“Yo-Kai Watch” is a Nintendo 3DS game, created and developed by Level 5, released in 2013. Though the series has released quite a few sequels and spin-off games across the years, the first title in the series always stood out to me with its usage of its mechanics. In this article, I aim to show you how “Yo-Kai Watch” uses its mechanics to cater towards a specific goal, whilst giving the Yo-kai the feeling of life.
What is Yo-Kai Watch?
“Yo-Kai Watch” is a role-playing game where you aim to befriend Yo-Kai, apparitions that cause mischief in the human world, and use them to battle other groups of Yo-Kai. Outside of the main story, your main goal is to befriend all the Yo-Kai and complete the Yo-Kai Med allium.
I realise that this sounds an awful lot like Pokémon, but though the premise is the same, the gameplay is certainly much different.
Battles have the player select up to six Yo-Kai to fight. Each side has up to 3 Yo-Kai on the field at any given time, with the rest of the Yo-Kai in the back row, acting as a reserve. If your Yo-Kai start to run out of health, you can move the ring to move Yo-Kai into the back row and bring another Yo-Kai out.
The aspect I love about Yo-Kai Watch is that you don’t command your Yo-Kai. Instead, their moves are based on their personality, which can be influenced by books you find in the game to do certain actions. The personality of a Yo-Kai affects whether they attack, use a technique, inspirit or do nothing. These mechanics make the Yo-Kai feel more like actual creatures with goals, rather than just blank slates that exist to follow your every whim.
You still have work to do in battles though. You must move Yo-Kai around to fit certain situations, heal them and buff their stats with items, feed enemies to have a better chance of befriending them, put targets on troublesome enemies and allow Yo-Kai to use their Soultimate moves; powerful moves that damages or hinders foes and/or affects you and your team beneficially. These mechanics encourage the player to strategize in battles, will you buff or heal in battle? Which enemies should you target first and what Soultimate moves to use?
Yo-Kai Watch doesn’t use random encounters in the game. Instead, your watch uses a radar to detect Yo-Kai in trees, under cars, etc; with the randomised you find. Furthermore, in less populated areas of the world, like back alleys and buildings at night, Yo-Kai can be found wandering around freely in the overworld without needing to scan for them. The absence of random encounters helps to make the Yo-Kai feel like part of the world, especially when Yo-Kai are seen affecting humans and objects in the world.
When you find Yo-Kai and defeat them in battle, one of them has a chance to approach you to become your friend, allowing you to use them in the future. These chances are increased by feeding the enemy Yo-Kai in battle, as well as having certain abilities on your own Yo-Kai. This mechanic, though annoying to most players, makes the use of Yo-Kai in battle feel like they are making their own decisions, allowing you to grow a deeper connection to them, and feel satisfied when you finally befriend those Rare Yo-Kai.
But some Yo-Kai are special and can’t be found in the overworld by normal means. A select few can be levelled up (evolved), fused with items or other Yo-Kai to create new ones. Despite this, there are some Yo-Kai that are found through less traditional means and the rest of the game’s mechanics are built to help you befriend all of them.
When this event randomly happens, you will be placed into a position where battling isn’t recommended, as you’d be forced to fight a post-game boss. In Terror Time, your aim is to get to the door/exit, but along the way you can find chests containing rare items, including Fusion items you can use to make new Yo-Kai. However, if you are caught by one of the sentries, Gargaros (one of the aforementioned bosses) will come after you and force you to battle. Losing the battle, which is easy to do, means losing the items you collected. Defeating him, however, allows you to open all the chests to your heart’s content.
When Gargaros is defeated a stronger post-game boss can take his place, and if you beat him, then Orcanos, one of the strongest Yo-Kai, will be your final challenge.
But why would you bother fighting Orcanos?
Because he drops a Fusion item that you can only get after his defeat. The player is given incentive to fight all these bosses and challenge themselves, as after defeating all the ‘Terror Time’ bosses you are awarded with the rarest Yo-Kai in the game. The game gives players a reason to fight all these bosses and rewards them for their efforts with one of the rarest Yo-Kai in the game.
