just takes a while to get there.

Two characters also means two separate inventories and Yo-kai teams. This unique setup provides a way to sample a bunch of different Yo-kai, but it can be overwhelming to manage everything, especially while switching between protagonists. Again, this issue resolves itself once the stories converge; both inventories and Yo-kai collections combine, and the world opens up. Essentially, Yo-kai Watch 3 is the kind of RPG where the opening chapters are relatively dull, whereas the last half and postgame are an addictive rush.

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Calling it now: Pokémon Sword/Shield’s Scorbunny will evolve into this.

The gameplay consists of the series’ traditional monster catching and battling mechanics—but spruced up. When your Yo-kai radar detects a creature’s presence, you can search the area. This begins a new minigame where you shoot the Yo-kai as a warmup. Afterwards, the battle begins.

As in previous games, battles are three-on-three. The Yo-kai are basically on auto mode; they attack and use spells on their own. But it’s not a completely passive experience. While the Yo-kai fight, you can activate strong, special attacks called Soultimates, which initiate a touch-screen minigame such as tapping the screen or matching three on a slot machine. Similar touch-screen games occur whenever you purify one of your debuffed teammates. New to Yo-kai Watch 3 is a 3×3 grid that transforms every battle into a simplified strategy game. During battle, you can move your Yo-kai around, represented by medals on the touch screen. Yo-kai in the front can protect those in the back, and two monsters of the same tribe positioned side-by-side will get bonus buffs. In addition, you can swap medals from your reserve into the fray, and in some cases, you can dodge enemy attacks by manually sliding your medals out of harm’s way.

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The Tactics Board is pretty fun, especially against bosses.

I like the Tactics Board system because it brings new depth, and more importantly, more agency during battle. However, even without grinding levels, most fights are easy enough that you don’t necessarily have to utilize it. Boss encounters are the shining exception. Every boss pulls out all the stops, and I was frantically moving medals around and performing one touch-screen minigame after another. I even had to use the new Yo-kai Blaster feature, which let me fire my own shots against the big bad.

Regular Yo-kai battles are the norm, but most give you the chance to befriend the monster. One Yo-kai may randomly join your team after a fight, but you have little control beyond feeding your desired creature their favorite food and hoping for the best. The luck factor has always made it difficult to “catch ‘em all” in this series. Thankfully, you can also obtain Yo-kai through other means. One is through a gacha capsule machine that lets you crank out Yo-kai and other rewards several times daily. The other method is by trading your Yo-kai medals with others online. You can also battle with friends and random opponents online, which is one way the game keeps you hooked well after the credits roll.

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Is that a Gundam?!

It’s hard to discredit how much content Yo-kai Watch has. Beyond standard RPG exploring and battling, you can engage in a ridiculously massive number of quests, including responding to NPC requests, hunting for Yo-kai, searching for treasure, or engaging in the unrelated pastimes of fishing and bug-catching. There are also loads of minigames, including one where you directly control your Yo-kai in a top-down beat-‘em-up dungeon-crawler that is an adaptation of another 3DS game Yo-kai Watch Blasters. Not all minigames are strong. The dreaded Terror Time segments task you to engage in stressful stealth missions where you must manage your limited stamina carefully to outrun enemies. A new, similar survival horror minigame Zombie Night is slightly less painful because you can sneak up behind foes and whack them with a hammer. Nonetheless, I despised both minigames and was disappointed that they were mandatory and forced upon the player at certain points.

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I would definitely live in a country called BBQ.

Conclusion

With every single Yo-kai available in one game, Yo-kai Watch 3 is the ultimate edition of the series thus far. It may not have evolved much from 1 and 2, but its new Tactics Board combat system and novel American-inspired setting keep the game fresh. With two separate protagonists and storylines to tell, the game takes a massive 40+ hours to complete, not including the plethora of sidequests and full-fledged minigames. Unfortunately, the story drags for much of the first half, and the two towns may be too big for their own good. All things considered, this latest entry revived my fandom for Level-5’s hit series, and I wait with bated breath for what the Nintendo Switch’s Yo-kai Watch 4 has in store.

Score: 8/10

Note: A review copy was used for this article. This review was posted on DarkStation.

What do you think of Yo-kai Watch 3? Are you a fan of the series? If so, what’s your favorite Yo-kai Watch game and who are your favorite Yo-kai? Please share your thoughts or questions in the comments section below! Thank you so much for reading!

