[Preview] Yo-kai Watch 4 – Nintendo Switch

Written by Joachim Ziebs
  • Developer: Level-5
  • Publisher: Level-5
  • Release Date: 20/06/2019
  • Price: 6,578円
  • Available languages: Japanese, modern and traditional Chinese
  • Version on cartridge: 1.0.0
  • Version played after updates: 2.2.0

Introducing: Yo-kai Watch 4 Switch Preview

Back in the day when Yo-kai Watch was released on the 3DS, I was rather critical of it. I wasn’t sure if I needed another monster collecting game. Then I saw it on sale and got it. A few minutes later, I was hooked. The graphics were like playing an anime and the story was cute to boot. The game had some minor flaws (like not giving you any quest markers on the map) but was really enjoyable.

Fast forward a few years and I, living in Europe, pre-ordered the Australian version of Yo-kai Watch 2 just to be able to play it in advance of the European release. The game was wonderful. All the flaws of the first game had been ironed out and while the story wasn’t as good as the first one, the idea of time-travelling introduced in Yo-kai Watch 2 was a pleasant experience.

Fast forward again to the 2019 Anime Expo. Level-5 promised to bring the latest and greatest Yo-kai Watch 4 to the West. No release date was given, though. Now it’s 2020, and while Japan already got an expanded version called Yo-kai Wath 4++ (I love the little programmer joke there) we are no closer to a release in the West. At least, no official announcements have been made so far. But, several shops have slashed the prices of the original release to clear their stock, so being the cheapskate that I am, I got my grubby hands on a copy. What follows now are my impressions of the game. Keep in mind, however, that I know zero Japanese (or Chinese for that matter), so everything I’m going to tell you is simply based on me playing without understanding anything that was said or displayed on the screen.

What’s going on here?

Something’s foul in the Yo-kai world and again it is your job to set things right. This time, you’ll not only be playing Nathan, the hero of the previous games, but also (after time-travelling to the future) Nathan’s daughter. It’s your task to befriend Yo-kai, defeat the evil and save the world once again, all action-RPG wise.

Let’s not be ghosted

That said, Yo-kai Watch 4 is both the same and different. The artstyle hasn’t changed. It’s still the same cute anime style that made the predecessors and other Level-5 games so wonderful. Also the nostalgic magic of playing a character looking for and finding adventures during his summer holidays is right back there just like in the other games. Even if I didn’t understand what is going on, I felt right at home in the game.

What had to be changed is the battle system. The 3DS entries of the series used both displays during combat. You picked six of your Yo-kai and set them against your opponents. Your task was to utilize their specials and switch them in and out of active combat. On the Switch, this would not be possible.

As a result, Level-5 changed the battle system completely. Now, the player enters the fray together with three Yo-kai. The Yo-kai attack enemies on their own and you are finally able to do the same. Depending on which character you control, you have either two different attacks or one attack and one way to heal your Yo-kai (X, Y buttons). Both attacking and healing deplete your YP which you can replenish by syphoning YP from your enemies (ZR button). Keep up a steady stream of attacks, heals and YP and you’ll soon be towering over all evil Yo-kai. Battling like this is both hectic and fulfilling, because you have to pay close attention to your enemy’s patterns. Not so much while facing off regular Yo-kai, but definitely during boss battles. At the end of a fight, both you and your support team will earn experience points. Get enough of them and you’ll level up.

Your Yo-kai Watch can also be leveled up with special points. I have not yet found out how these points are distributed, but I know how you can use them. Your Yo-kai Watch has several different skill trees and these special points are what you need to spend to unlock the corresponding skills. For these skills, you’ll probably want to use Google Translate or trust your luck and go with the little icons and your guesswork.

Still, playing through the first three chapters of the story and completing the tasks was doable even without knowing Japanese. You’ll get quest markers placed on your map and your HUD will help you navigate to them. The only quest that gave me trouble so far was one where I had to shop for certain food and bring it home. Without resorting to Google Translate, this quest would have stopped me in my tracks.

Beautiful and nostalgic

Getting immersed into the world of Yo-kai Watch 4 is easy. At first, the anime artstyle draws you in, but then you listen to the different songs and environmental sounds and you don’t want to leave the game anymore. It feels just like your favourite summer holidays when you were young and still going to school.

The only thing that seems missing is fishing or catching bugs. I remember doing that in previous games, haven’t found out if it’s still possible to do in the latest entry. You can, however still ride a bide through town if you are so inclined (you get the bike from your father).

The world building was always a great part of the Yo-kai Watch series. Level-5 simply know how to recreate a small, Japanese city believably and it is simply fun to just run around and search for hidden items in every nook and cranny. There are no audio or visual errors and I noticed only slight frame drops while moving very quickly.

Outlook

It’s been roughly a year since we were promised a western release of Yo-kai Watch 4. Now that 4++ was released, I hope that Level-5 will find the time to localise the game for our part of the world. If you, like me, cannot wait that long, the original Japanese game is totally enjoyable if you can live with not getting any details of the story and using a translator app once in a while. Yo-kai Watch 4 is a great game in the series and the necessary changes to the battles both serve to distance it from other monster collection games as well as make it more enjoyable. I’m sure that I’ll double dip on the Western release and can’t wait to put the cartridge into my Switch. Before that, the Japanese version will help me in keeping it together.

A little guidance right now…

To help you getting started, here is some useful information.

Buttons outside of battle:
A – talk/examine/take
B – jump/run
Y – open map
X – open Yo-kai Pad
R – enlarge minimap
ZR – use Yo-kai debris cleaning
ZL – use Yo-kai Watch
press R-stick – discover Yo-kai remnants/debris around you

Buttons during battle:
X, Y – different attacks
ZR – replenish your YP by syphoning it off your enemy

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