Yokai Watch 2 (妖怪ウォッチ２), the sequel to the exceedingly popular Yokai Watch, has been selling like gangbusters in Japan. And for good reason. Not only is the TV anime going strong and related toys disappearing off of store shelves faster than they can stock them, but the game itself is a whole lot of fun.
The Yokai Watch franchise was basically designed to be a hit, but that doesn't mean that the game is lacking in any way. In fact, while the base system remains the same as its prequel, Yokai Watch 2 is a massively superior and much more entertaining game than the original – and I loved the original game, too. All in all, Yokai Watch 2 just offers more of everything.
The game's story takes place after the previous game, but that doesn't mean newcomers can't start right in with Yokai Watch 2. The plot setup involves an evil Yokai that erases the Yokai Watch from existence and erases the main character's memory, thereby essentially nullifying all the events of Yokai Watch. From there, the main character basically repeats the same steps as before: finding the Yokai Watch; meeting Whisper and Jibanyan; gathering Yokai and powering up the Yokai Watch, etc. The initial tutorial phase is somewhat abridged, striking a good balance of not making things boring for people who've played the previous game, but also making things easy for beginners to understand.
The original Yokai Watch boasted a total of 223 Yokai, including limited ones that were only offered through events and tie-in products. In Yokai Watch 2, the developers have added over one hundred new Yokai, bringing the total up to over 350 (some Yokai have not yet been released). While there are some overlapping or reused designs, for the most part, the Yokai are varied enough that the number doesn't feel artificially padded. It was such that my battle deck in Yokai Watch 2 ended up being very different from the collection of Yokai I used in the original Yokai Watch.
As with most sequels, the developers of Yokai Watch took what was good about the original game and built around that, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. The base framework of Yokai Watch 2 remains as easy to get into as the first game, with some additional frills to make things interesting. There are more special attack triggers, a boat-load of mini-games, and a new Yokai Watch Type Zero that you can use in battle for stronger special moves and other added effects. (This has also been followed by the release of the Yokai Watch Type Zero toy that is causing no end of grief for parents whose kids must have it)
There is also a train system that actually involves literally waiting for the desired train and making sure you disembark at your objective station. It's a kind of entertaining slice-of-life moment that adds more reality to the game world.
Thanks to the aforementioned train system, there are also now more locations outside of the main character's home town. You can now visit different cities or places in the countryside, where the main character's grandmother lives. There is also a plot point where you travel back in time 60 years, opening up more locations. Along with changes in time, there is now also changes in weather, with weather-specific or time-specific Yokai that can only be found under specific conditions, making for much more exploring.
Overall, Yokai Watch 2 is so expansive compared with its predecessor, it makes the original Yokai Watch feel like an appetiser against the full meal that is Yokai Watch 2. And yet, as previously stated, the game does not require that you play the first game at all – although it doesn't hurt to.
One thing I can definitely say about the Yokai Watch series is that it is fun. The games are playful and entertaining, with loveable characters, and while they are targeted towards kids, they don't talk down to the player – something I appreciated a great deal. Having played the games, it is very easy to see how Yokai Watch is fast becoming the Pokemon for the next generation of children.
Note that some parts of the game are very distinctly Japanese, especially the countryside areas and the parts that take place in the past. There are also some very inside-joke elements that will probably be a nightmare for whoever's job it is to localise the game, such as talk of an idol group based on the Japanese pop group, AKB48, or a gag involving a knock-off local mascot.
Yokai Watch 2 was released in Japan on July 10th. An international release is in serious consideration.