If you haven’t heard about Yo-kai Watch, don’t feel bad. Most people in North America haven’t. However, if you are familiar with Japanese pop culture than you probably already know what most are saying. Yo-kai Watch is set to be the next Pokemon in North America. It is already insanely popular in its native Japan.
Yo-kai Watch originates from the team of Level 5. Its origins are similar to that of Pokemon, which it is usually compared to. It started out as a role playing game for the Nintendo 3DS in Japan. It was released to much fanfare on July 11, 2013. Where Yo-kai sits ahead of Pokemon at this time is it was designed from the outset to be a cross media project.
It has proven extremely successful in Japan. The anime series is currently in its second season. They have already released two 3DS games, and another is scheduled to hit Japan in 2016. A manga based on the series has run in the periodical CoroCoro Comic since late 2012. Despite all of this, the main success of the series has just barely scratched the surface.
So, What is Yo-kai Watch all about?
The Yo-kai Watch story surrounds a young person named Nate Adams. One day while out looking for bugs to collect, Nate happens upon a sacred tree. There at the tree is a strange object. Out of the object comes a yokai. For lack of a better term, a yokai is a ghost. The yokai’s name in the story is Whisper. Whisper entrusts Nate with a watch that allows him to see other yokai and try to befriend them. Many times beating a yokai in battle is what will finally allow a yokai to become your friend.
In the Anime, the story differs slightly. Whisper is a ghostly butler. Nate’s parents are not getting along. The culprit to the fighting is a mischievous yokai. Nate eventually has to challenge the yokai for the good of his family.
Nintendo and Disney are both looking to leverage the cross media capabilities of Yo-kai Watch to find a home run in North America. At this point, they seem to have found a winner. Forbes has already declared Yo-kai Watch the next Pokemon. They cite the big names like the two previously mentioned along with Hasbro as good reasons to bet on the franchise.
IGN took their review of the Yo-kai Watch a step further. They stressed that a lot of the Japanese culture that the game is entrenched in will appeal to a lot of people.
“While Pokémon definitely has its Japanese influences, Yo-Kai Watch is fundamentally rooted in Japanese culture, and yet it didn’t feel like a barrier to entry for outsiders. It retains those influences and has fun with them, like one boss in a traditional Japanese bath house that’s flanked by dancing men wearing towels around their waists. It’s the kind of silly detail that made me want to play more so I could see what else was waiting for me.”
The first season of the Yo-kai Watch anime premiered on Disney XD on October 5. The first game released in North America is set for November 6. Nintendo is looking to cash in on it for the holidays. Considering the fact that Star Fox Zero for the Wii U was pushed outside of the holiday release schedule, it is likely that Nintendo will need this game to perform as well as it can.
What do you think of Yo-kai Watch? Have you been able to view any episodes? Do you think it is poised to be the next Pokemon, or was Pokemon a phenomenon that cannot be duplicated?
[Photo by Level 5]