Short answer to this is “No” by the way, but it goes a lot deeper than that.
Due to my upcoming trip to Gen Con in Indy, I decided I wanted to get a new game for my Nintendo New 2DS XL system. While I have Persona Q2 (a fantastic game in its own right) I wanted something a little more laid back and “cute” to relax with, as Persona Q2 is very brutal at times. In my search on Youtube watching trailers I ran across a video talking about YoKai watch and decided I would finally look into what I have always considered to be just a Pokemon Clone.
What I found is something so vastly different to Pokemon that I honestly regret having dismissed it years ago when it first appeared as just a clone.
To understand this, I wanted to take a moment and break down how each game functions, and then also discuss how they are specifically different. The similarities are surprisingly easy though. Both game series feature young adult protagonists (generally between 10 to 14 years old) and both feature monster catching. That’s pretty much it as far as similarities are concerned. So lets jump into how each game itself functions, so you, dear reader, can learn exactly how they are different as well as discuss which I feel is better, and which is my personal preference as far as series goes. Mind you, I am only going to be discussing the games, as I have not seen the anime for Pokemon since its original airing, and I have never seen an episode of YoKai Watch.
All About Pokemon
Currently at the time of writing this, the Pokemon franchise spans 30 main series games released with 2 new ones (Sword/Shield) upcoming. That is an incredible history. Even taking out the duplicates (such as counting Red/Blue as one game) or remakes, you are sitting at 7 released “generations” with an 8th coming. However, every game is pretty much built on the same formula. The window dressing changes, but the core remains the same. In every Pokemon game you play a boy or girl who recently moves into a new town with your mother (and never your dad for some reason, although in Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald your Dad actually is a Gym Leader), befriends some locals, meets a Pokemon professor, is given a Pokemon, and then goes on a Region wide journey to become the Pokemon Champion. Along the way you will encounter an enemy “Team” with nefarious goals and eventually defeat them, but the end of the game occurs once you ascend to the face the Elite 4 and the Pokemon Champ to become the new reigning Champion of your region. There are some mini games to play at times, and each generation is set in a new Region and adds more Pokemon. By the last handheld generation (Sun/Moon) there is over 800 monsters to collect, train, and battle with. But at the end of the day, if you have played one Pokemon game, you have played them all for the most part. The story the games tell is linear, your travels are linear, and you always have a clearly defined goal: Become the Champ. Additionally, your character is a silent protagonist / blank slate character. You never speak nor respond to others. People talk around you, and to you the player, but your character is essentially a doll thru which you, the PLAYER, experience the world.
Another major thing to mention is that the actual Pokemon are, in world, known to everyone. They take the place of servants, transportation, labor, and pets. Everyone knows about them, everyone has them, and they are a fact of life for the people who live in this world. Pokemon are also, by and large, animal like. They show limited intelligence for the most part, only being able to say their name. There are a few exceptions to this rule of course.
Mechanically, Pokemon’s battle system is pretty straight forward for a JRPG. You have a team of up to 6 Pokemon you can take with you out of your captured Pokemon. Battles are mostly 1 v 1, although on occasion you can do Double Battles and some other oddball ones. Your Pokemon each have a type which gives them certain strengths and weaknesses (like a Fire type is weak to Water attacks). Each Pokemon will know up to 4 moves, and each move has its own type. You can learn new moves on level up or by items. But you can only ever have 4 moves per Pokemon. Each round you select a move, and then you and your opponent attack each other with those moves. This repeats until either you or your opponent have no Pokemon left with hit points. Catching Pokemon involves first finding them in tall grass, and then hitting them till they are nearly knocked out and throwing Pokeballs at them until RNG smiles on you and you catch it. Again, this formula has remained unchanged since the very first games. They have added things such as Mega Evolutions and ZMoves as the series has progressed but the core gameplay remains the same.
If you want to start with Pokemon, my advice is get either Ultra Moon/Ultra Sun, Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire, or wait till Sword/Shield come out. You only need 1 game from the pair.
All About YoKai Watch
The history of YoKai Watch is much much shorter then Pokemon, consisting of three released games currently in the West, with a YoKai Watch 4 on Switch in Japan. YoKai Watch 2 (the one I own and am playing currently) does a Pokemon by having 2 versions plus 1 ultimate version (Psychic Specters, which is what I have). In YoKai Watch you play as either Nate or a female character (Katie in 1 and 2, and Hailey Anne in 3 although technically in 3 you play as BOTH the male and female with the ability to switch between em but thats besides the point). These characters have dialog, personalities, and goals. The games themselves take place in a fictionalized version of our modern world. Games 1 & 2 take place in an area of Fictional Japan, and 3 takes place in both the US and Japan. The stories also vary from game to game, although playing YKW 2 sort of invalidates the need to play the first, as you learn about the stuff that happened in the first game thru flashbacks. Additionally, the games are much more Open World vs linear, with you being able to wander fully realized cities with shops, NPCs, trains, the works. The world feels like ours. You can do both main and side quests pretty much in any order assuming they are unlocked, and each chapter of the games have their own objectives along with a overarching plot that you uncover as you play.
