Yo-kai Watch 3 is a game that learns from past titles. It attempts to do a lot of things differently to draw people in. Having two storylines with two characters that have unique personalities is a big deal, since the original two games typically made Nate and Katie the sorts of bland personalities as a means of self insertion. But it also shakes up gameplay. The battle system is drastically different, for one. People get to make their own Nyan Yo-kai too. Not to mention, lots of minigames have been brought in to offer different sorts of gameplay experiences.
The change that is most notable and has the biggest effect on gameplay is the new battle system. Yo-kai Watch 3 still has the Yo-kai doing their own thing in a fight. The only attack you can direct is if you choose to have one use their Soultimate move. But, instead of just rotating to determine positioning or purifying them when negative Inspirited status effects have been inflicted on party members, you can move characters around the field. This allows for some semblance of control as you play.
When you head into a fight, a 3×3 grid appears on the bottom screen. Three active Yo-kai are out, and three reserve Yo-kai are on the side at the bottom. You can move the characters around the screen. Characters placed behind others will not be targeted, making it an ideal spot if you are preparing a Soultimate move or someone’s health is low. All Yo-kai Soultimates have specific ranges, which means you need to have characters placed properly to hit foes or can move your own allies to avoid enemy attacks. If characters are all placed in the same line, they will be able to participate in combos together. The characters not on the board can be swapped with those that are. Also, when enemies are defeated, experience and health orbs can appear in empty spots on the board and be collected by specific characters my moving them to those places.
However, there is a cooldown period after moving. This means you have to know when to move characters to take advantage of certain situations. It allows for a greater degree of control over the situation, since you aren’t just sitting there watching the action play out. You can choose who is in there to take advantage of enemy weaknesses. You can avoid attacks or attempt to target as many enemies as possible. It might even give you a chance to better ensure characters who need more health or experience can get it.
While the Yo-kai Watch 3 battle system is a big, positive change, the custom Build-a-Nyan feature is also quite helpful. After playing for a substantial amount of time, you can create your own Nyan Yo-kai party member. You decide what its head, fur, eyes, mouth, body, tail, and voice look and sound like. You determine its tribe and, after visiting different Nyan around the world, can choose which Skill, Technique, and Soultimate moves it can use. For example, I ended up going with a more supportive character that learned the ally-healing Lovely Meow Soultimate from Sailornyan, the Rockslide Technique from Mr. Crabbycat to deal damage, and Choco Regen Skill from Chocobonyan to heal the allies my Nyan was connected to. This way, I had an ally that ensured I didn’t have to waste moves chasing health-restoring orbs and could use food for recruiting enemy Yo-kai and not healing my own.
The other inclusions either add new features or make an existing one a little different. Terror Time, which places the characters in immediate danger in the Oni Dimension and forces them to escape, is back, as is the Yo-kai Watch Blasters-like Blasters T. The former now requires you to get a key, sometimes from an Oni boss by fighting or stealing it, to get out, while the later has new sorts of missions to take as you look for treasure. Also, Nate has an exclusive Zombie Night in St. Peanutsburg where you have to use his hammer to fight zombies while accomplishing goals. You can even dance with Next HarMeowny, the music group, in Springdale or occasionally participate in rhythm games where you tap in time to eat.
There are times when it can feel like Yo-kai Watch 3 is throwing as much as it possibly can at a player and is hoping that something is enjoyable. Given that so many things are optional and can be avoided if you want, like the dancing minigame, Build-a-Nyan, and altered Terror Time and Zombie Night experiences, this feels even more true. People have a lot to do in Yo-kai Watch 3 to extend their time spent in Springdale or St. Peanutsburg, and the diversity might mean there is at least one new element that can appeal to you.
Yo-kai Watch 3 is available for the Nintendo 3DS.