Professor Layton developer Level-5 has filed for trademark to possibly bring its popular Japanese RPG series, Yokai Watch, to American shores.
“Youkai” is a term used by Japanese to describe a certain group of “supernatural monsters.” I stress to use the word “ghost” as the image we have of coming back to life in an undead form has a separate term, “yuurei.”
Yokai Watch puts a cute spin on the Japanese folklore and creates a large variety of them in cuddly forms one couldn’t possibly resist hugging. Except for that tofu looking guy. He’s hardcore.
The game revolves around a young boy living a peaceful life in his small town. He is given a special wrist device called the “Yokai Watch,” which allows him to scan the environment and keep an eye out for, or “watch” for, youkai hiding beyond normal mundane eyesight. If he catches them, some will join his cause and aid him in battle or other situations. Some will hinder him and have to be put in their place through the ancient art of battle.
If you are getting a Pokemon vibe, you are not too far off. Level-5 is one of the fastest growing game company’s in Japan, so why not take a stab at Nintendo while the timing is right? Yokai Watch beat Pokemon X and Y out the door in Japan by several months, so don’t think that was a coincidence.
I’m not striking any excitement from this one though. Level-5 was once an exciting JRPG maker with Dark Cloud 2, Rogue Galaxy and Dragon Quest VIII bringing some wonderful ideas to the table at the height of the PlayStation 2’s reign. Much of that swagger has been lost though after it found more success in smaller and more marketable ideas like Professor Layton and Inazuma Eleven, which is also possibly bound for the U.S.
I’d be more interested in Yokai Watch if it actually put a genuinely creepy spin on its premise. More like GeGeGe no Kitaro and less like the generic anime look Level-5 has adapted to and perfected in recent years.
Good luck marketing that one to today’s Japanese children. Not too many are interested in stories which have the souls of dead fathers inhabiting their son’s eye.
More on Yokai Watch to come if Level-5 has anything to offer.