Yo-Kai Watch Tactfully Handles The Existence of Yo-Kai

By Jenni . November 3, 2015 . 1:30pm

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Level-5’s Yo-Kai Watch is a Pokémon style JRPG, but there are a few differences. One is that people are dealing with supernatural spirits that can influence human behavior and be befriended, and the other is a setting that’s more similar to the world we actually live in. Combine the two and people are faced with a situation that might be a little unnerving for some younger players. It’s a number of deliberate design decisions that make the interactions with these otherworldly creatures more comforting than horrifying.

 

3DS_YokaiWatch_E3_SCRN_04_bmp_jpgcopy The Yo-Kai hunting element is a perfect example of Level-5’s low-key approach. While there are random battles in Yo-Kai Watch, should a player venture into a back alley or through a gate when their watch level is high enough, most fights are entered into when a player decides. Early on, the game compares the search to a bug hunt, which both Nate and Kate are doing for a school project. By starting out by offering a similar, more harmless comparison, it’s less jarring when someone seeks out a Yo-Kai and finds a battle. Yes, the Yo-Kai are always around, but odds are they won’t go after you unless you disturb them first.

 

In the cases where Yo-Kai are interacting with mortals, Level-5 builds up danger gradually. There can eventually be some severe situations, but the initial encounters tend to be more mischievous. The first major case I saw involved Kate’s parents. They’re engaged in a fight over her father not contributing when it comes to household chores. Whisper goes out of his way to explain that sometimes that happens with married people, they can fight and still love each other, before revealing that this particular disagreement was exacerbated by Dismarelda. Some of the first side-quests involve a Dimmy making a classmate named Shelly seem invisible to her friends and the presence of Dulluma, Coughkoff, and Snotsolong at a school are making children and teachers feel ill when class is being held.

 

Perhaps most important is that the player characters Nate and Kate don’t “catch” Yo-Kai, they befriend them. This instills a sense of security. While these figures may have means of influencing behavior, they still possess human characteristics and tendencies. If someone takes the time to interact with them, through battles, helping with tasks, or providing them with food, they could take a liking to someone. It implies that there’s a stronger bond between Yo-Kai and humans than Pokémon and people.

 

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It should prove reassuring for younger players. People know Pokémon isn’t real. The locations and characters are fantastical, futuristic technology abounds, and it stars a bunch of grade schoolers given free reign to travel the country without adults, facing terrorist organizations. But Yo-Kai Watch’s characters are rooted more deeply in Japanese mythology and based upon ghosts and supernatural creatures. Pokémon may attack people in wild grass, but the Yo-Kai are everywhere and going after everybody. 

 

I know I’m making it sound like Level-5’s approach is more about making Yo-Kai Watch more comforting for children, but there’s an added bonus to caution implementation and additional explanations. It makes for stronger storytelling. Yo-Kai are shown to be supernatural characters with human-level intelligence and behaviors. It wouldn’t make sense for them to be captured and treated like pets. And think about it – if you knew your very presence could have some sort of effect on people around you, wouldn’t you be tempted to make use of your abilities every once in a while? The manner in which they’re found, interact with the world, and behave after getting to know the avatar make the game’s premise more plausible.

 

Yo-Kai Watch will come to the Nintendo 3DS on November 6.


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