15 thoughts on “Yo-kai Watch 3 (3DS) Review

  1. Gera Gera Po! Gera Gera Po! Yo-kai is why! I think I got all everything out of my system. 😉 Great review as always! Obviously, I’m also a fan of the Yo-kai Watch series, but I haven’t really been as much into it since Yo-kai Watch 2. I still haven’t beaten that game now that I think about it…hmm… I think it’s cool that EVERYONE IS HERE! I like that you don’t have to get 2 or 3 games just to get all the Yo-kai. Maybe one day Pokemon will do that? Just kidding. 😛 Yo-kai Watch 3 looks pretty cool, and I like the BBQ setting. Mmmm…BBQ. Even though it’s just America, I think it’s nice to get out of Springdale. And an otaku girl as one of the leads?! Yes! That’s basically my self-insert character! Count me in! I might pick up this game one day, but with Pokemon Sword and Shield coming out soon (and since I still have to beat Yo-kai Watch 2), I might just have to hold off for now. Hovernyan is still best Nyan! Happy Pokemon Day!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yo-kai Yo-kai Yo-kai Watch with me! Thank you so much my fellow Yo-kai Watch fan! It’s a shame this series never really caught on the way it did in Japan. Even in Japan, it seems like the fandom’s dying down with the official store closing. I still like the series, but it needs a jump-kick, and I hope Yo-kai Watch 4 does that. As far as Yo-kai Watch 3 goes, I like that it’s basically the ultimate version. It combines all versions of YW3 and features both characters’ complete storylines. Hailey kinda reminds me of you haha, and you’d like her character! She gets to explore Yo-kai version of Shibuya too! And BBQ, mmm, who wouldn’t want to live in a place like that?

      Happy Pokemon Day! Yeah, I’m so hyped for Pokemon Sword and Shield! What a great reveal! Also, I’m pretty sure Usapyon the Yo-kai bunny is Scorbunny’s final evolution. XD

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Fantastic write up!

        I really enjoyed reading the points laid out here about Yo-kai Watch 3.

        I never doubted the brilliance of Level-5’s adventure RPG.

        This spring, Yo-Kai Watch 4 will come out on the Nintendo Switch in Japan.

        I hope its western release won’t take long.

        And of course, I’m excited for Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield as well!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m so happy you enjoyed my review! 😄 After Yo-kai Watch 3, I’m definitely hoping that Yo-kai Watch 4 for the Switch ends up being a great sequel. I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays on a new system too. And yes, Pokémon Sword and Shield is even more exciting! Hopefully, some great monster-collecting RPGs coming soon!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is definitely a series I’m interested in starting. I’ve been a bit slow to start on it as there are just so many games to be on the lookout for. Still, Level 5 has delivered all star hit after hit so I definitely think this game looks really promising.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m a fan of the series but partly because I liked the anime and characters. It’s somewhat hard to get in now with so many games on the horizon. If you were going to start with one, I’d either go with Yo-kai Watch 3 or 2. YW3 is a great ultimate version, but it has pacing issues and bad padding. YW2 feels less polished and lacks the cool new tactics system that makes battles less passive, but I enjoyed the story more. Or you could always wait and see how Yo-kai Watch 4 turns out for Switch!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Story is definitely a big factor for me so then going with the second sounds good. You’re right about maybe waiting for 4 though, I imagine that should hopefully be the best of both worlds!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The biggest issue with YW3’s story is it follows both protagonists, so you get double the lengthy tutorial expositions. It feels complete, but the first part of this game slogs more than it should. The story gets much better, and the gameplay evens out to be overall better, but it takes longer than YW2 to get somewhere. I’m definitely looking more forward to YW4 after this!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Mm yeah, although the sequels, particularly Yo-kai Watch 3 improve upon the first one, you wouldn’t like it if you weren’t a fan of the gameplay. It’s more or less the same with new bells and whistles.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review! I like how the Yo-Kai series seems to offer more in terms of mini-games and humor, and is less focused on grinding, than the Pokemon series. Although I imagine I’d prefer Pokemon overall, I could definitely see how people would prefer Yo-Kai as an alternative. This particular game, while slowly paced, seems like it’s really packed too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much my friend! I always appreciate your support and friendship! 😀 Yo-kai Watch 3 and the rest of the series are great for kids and older fans of Pokemon. I really like the referential sense of humor and parodies too. But yeah, as much as they did for the series with this installment, it doesn’t hold a candle to the Pokemon formula. And with Pokemon Sword and Shield coming out for Switch soon, Yo-kai Watch 4 will have a lot of competition. I’d still love to play both, but I can already imagine which one I’ll prefer. We’ll see!

      Like

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