My Top Ten Games of 2015
#10 MASSIVE CHALICE
#9 Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void
#8 Tales from the Borderlands
#7 Ori and the Blind Forest
#6 Super Mario Maker
#5 Yo-Kai Watch
Yeah, I’m as surprised as you are.
On the surface Yo-Kai Watch is another monster-collecting Pokémon clone aimed at kids. It has already become a massive franchise hit in Japan in the last few years, from toys and comics to movies and anime.
The Nintendo 3DS game really stands out thanks to some unique gameplay that owes more to Dragon Quest Monsters than Pokémon. The semi-open world, modern urban setting is a huge breath of fresh air in a stale JRPG genre. I also really respected the theme of helping people with their various problems rather than just trying to be the best, like no one ever was.
Pokémon Y made #3 on my 2013 list, and I’ve been playing and enjoying those games for well over a decade. I jumped into Yo-Kai Watch with all the skepticism and eye scrutiny, and came away with one of my favorite games of the year.
Yo-Kai Watch stars Nate Adams (or you can play as his neighbor Katie). You discover a mysterious device in the forest that contains Whisper, your soon to be ghostly butler. Whisper bestows on you the titular watch, allowing you to find and befriend hidden Yo-kai.
Yo-kai are ghostly figures that personify moods, emotions, and situations. Feeling implacable and stubborn? Must be a Noway nearby. Can’t stop eating? Look out for Hungramps!
Yo-kai designs range from cutesy to badass and run the gamut from animal-mutants to zombie samurais. Yo-kai belong to eight different tribes that synergize with each other. Every Yo-kai comes with four different abilities, three of which they automatically use in battle.
Yes, combat is largely automated, but it works surprisingly well. Six Yo-kai fill our your current party, sitting on a wheel on the lower touch screen. Simple rotations can switch which three are currently attacking, and a major part of the strategy is deciding which three are your active combatants.
You have Soultimate moves to fire off as well as moving Yo-kai to the back row to purify any inspirits, or debuffs. Both use fun and engaging little touchscreen minigames, like tracing shapes.
Like Pokémon, combat gets more complex the deeper you go, and there’s a definite joy to finding and raising the best team. I found combat hit just the right mix of accessibility and complexity. It also has some really fun giant boss battles against monstrous yo-kai you can’t befriend – something the pokémon series sorely lacks.
The town of Springdale serves as a fun location for your adventures. The town’s districts open up as you complete the main story, and there are over 100 side quests to find. You spend much of the game helping people (and other Yo-kai) with various problems and finding Yo-kai using the touch screen. Numerous dungeons also dot the landscape, like a creepy hospital at night where yo-kai freely roam.
Whereas Pokémon dates back to the original Gameboy, Yo-Kai Watch takes full advantage of the 3DS’s dual screen, and touch screen. It’s by far the most technically impressive 3DS game I’ve ever played, and the only one where I crank up the 3D effect.
The writing is light-hearted, kid-friendly, and genuinely funny, and even punctuated by some cute anime scenes. Tons of extra features like streetpass, download codes, and the random thrice a day crank-a-kai help bolster a game already brimming with content.
I was shocked by how addicted I got to Yo-Kai Watch and its fun little mechanics. Yo-Kai Watch is one of the few games this year that I’ve beaten and still went back for more. Did I mention a huge, challenging post-game mega-dungeon? A huge thumbs up from me and especially my fellow Pokémon fans that may be looking for something a bit different.