With the European launch of Yo-Kai Watch taking place today the families I work with have been discovering how good a fit the world of Yo-Kai is for them. I was expecting it to be pretty popular with the strong collecting and character aspects of the game, but I hadn't realised how much substance there was knitting the experience together.
If you've not come across it before, Yo-Kai Watch is a series of role-playing games from the makers of Professor Layton and Fantasy Life Level-5. The central focus is the numerous Yo-Kai spirits that can be discovered with your Yo-Kai Watch in the game and then battled of befriended.
It's been out in the US for a while now but only now lands in the UK along with the upcoming cartoon and toys. Unsurprisingly, Level-5's fingerprints are all over it. Not only in the puzzle element and engrossing strategy, but also in the cartoon production and all-round sense of quality.
It took me a while to warm to the game though; I think this is because I was expecting this to be a Pokémon knock off. The reality is very different - as you learn about the various battle mechanics and Yo-Kai collection it's abundantly clear that Yo-Kai Watch is very much its own game.
What we've enjoyed about the game in our family is the narrative. Not only the story of Nate and his quest to clean up the town, but how the different Yo-Kai play a part in everyday disagreements and arguments between the residents. Each Yo-Kai has a specific character trait and tribe that affects the people and places it inhabits. Discovering arguing parents were actually falling foul to a mischievous Yo-Kai sparked some interesting conversations for us.
Uncovering and fighting the Yo-Kai in the game then frees the different people from their effects. My kids wondered if the same might be true in real life. It was a nice moment, although my 7-year-old then thought he could blame Yo-Kai for his various misdemeanors, like dropping his breakfast cereal all over the floor - nice try!
Beyond this, the game soon expands to offer a whole city to explore and loads of Yo-Kai to collect. We each took a different game save and could see that the experience developed differently for each of us. We each focused on collecting and levelling up different Yo-Kai and so could progress in different ways.
The children enjoyed the different Yo-Kai characters and their traits (Snotsolong is the current favourite), and I really got into honing my perfect fighting force. There is a considerable amount of strategy required to get the best out of your Yo-Kai, and although this never gets over complex we would often discuss the best strategies over the dinner table.
We've just scratched the surface with the game, but already it's becoming a big part of our family gaming. This, along with the toys coming to retail and the upcoming TV Show, means that Yo-Kai looks like it will be a permanent fixture in family homes and school playgrounds of the UK for some time to come.