Beard View: Yo-Kai Watch


A look at Japan’s #1 new game series

I was worried about Yo-Kai Watch when it was first announced. Putting out a manga, anime and game series all in one fell swoop is no small financial undertaking. Given that Level-5 isn’t a multi-billion dollar outfit, they had a lot to lose if Yo-Kai Watch were to fail. On top of that, nothing about the series sounded particularly original. ]

It’s like Pokémonbut instead of catching monsters, you catch ghosts — totally Japanese ghosts. In fact, I doubt that many people living outside of Japan have even heard the word “Youkai” before. If Yo-Kai Watch couldn’t find success in Japan, it probably wouldn’t succeed anywhere. It’s the kind of game that could easily sink a company if it were to flop.

In retrospect, it was probably silly of me to doubt Level-5. The game has gone on to become a massive, culture-wide phenomenon in Japan, in no small part due to Level-5’s incredible design skills. While Yo-Kai Watch is clearly influenced by Pokémon, it’s also better than Pokémon in a lot of ways. The monster designs are creepy and cute in a manner that defies convention. The battle system detailed and fast paced, allowing you to exercise a variety of different strategies in a streamlined and economic manner.

Perhaps most importantly, the game takes place in a world much like our own, where Youkai may be hiding anywhere. That tie to reality can lead a player to keep thinking about Youkai even when they’re not playing the game. Maybe there’s a Youkai living in that soda machine? Maybe there’s one in the toilet? Maybe there is one sitting on my shoulder right now! When questions like this leak into your regular life, it makes everything you do a little more fun.

While watching this video, take the time to imagine a Youkai living in Jed’s beard. There is no way of proving that there isn’t one in there, so you might as well believe.