Yo-Kai Watch 3

released on Dec 07, 2018

Yo-Kai Watch 3 is the international release of which contains all available content from the 3 Japanese versions of the game.

Follow two parallel stories and unravel the mysteries behind strange sightings while meeting over 600 Yo-kai and using the new 3x3 grid battle system to strategically dish out or dodge attacks.

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It makes me really sad that this series did as poorly as it did in the West, when it shits all over 3D mainline Pokemon in almost every conceivable way... except for the creature designs which can be very hit or miss.

This review contains spoilers

[Editor's note: I wrote this review two years ago before I joined Backloggd and am just posting it here now. When I opened the review I discovered that what I remembered to be a three-paragraph review was actually a five-page Google Doc. Strap in.]
Yo-kai Watch 3 was a game that piqued my interest when its localization was announced back in 2018. I had enjoyed the first two Yo-kai Watch games decently when they finally came to North America, but at the time of release, Yo-kai Watch 3 wasn’t a game I felt I urgently needed to play, so I held off on it, telling myself that I would get to playing it some other time. I later came to regret that decision when it came to my attention that Yo-kai Watch 3 was in fact printed in extremely low quantities, and thus now costs upwards of $90 on the aftermarket. After learning this, I was then determined to at some point buy it off the eShop and play it that way, doing so earlier this year after I realized that the 3DS eShop probably doesn’t have that much time left. So here we are, in 2021, and I’ve finally played Yo-kai Watch 3. For some reason, I felt the urge to take notes about the game during my playthrough, so I’ve decided to do something with all those notes and just write a review. [Editor's note: this was the first game I took notes for while playing. Since then I've started doing that for most longer games.]
Yo-kai Watch 3 is by far the best game out of the three mainline 3DS titles. It has heaps and heaps of content, and cranks up the series’s trademark corny humor to the max, usually working to great effect. When your game opens up by introducing you to two secret agent characters named Blunder and Folly, and includes two inventor Yo-kai named Steve Jaws and Mark Orckerburg, you know you’re in for a good time. Unfortunately, Yo-kai Watch 3 suffers from the same issue as its predecessors in that it's a very strong game built on an incredibly weak base.
Yo-kai Watch 1 and 2 both used the same combat system of you having to literally cycle through your six Yo-kai during battle to make sure they could stay alive long enough to charge up their Soultimate move and use it to do a number of potential things, usually to hit the enemy for a large amount of damage. Occasionally you would have to remove a status effect here or there so that your Yo-kai could fight at full-force, though usually it was a very hands-off battle system, and having the fast-forward option on was a must if you wanted to actually feel like you were doing something. Yo-kai Watch 3 changes this up by adding an extra layer of interactivity. Now battles take place on a 3x3 grid, where the placement of your Yo-kai on the grid can affect if certain attacks can/will be more likely or unlikely to hit them. This extra thing to manage forces you to be a lot more involved during battles, and while this single change makes the battle system a massive improvement over the original, I still say that the game is built on a weak base because this battle system itself has a number of flaws that make it at times tedious to operate.
In the early game, battles are pretty satisfying, if not a little straightforward. The AI is too dumb to move out of the way of your attacks, so as long as you have enough Yo-kai to cover the entire board with their Soultimates (as every attacking Soultimate has a specific area on the opponent’s board that it hits) fights are really more about managing your Yo-kai to make sure there’s always someone on the field to attack with a Soultimate, and to move out of the way of opponent attacks. This makes normal encounters fairly easy, but when you get to bosses that can hit for way more damage, battles can become really intense if your moved your Yo-kai right before a boss decides to use its Soultimate, and you have to wait to see if the movement cooldown will hit zero before the attack is unleashed. I’m probably underselling it a bit here; combat is genuinely fun early game. The minor additional strategy really goes a long way.
The problem comes in late game, when the AI gets smarter and starts trying to dodge your attacks more actively. While the increase in difficulty may at first sound like a positive, it quickly becomes tedious as you try to unleash a Soultimate attack, but during the charge-up minigame, your opponent runs out of the way, and so you try to use one of your other Yo-kai’s Soultimate attacks, but while you’re doing the charge-up minigame for that, their movement cooldown runs out and they dodge again. This doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens often enough that I would consider it a major flaw in the game’s combat, and it significantly reduced my enjoyment of the game’s final act. Victories in the early game already felt earned, all the game accomplishes by increasing the difficulty is making the battles feel unnecessarily dragged out. The weirdest part about this is that bosses don’t get this increase in intelligence, and so they usually stay in the middle of the board like every boss throughout the entire game has.
This whole thing is slightly remedied by the Yo-kai Watch Blaster, an accessory you get on one of the two playable characters early game, but by late game (which is when you’ll actually be using it, since it’s not too necessary at the beginning of the game when fights are easier) both characters have it, allowing you to pause battle to shoot the enemy Yo-kai’s medals to either lower their health or increase your odds of befriending them. Assuming that you land on foe mode instead of friend mode, this is pretty much guaranteed to take out a good chunk of your opponents’ HP, as long as you actually land your projectile shots.
One last nitpick I have for the combat system is that they didn’t change the way you befriend Yo-kai (apart from the addition of the Yo-kai Blaster) which was by far the most annoying element of the original game’s combat. In all three Yo-kai Watch games, you befriend enemy Yo-kai by throwing food at them during combat, preferably food they like, which will increase the chances of them approaching you after the battle and requesting to join your party. The problem with this is that since there’s no confirmation during the fight whether or not doing this actually made them join you, if they don’t join you after the battle, this whole process of giving the Yo-kai you want food often feels kind of pointless, especially when on occasion Yo-kai will join you even if you haven’t given them any food at all. Additionally, since the main story, various sidequests, and the Crank-a-kai gacha game can give you plenty of good Yo-kai without needing you to actually befriend them in-combat, this whole system can and honestly should just be bypassed, which is sort of a shame, since this game has over 600 Yo-kai, more than both of the previous games combined.
All of this to say that the gameplay is fun for like two-thirds of the campaign, but starts to drag towards the end when the flaws become more apparent.
The thing is, the gameplay isn’t really the main appeal of this game. Rather, it's the fact that this is one of those games that just oozes charm. I mean, the game isn’t like, EarthBound levels of funny, but it's got a lot of humorous moments, 90% of which I want to say land with decent success, and the characters, while not the most complex out there, really aren’t trying to be, and are really fun to watch interact within whatever strange situations the game puts them in. Everyone in this game is really hammy and over-the-top, and it works to great effect here. I already mentioned Blunder and Folly (both of whom were criminally underutilized) and Steve Jaws and Mark Ockerburg, but that’s just because they had the punniest names (seriously, the writing and localization teams must’ve had a field day with this one). Almost everyone in this game has their own great, funny moment.