The YoKai themselves are also unique. Each YoKai has its own personality, can speak fully, and have a purpose. Swelton, for example, is this big blob looking YoKai whose presence causes people to sweat uncontrollably. Jibanyan, the series mascot, is a Cat who haunts an intersection in Town causing Accidents as he tries to fight Trucks when they pass by (his story is very depressing and messed up for a kids game, by the way). Your character will have conversations with these YoKai as you play the game, expressing his/her own thoughts. The MC in these games is thus much more fleshed out, and is not designed to be a blank slate character. Hell, during Dialog, you get these little 2D sprites showing a characters facial expressions so you can see just what mood or tone they are speaking in. These are spirits, not animals, and you will quickly realize this as you play.
Another major thing is that unlike Pokemon, VERY FEW PEOPLE can see YoKai or even are aware of the existence of these creatures. The MC’s parents and friends for example have no idea that these beings exist. Its kind of depressing when you think about the fact that some people might assume the MC is talking to his or her imaginary friends. YoKai influence the world, and are influenced by the world, but are apart from it as well.
Mechanically YoKai is both simplistic and hectic. Combat is handled by the AI for the most part. Each YoKai has 2 attacks, an Inspirit (Buff/Debuff) and Soultamite ability. You, the player, only can direct where the YoKai attack thru the Pin command (and performing a mini game where you throw a literal pin at the target). In YoKai Watch 1 and 2, your team of 6 YoKai will allow up to 3 members on screen at once. They will attack, heal, buff, and debuff as their AI dictates. You can also manually activate their Soultimates, super moves each Yokai has access to. To activate you will perform a minigame that varies from activation to activation. It may be spinning a circle, moving clock hands around, popping coins, or tracing patterns. You can also rotate the wheel your YoKai are slotted into around to change which 3 are currently in battle, and you will have to do this if one of your team gets Debuffed (Inspirited) so you can Purify them thru another mini game. YoKai Watch 3 does away with the Circle and Rotation in favor of a 3×3 board where you actually move them around, but I have yet to try it. Its hectic, engaging, but simple as the YoKai fight most of the battle themselves. Also, while they do level up and gain better stats, they never really learn new moves but rather improve the ones they have thru usage. Each YoKai has its stuff, and that’s it. Catching them (Befriending) is also very RNG dependent. You have to beat the encounter, and then HOPE that RNG smiles and one of the YoKai who you fought asks to be your friend. You CAN improve your chances by tossing some food out, but you gotta choose the right food for the YoKai and you can only try once per fight.
As far as where to start, pretty much everyone I have seen suggested YoKai Watch 2 Psychic Specters OR 3. Either one is a good spot.
For another perspective as well as some guidance as to where to start with YoKai Watch I would like to direct ya to this fantastic article right here by Destructoid – https://www.destructoid.com/a-guide-to-yo-kai-watch-where-to-start-and-what-s-next-542374.phtml
Which is better?
This question is up to preference, and both games honestly shine in their respective niche. Pokemon is a much more focused and linear experience. It feels like a video game most of the time. Everything in the world seems placed with deliberate care to funnel the character into the Pokemon Championship. There is no goal outside of this. And the fact that you play a blank slate character helps you feel like its YOU, and not a character, that you are in control of. Conversely, YoKai Watch takes its queues from Western styled open world RPGs, with side quests randomly placed throughout a much more defined and open world. You are able to do things at your own pace such as catch bugs, go fishing, befriend various YoKai and so on. Its less about the destination and more about your journey. Playing as a defined character as well changes how it feels. YoKai Watch feels like I am playing episodes in an Anime, with gags, jokes, and interactions between the MC and the people around him.
Both series, honestly, are great.
If you want a defined classic JRPG styled monster catching game with a lot of depth in mechanics, you go with the Pokemon games.
If you want a more relaxed Western RPG styled monster catching game with more active gameplay, you go with YoKai Watch.
I have played at least one Pokemon game in each generation over the years. I have reviewed Ultra Sun on this very website, matter of fact. However, I have grown tired of the same repetition that exists inside of Pokemon. Each game, at this point, feels the same. As I said further up, the cast changes, but the story stays the same and that’s how Pokemon feels. As I play YoKai Watch 2 Psychic Specters I realize, for me, that style is much more enjoyable. I like being able to spend my time catching bugs, solving problems, and just being a young kid running around having fun. And knowing that if I get into YoKai Watch 3 after this and it having a completely new and reworked battle system just interests me all the more. Also the fact that the combat is both more hectic yet almost more simplistic is nice, I don’t have to think too hard with “ok he has fire so I need water types” kind of stuff.
I hope this has helped anyone who has been trying to figure out the differences in the two games.