The Yo-Kai Watch series has been experimenting with spin-offs for a while. Yo-Kai Watch Dance: Just Dance Edition is a Just Dance rhythm game. Yo-Kai Watch Sangokushi is a strategic-RPG that calls to mind Pokémon Conquest. Yo-Kai Watch Blasters, which is available in Red Cat Corps and White Dog Squad variations that impacts characters that appear, is a beat’em up that is an evolution of the Terror Time mechanic that appeared in the first Yo-Kai Watch and matured into a more substantial beat’em up mode in Yo-Kai Watch 2. But what I find really striking about Yo-Kai Watch Blasters is how it can sometimes feel a bit like a miniature Musou game.
Now, granted, there is a big difference here. Koei Tecmo’s Musou series are large-scale affairs with lots of characters, battlefields that can sometimes be rather big, multiple missions to achieve in a single run, and massive fights against tons of enemies at once. They are always big deals, sometimes with serious stories. But with Level-5’s Yo-Kai Watch Blasters, we have something that feels like a smaller-scale and similar sort of game, one that might be a bit friendlier for younger players who might not be ready for everything a fuller Musou game may entail or people who like the idea of Pokémon-style character collecting with cute characters and a little more handholding.
Yo-Kai Watch Blasters follows a team of Yo-Kai known as Blasters. Their job is to head out during Terror Time, when Yo-Kai run rampant in towns, in order to fight foes, recover items, save innocent people, defeat big bosses, and achieve other predetermined goals. You take a team of four Yo-Kai with you on a mission. Each one could be a member of the fighter, healer, ranger, or tank class. Every one of them has a standard attack, two special abilities, and a Soultimate special move. These characters can have equipment applied to them ahead of a mission and use beneficial, one-time-use items they take along or find on a mission. The bottom screen always shows a map that highlights enemies, objectives, items, innocent Yo-Kai in danger, bosses, and escape doors. While the number of available opponents is far smaller than in a Musou game, a lot of these elements can feel similar. You are still beating up enemies, trying to complete the goals, and using a team of playable characters with standard and special attacks to save the day.
The hub area in Yo-Kai Watch Blasters also function a bit like the central safe spaces and cities in Musou games. Here, we have a headquarters building not unlike the Ghostbusters. (There is even a fire pole, decorated station wagon, and bespectacled receptionist.) This is the place where you can determine the active Move-Out Members of your party, buy items, make and upgrade equipment, apply experience to characters to level them up, head out on story or side missions, and enjoy offline and online multiplayer. They are all the same sorts of facilities you would expect to see in similar beat’em up games. Yo-Kai Watch Blasters does a lot more to walk people through what they do, which makes them ideal for someone new to this sort of title.
As for the parts that are unique, I feel like the idea of befriending new Yo-Kai helps take the sting out of the need to replay missions that can sometimes come from games that follow Koei Tecmo’s Musou formula. There are spaces for 443 characters in the Medallium, the in-game book holding the Yo-Kai medals you can collect. When you fight during missions, the enemy you faced may stand back up and give you a chance to befriend them by successfully playing a brief minigame. This incentive to collect them all, or at least collect the ones that seem strong or cute, is quite compelling and makes it easier to go through already completed stages again and eventually also acquire more Oni Orb currency and crafting materials along the way.
I have always felt like the Yo-Kai Watch games can sometimes be a good way to introduce people to certain sorts of games. The main installments are rather friendly RPGs. Yo-Kai Sangokushi is an incredibly fun strategy game that really should have been localized. Yo-Kai Watch Blasters is an entertaining beat’em up with RPG elements that can be enjoyed alone or with friends. The fact that it has some similarities to Musou-like games only makes it even more intriguing.
Yo-Kai Watch Blasters: Red Cat Corps and White Dog Squad are available for the Nintendo 3DS.