Yo-Kai Watch is a cute contender to the Pokemon throne

Yo-Kai Watch is a cute contender to the Pokemon throne

Gizmo ZONE

Yo-Kai Watch is a cute contender to the Pokemon throne

You won’t find many Yo-kai Watch reviews that don’t touch on the obvious parallels between it and Pokémon. Capturing cutesy monsters to fight for you, creating and managing a team of 6 on your adventures, giving them names and items to hold — it will all be familiar to fans of Pikachu and co.

Yo-kai Watch’s appeal lies in its use of actual Japanese mythology (Yōkai are supernatural beings) to create a relatable world that Pokémon never quite managed. Yokai folklore is packed with quirky and interesting ways of explaining the universe and all the weird stuff that happens in it, and now you’re in charge of making these mischievous sprites do battle.

You can choose characters like Jibanyan, the cat that got run over and has made it his life’s work to take down every truck he sees; or Wazzat, a creepy hat that makes you forget what you were doing.

The game is set in a charming traditional Japanese town, similar to those found in games such as Attack of the Friday Monsters, and its premise works perfectly within this quaint setting. Though you play a child, your parents seem fine with you cycling around the neighbourhood to visit friends and run errands, in the same kind of way you might have experienced if you lived in a cul-de-sac in the olden days before the internet and crushing social terror.

It’s clearly a game made for kids of that age — there’s a very purposeful point it makes about only crossing the road when the green man appears, and exploring at night is only unlocked once you’re sure your parents won’t find out. There are interesting educational storylines, too — like one about your parents fighting and others about the importance of helping friends.

However, just as Pokémon had its teething problems at the start, so too does Yo-kai Watch, the largest of which is the battles. Most Japanese role-playing games let you control the battle, either directly, like the turn-based Pokémon that makes you choose each move, or indirectly, like with Final Fantasy’s micro-management that lets you tweak stats and positioning to determine the flow of the battle. Yo-kai Watch is closer to the latter, but it only gets interesting with higher-level Yokai, when you’re able to give them stat-boosting items and switch up your party to get the maximum benefit out of their attack types.