With the Pokémon series setting its sights firmly on the Nintendo Switch, Yokai Watch has stepped up to satisfy our monster collecting fix on the dual screen handheld. Blasters arrived in the west this September and helped to ease the wait for the third mainline instalment which is set to launch sometime this Winter. The spin-off bears a resemblance to the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series in that it allows you to take command of the franchise's poster boys in their very own adventure.
We chose the Red Cat Corps version and our journey started with our team of blasters dashing off in fear after attempting to save the day from an evil group of Yokai who are terrorising the town. After retreating to our hideout, our group of "bottom-of-the-barrel" blasters are met by Sergeant Burly who has been sent from the Blasters Association to give us some much needed tough love and training. The story sees your rise to the top after being on the brink of being disbanded and features some nice touches such as the original voice cast lending their talents for the main ensemble and short teaser trailers in the style of the anime for each chapter.
Combat in Blasters is in more of an action-RPG style and requires you to mash together a mix of physical attacks, special attacks and dodges whilst cycling through your team of Yokai. Each Yokai has a special attack which can be triggered once the team receives a certain amount of damage. Jibanyan's special move, paws of furry, has him rapidly slash foes with his paws delivering a blistering combo of attacks to any nearby facing enemies. You have four interchangeable Yokai in your team and each has their own class of either fighter, healer, ranger and tank. There are no restrictions on how you arrange your team (you could have four fighters, for example, or a balanced team with a member of each class) and most of our fun came from reshuffling our team and befriending new creatures for experimentation.
On top of this, there are also items you can purchase from Dimmy's shop on the second floor of your hideout and equipment that can be crafted for stat boosts from materials gathered out on missions. The purchasable items can really give you the upper hand and some can allow you to slow down a boss or appear temporarily invisible. The main issue with the combat system though is that it doesn't feel all that deep, especially when compared to the mainline entries. If you don't keep varying your team and equipment things can quickly feel dull as you repeat the same process of attacking, dodging and waiting for your special moves to cool down.
By reporting to Sergeant Burly you can select between three categories of missions: Story, Patrol, and Big Boss (providing that you have passed the first few chapters). Story missions make up the bulk up the title's ten chapters and usually require you to complete a common task such as dispatching a group of troublemaking Yokai or collecting fallen items. Besides a change in setting and some new faces along the way, these missions usually remain pretty similar with the difficulty barely ramping to keep things engaging. This thrown in with the bare bones combat system does become tedious after the first handful of chapters. Luckily, Blasters has some other tricks up its sleeve.