I should probably mention that there is one joke in the game I got tired of pretty quickly, which is the fact that all of the BBQ natives, but especially Hailey Ann’s Jibanyan-esque partner Yo-kai Usapyon seem to use the word “tootin’” as a verb, adjective, and exclamatory statement all in one, something that gets really annoying since that means they say it what feels like almost every other sentence, and I’m pretty sure nobody says “tootin’” that much to begin with. But yeah, other than that, pretty funny across the board.
As opposed to following in the footsteps of the second game, which had a fairly consistent plot throughout the story, Yo-kai Watch 3 opts instead to imitate the first game in that it’s mostly episodic structurally, each chapter being its own self-contained story, with a few plot threads running throughout the game which culminate during the end game when the story decides that there does need to be a final boss. Facetiousness aside, this structure actually works pretty well as far as the writing is concerned, much like how it worked pretty well in the original Yo-kai Watch. It helps to sell that slice-of-life feel that the game is going for. The difference between this game and the first Yo-kai Watch game is that this game focuses on two protagonists: Nate, who has moved to the town of BBQ in St. Peanutsburg (southern America; it’s a parody of southern America) and Hailey Ann, who lives in Nate’s hometown of Springdale. I have to wonder why they felt the need to use this whole setup of moving Nate to BBQ and having the new character of Hailey Ann be the main character in Springdale, since they already have a female lead in Katie, so they could’ve easily just had her move, or even just have made her the main character in Springdale. I’m not complaining, since Hailey Ann is a fun character (especially when compared to Nate, who in-universe is acknowledged to be literally the most average person you could possibly come across) but it just seems a bit unnecessary. Also, on the topic of new characters, Buck is great and a way better character than any of Nate’s friends from Springdale. He’s got a lot of weird quirks that make him far more entertaining than he really has any right to be.
Anyway, I digress. Obviously having two separate protagonists is going to have a major effect on the structure of the story. In Yo-kai Watch 3, this comes in the form of the first five chapters of the game being split into two, one for each character, meaning that the game effectively has 15 chapters, even though it says it has 10 chapters. This then has the subsequent effect of nearly doubling the runtime of the main campaign to roughly 40 hours from the original two games which were both around 20 hours in length. Now, I love lengthy JRPGs so when I first learned that I was like, “Oh dang, this game is 40 hours? Nice!” The catch? By the 25 hour mark, I was feeling a lot more like, “Is this game over yet?” But wait, I like this game, so what gives?
Here’s what I think the problem likely stems from. Even though I still stand by my initial statement of the game’s episodic structure being good for the writing, it’s hard to maintain momentum for 40 hours when your game doesn’t have a gripping larger story that it’s telling. Yo-kai Watch 3’s main story is told mostly in the background until the game enters its final act, and since each chapter follows a similar structure of introduce a problem, start solving the problem, stop to do some key quests (I don’t love this part but since it’s not interrupting any sort of really intense plot, it’s mostly tolerable) and then finish solving the problem, it starts feeling very repetitive after a certain point. I would compare it to sitting down and binge-watching a really formulaic TV show. The writing might be good enough to retain your attention for a while, but eventually you’re going to get tired of them doing the same thing over and over again. The first two Yo-kai Watch games knew exactly when to stop before things started getting repetitive, but Yo-kai Watch 3 seemed to have missed that. Having two protagonists isn’t even an issue, I actually really liked that aspect of the game, since it was pretty cool having two teams to manage at once for the first half of the game, and their differing personalities each brought their own unique scenarios to the table. It’s purely a thing of the game just running a little too long.
The really sad part is that when the plot finally does pick up, it’s by far the worst part of the game. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a solid game drop the ball this hard during its final act. Chapters 1-8 were great stuff, but chapters 9 and 10 are tedious slogs. On top of the increase in difficulty that ends up harming the game rather than helping it that I mentioned earlier, the majority of both chapters is what I would consider to be padding. Most of chapter 9 is spent fighting the same three goons (sorry, “Ghoulies”) and when there is finally a break from that, you instead just refight some bosses from earlier in the game! I think of all the scripted encounters in chapter 9, there’s only one that isn’t either reused from some point earlier in the game, or repeated later in the chapter. Then, in chapter 10, to get to the final boss, you have to clear seven floors in this tower before unlocking the top floor. Sounds easy enough right? Except the thing is, these seven floors are mixed in with about twenty or so other floors, which are randomly selected for you on this wheel, and if you land on one of the non-required floors, you either get a “Fortunate Floor” where you can collect anywhere from 1-3 lackluster items, or a “Dangerous Floor” where, you guessed it, you have to fight 2-3 repetitive encounters. Chapters 9 and 10 could’ve easily been made into one chapter if they cut out all the filler, and the only issue would be maybe slightly rushed pacing, which wouldn’t even be that hard to resolve if they just sprinkled in a little more relevant plot information in-between big fights. To top it all off, the main villain isn’t even interesting, which is disappointing because there was a lot of build-up to his reveal, his general presence being teased at a number of points throughout the game, but oh well, what are you gonna do?
To wrap up this review, I want to mention all the extra content this game has, because boy, it’s a lot. If there’s one reason to collect a lot of Yo-kai, it’s for all the side content. You’ll need various Yo-kai for quests, to unlock the legendary Yo-kai, and for those weird baffle boards that you’ll find occasionally. In that sense a lot of the side content is very interwoven, which I think is a clever way to handle things. I’m an especially big fan of the sidequests since a lot of them have interesting premises, and most of them have some fairly decent rewards such as Yo-kai that are perfectly viable for usage during the main story (apparently there’s even one sidequest that actually allows you to befriend Whisper, finally, though I haven’t done it yet) or just some decent items. None of that is even to mention the Crank-a-kai, all the little areas you can visit like some of the stops along the subway, the weird restaurant thing under the Crank-a-kai that lets you befriend the jewel Jibanyans, and more stuff I’m sure I haven’t even thought to check. The main story will take you to each area of the map, but there’s so much here to explore if you want more than just a cursory glance (if only you didn’t fully unlock the fast travel 20 hours in).
I realize I can come across as very negative during this review, but that’s more just because I had a handful of specific problems with the game more than anything else. As a general experience, Yo-kai Watch 3 is a really solid one that maybe could’ve just afforded to be a little more compact. If you liked the first two games, you’ll definitely like this one, because it’s way better than either of those titles, and it’s certainly a game that I enjoyed my time with.

