Level-5 pulled the ultimate ''Phoenix Wright'', and creates the most bonkers plot ever.
I love Level-5 for a different reason than most others likely do. While their characters and stories are charming, I appreciate their willingness to go all the way with a concept. They will champion it, back it up in any way they can, and run wild with the idea. I've seen that over the years with games like the Inazuma Eleven series, Fantasy Life, Professor Layton, and of course Yo-kai Watch. For Yo-kai Watch 3, however, Level-5's localisation team had to flex their muscles almost to a fault. The result is a bonkers experience that rivals the Inazuma Eleven standards of getting the job done.
Yo-kai Watch 3 was originally a very bold concept when compared to the first two outings. The main character would move from Japan to America, and would build a brand new life there. How the Yo-kai varied, how the people would interact, and the sights to be found were very different. Those aspects stay the same in the western version, and they even reference how different they are, but the move they pulled can only be called a ''Phoenix Wright''. Specifically, they basically pretend that the two countries are, in this universe, simply two different regions with their own regional accents. Springdale (originally Japan) is traditional English, while everything in BBQ (previously America) is basically Southern English. You can see clearly that Springdale is pretty much a Japanese town, but the game wants you to believe otherwise.
On paper, this should have never worked. While plenty of elements are a bit hokey, the story isn't as crazy as it may seem at first. Despite the format they chose, the story still guarantees plenty of quirky scenarios that I truly adore. Nate explores a brand new overworld in BBQ, which comes packed with plenty of new ''Merican Yo-kai” and characters. The housing and way the world is set up wouldn't be out of place in a small Americana town. The new character, Hailey, explores the map that fans will know and love with new additions to keep things fresh. While Nate acts in kind and is pretty typical, Hailey stole the show from the moment she appeared on screen. She is very much a geek and instantly gets obsessed when something grabs her interest. It is really something else.
In general, I would say that Yo-kai Watch 3's humor and collectable ghosts are the things that kept me going. The story is very enjoyable, but there is some downtime between segments. It doesn't exactly help that Yo-kai Watch 3 really you wants to switch at certain moments between characters. Personally, I would've preferred to switch once I wrap up a bunch more of one person's story. That being said, the game is peppered with fun references and off-the-wall jokes. The game opens with an X-Files parody for crying out loud. In addition, the more than 600 Yo-kai available make the game fun more often than not. One of my favorites comes very early on in the form of Treetter. It is a lad who takes social media very seriously, and only communicates in that specific way. His Soultimate special attack is literally called #soultimate. Every time I pull it off, a dumb smile appears on my face.
Exploring the two regions isn't very different from in the previous entries. You will move around with the Circle Pad, interact with the A-button and use your Yo-kai Radar to find critters anywhere you go. In addition, the intuitive map on the touchscreen shows you where to go next with an arrow pointing to your next destination. You can freely explore after playing for a couple of tutorials, but there is really no way for you to get lost. The story really pushes you to carry on after a while, which I gladly made time for. Most time on the overworld is spent completing fetch quests. Depending on the task, they could be enjoyable and create some fun moments, but they remain with that structure. When the downtime bug hits you, it comes down really hard and creates gaps that you would rather quickly forget.
Something you can't forget about, however, is the battle system. This aspect has seen somewhat of an overhaul, ensuring that the battles become a bit more strategic. The three Yo-kai you control land on a 3x3 playing field, where you can put them in various formations using the touchscreen. While the Yo-kai still attack automatically, the opponents strike a bit more regularly, so you will need to defend as much as you can. In addition, the Soultimate and Purify minigames make a return, allowing you to charge a monster the best way you can. While that side may still feel a bit gimmicky, you need to be quicker with your input, which is honestly a strong element. Level-5 has made strides to make everything a bit more fun, and it is extremely obvious right here.
The biggest thing I can praise Yo-kai Watch 3 for is convenience. The game quickly pulls you in and gives you the mechanics in very quick succession. No matter if you are a newcomer or have played every game so far, everyone will come to understand what the game asks you to do. It was a little while since I played a Yo-kai Watch game, and even then it quickly left me to my own devices. For everything else, there was a Help option that was updated regularly in the first four hours. After a while, Yo-kai Watch 3 also presents you with various side activities to keep you enjoying these two worlds. There are desired Yo-kai, fish and bugs to catch, treasure maps to decipher, and special challenges to get through. After a certain point, you will also have zombies to deal with in a special Zombie Night minigame. I am going to leave it a little ambiguous, but the best advice I can give is to run towards the goal!
The main adventure took me about 23 hours. Even at that point, there were plenty of things I didn't have the time to fully complete. The reason I cut it off is because I wanted to play some Yo-kai Blasters T as well. The new version sees you taking direct control of the various creatures and exploring randomly-generated dungeons. The goal is to overcome all the floors, defeat the boss, and get the treasure found in that location. As a big fan of the standalone Blasters games, it felt like a homecoming. All the dungeons, including Japanese version specific ones, are included and make up another 15 hours of content at the very least. Blasters T and one-on-one Yo-kai battles can be played locally and online, so there is plenty to keep you going for quite a while.
Yo-kai Watch 3 is incredibly sharp on the Nintendo 3DS. The cel-shading on the characters looks strong on the system and is something I can't get stop gushing over. Next to that, Yo-kai Watch 3 is thoroughly rich when it comes to color and overall performance. The music is on equal footing with some of the best tunes found in this specific entry. The overall sound design is good, though the voice acting can be a bit lacking in some places. It’s nowhere close to being awful or underwhelming, but the lines spoken don't always match up well with the text.
Yo-kai Watch 3 is one of the better Nintendo 3DS games that Level-5 has its name on. There are plenty of improved areas here, including side activities, the battle system, and Yo-kai designs. The story really shouldn't have worked, but by pulling a ''Phoenix Wright'', they somehow found a way. Still, I think that switching between two stories isn't the best approach and the downtime with quests is somewhat damaging. Mind you, this is nothing you can't overcome with the right state of mind. The hours really fly by, and even after completion, I couldn't stop playing pieces where possible. For newcomers and veterans alike, this third installment has a little something for everyone.