You’d be forgiven for confusing the latest addition to the Yo-kai Watch series–a set of sequels with minor differences named Yo-kai Watch 2: Bony Spirits and Fleshy Souls–for its original predecessor. That’s because Yo-kai Watch 2, first released in Japan in 2014 and now only having reached North America, is nearly a carbon copy of the 2013 original. The sequel’s opening hours retread the same plot and yo-kai encounters of its predecessor, with its main–and new–story finally becoming clear after more than 10 hours of recycled fetch quests and stale ideas. And aside from a few minor tweaks to combat and significantly additions to Yo-kai Watch lore, there’s not much incentive to dig into Yo-kai Watch 2 if you played the first game.
The story begins when the protagonist–you can again choose between a young boy or girl–wakes up with the events of the previous game erased from their memory. You rediscover Whisper, the exuberant ghostly butler that accompanied you in the first game, and set about your daily life relearning all the same basic taming tricks from the first game. It feels like a lazy narrative choice to hit the memory-reset button on the main character for the sake of plot, especially when the first Yo-kai Watch did an excellent job of world-building at a strong, steady pace. Yo-kai Watch 2 also adds a time-travel element to its already unevenly paced narrative, making the entire affair feel a little too cliched.
One great addition to Yo-kai Watch 2’s world-building is the addition of new areas. Wider sections of your hometown of Springdale are open to explore, and new towns beyond its borders are accessible by train. Unfortunately, riding the in-game train is much the same as a real one–you have to wait for long stretches of time between stops on the way to your location–and it’s a drag on the action. Once you discover teleportation points, however, this becomes a moot point. However, most portals aren’t found until much later in the game.
Most of Yo-kai Watch 2’s main missions are, just as in its predecessor, fetch quests. The game features a few small additions meant to change things up, such as environmental puzzles where one misstep will send you back to the start of the maze or pop quizzes meant to test your knowledge of yo-kai. But even these can’t save the main thread from monotony. After I spent more than a dozen hours running from one end of Springdale to the other searching for a Spritzer or a certain type of yo-kai, my enjoyment of the world and my patience ran thin. Even the boss battles against gargantuan and some particularly clever yo-kai waiting at the end of these quests couldn’t save me from boredom.
Combat in Yo-kai Watch 2 is identical to that in the first game. The bottom screen of the 3DS displays a six-spoked wheel, displaying the yo-kai in your possession. Three are on the battlefield at any time, and you can rotate the wheel to change up your active party. Once again, setting yo-kai of the same elemental type next to each other will net you bonuses in battle, such as dealing extra damage or moving more quickly. The fighting system is still mostly passive, and sometimes you can win a battle without pressing a single button. Yo-kai attack on their own, with very little input; you can press a button to queue up a minigame that charges a yo-kai’s most powerful Soultimate attack or play a similar minigame to purify a yo-kai that’s been possessed by an enemy.
This all becomes rote very quickly, with the only exception being boss battles. Most have a weak spot on them that can be targeted with the tap of a stylus, and you must plan your attack strategy around breaking down this specific area. Once weakened, a boss becomes more susceptible to your attacks, and since some of these battles have multiple stages, it’s a good idea to plan ahead rather than leave chance in the hands of the passive battle system.
Once again, I found myself frustrated most by the lack of guidance in successfully recruiting yo-kai into my party. After a random encounter, there’s a certain likelihood that an enemy yo-kai will approach and ask to be your friend. This possibility is increased by giving the yo-kai its favorite food in battle–but what that food could be is never made clear or recorded anywhere, even in Yo-kai Watch 2’s in-game Yo-kai Pad. Late in the game, my yo-kai collection was woefully lacking, since I‘d already grown weary of the trial-and-error practice of throwing one of every food in my inventory at every creature I saw.
Yo-kai Watch 2’s most welcome additions are multiplayer battles and trading. Like in the Pokemon games, players can match online to test their yo-kai’s skills outside of the single-player section. Unfortunately, the same issue in single-player battles is present here, with most fights able to play out without any player input. And trading’s best boon is allowing players on each version of the game–Bony Spirits and Fleshy Souls–to swap and collect yo-kai exclusive to each version.
Yo-kai Watch 2 does preserve the quirky tone and charming writing that made the first game so engaging, but its lack of iteration is problematic in that there aren’t enough fresh ideas to color its monotonous gameplay. The game feels old hat, taking you through well-trod ground–albeit with a fresh coat of paint and a few new faces. If you’re a fan of the original Yo-kai Watch and feel invested in its world, then the lore laid down in Bony Spirits and Fleshy Souls is worth toying around with in the nearly two-dozen hours you’ll spend in the campaign. But if you’re looking for something original, you should pass on Yo-kai Watch 2.