(Didn't technically 100% the game, but I completed the medallium and did everything that isn't just miscellaneous item collection [and the gym club thing lol].)
Yo-kai Watch 3 is the ultimate monster catching RPG. It retains the loveable characters, whimsical world, and silly writing that made me fall in love with the series to begin with, while smoothing over the rough edges of the previous installments. The combat has much more strategy to it with the 3x3 grid system, which makes battles (and the phenomenal boss fights) feel more engaging than ever. There's also a map that's the same size as Springdale (if not bigger) since the game sees Nate moving to the USA. (or BBQ, in the english version. they really wrote themselves into a corner when changing a big chunk of the references to Japan but that's another topic entirely)
I was wondering how they would follow up the fantastic story of Yo-kai Watch 2, and it didn't disappoint! I'd say I prefer the story of 2 at the end of the day, as it hits me more emotionally, but the reutrn to a similar way of story-telling as the first game works well with it, especially with the switching back and forth between two characters. I really like Hailey, I'm glad we have a female protagonist that isn't essentially just female Nate lol. She makes a great pair with Usapyon (my favorite new character in the game), and the scenes of them bantering always made me smile. Buck is also really fun, and similarly works really well as Nate's partner.
The amount of content packed into this one game is insane, especially considering how a huge chunk of it is completely optional. It doesn't really force anything that isn't the main story on you, and instead leaves the choice of exploring the side content to the player. There's an entire side mode that is pretty much the length of an entire game on it's own that's entirely optional! It's nuts!
I'm a big fan of the new Yokai also the Merican ones are very silly and I like them a lot
bottom line: this is the best 3ds game
sorry if this review is all over the place i'm writing this at 5 AM after 100%ing the game

started the game twice but always stopped at some point, definitely going to pick it up soon

Possibly my favorite game of all time. It is everything Pokémon wishes it can be. A massive open world, over 700 fully voice acted Yo Kai, a massive story, two campaigns, two playable characters and new secrets around every corner. Definitely worth anyone's time

The most jampacked RPG I have played in ages. The regular game took me a while, but the side content and post game leave you with a 5 course meal of content to sink your teeth into.