There are two interactions you can do only once per day. Donate to the donation box on Mt. Wildwood and rub the Golden Egg in Downtown Springdale. These events are unlocked by interacting with certain areas of the world, meaning you must find them of your own accord, encouraging players to find more secrets that could be hidden anyway. Whilst this event seems useless upon the first couple of tries, it builds the player’s intrigue by making them question why someone would add a daily event that does absolutely nothing. After a few more tries, a slight event will indicate that something could happen if you continue. Once you do the events for 20 consecutive days, a Yo-Kai will appear and battle you. The Yo-Kai found on Mt. Wildwood, Almi, is befriended after battle and is only available to befriend here, whilst the Yo-Kai found at the Golden Egg will give you a Platinum Bar upon defeat, which is fused with Castelius I to create Castelius Max, an S-Rank Yo-Kai. These events reward the player for continuing them out of curiosity and help to make the Yo-Kai who fit these events feel more fleshed out in the world of Yo-Kai Watch.
The Crank-A-Kai is a gacha machine that uses coins collected in game or by using QR codes on physical Yo-Kai medals. You use the coins to get a random item or auto-befriended Yo-Kai from the Crank-A-Kai three times per day.
The lore of the Crank-A-Kai is that the Yo-Kai inside were sealed by a monk many years ago for being mistaken as evil Yo-Kai, so when you free them, they become your friend out of gratitude for freeing them. Each colour of coin represents the Tribe of Yo-Kai that you could receive, and each pool of Yo-Kai contains a very rare Yo-Kai that is unavailable anywhere else in the game. Furthermore, each of those Yo-Kai are the components used to unlock a Legendary Yo-Kai, who only appear after you have befriended certain Yo-Kai in the game. This makes the Crank-A-Kai more required to finish the game completely, as well as add more lore to the Crank-A-Kai: A Yo-Kai so powerful that its components were locked inside the Crank-A-Kai after it itself was sealed in the medallion.
Though these mini-games seem like filler at first glance, the game allows you to obtain two certain Yo-Kai through the shop that you can take the animals you catch to and trade them in for items. Beetler and Rhinoggin are B-Rank Yo-Kai, based on a stag beetle and rhino beetle respectively, who have S-rank Fusions that require specific items, which are obtainable only in that shop by selling trading in Rare variants of Anglerfish, Marlin, Dorcus Stags and Rhino Beetles. Rare variants of creatures can only be obtained by landing the spinning wheel on the red bar. The number of successful sections can be improved by using Black Syrup and Fish Bait, which is cheap and easy to purchase in game. This mechanic not only makes the fishing and bug-catching minigame have some worth to it, but also makes the fusions of Beetler and Rhinoggin more connected to their origins as the spirit of beetles.
In the overworld of Yo-Kai Watch, there are traffic lights that can be interactive with to allow you to walk across the road when the walk light is green. Walking across the road may seem unnecessary, but consistently walking across when the walk light is green will spawn an item, from Exporbs to Crank-A-Kai coins. On the other hand, walking across when the light is red will cause you to fight Snartle, a powerful S-Rank Yo-Kai that grants no mercy to your Yo-Kai team, which can be encountered as soon as you have a Yo-Kai. However, if you can beat this powerful Yo-Kai, you’ll have a chance to befriend it. Since Snartle is based on the Namahage, a bogeyman from Oga which is said to scare lazy and misbehaving children during New Year’s Eve, it makes perfect sense for Snartle to appear where he does.
Yo-kai Watch uses its mechanics to immerse the player into its world, giving Yo-Kai personality traits independent of the traditional RPG standard of battling. It also follows the myths of actual Japanese Yo-Kai but uses the mechanics to help them fit into a modern-day setting. All other mechanics help to show the Yo-Kai’s mischievous nature or how they affect the world around them, helping to create the feeling of life in all the Yo-Kai.