Review: Yo-kai Sangokushi welcomes you to a wonderful kingdom

Did you ever play Pokémon Conquest? It was a great fusion that combined the Nobunaga’s Ambition series and Pokémon. Unfortunately, it was also a one-off endeavor. Nintendo and Koei Tecmo teased us with something wonderful, then never gave us more. Fortunately for everyone who’s been craving a strategy game starring adorably iconic characters, Level-5 and Koei Tecmo have come together for Yo-kai Sangokushi. It’s a game that not only mashes up Yo-kai Watch and Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but also acts as a spiritual successor to that wonderful Pokémon Conquest.

Yo-kai Sangokushi begins with a dream. At least, it did when I began my quest to take over the Sakura Kingdom, better known to everyone else as Sakura New Town/Springdale, as USApyon Sima Yi. USApyon imagines himself fighting alongside Fuyunyan Cao Cao, while Jibanyan Liu Bei, Komasan Sun Ce, and Whisper Kongming approach with their own army. Fuyunyan launches an attack, but it’s repelled and sent back at Fuyunyan and USApyon with a wave of Whisper’s fan. USApyon wakes up in Springdale, with his partner Inaho Misora standing by.

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This proves to be a precognitive premonition. Jibanyan and Komasan discover a suspicious book at the school, which sucks them inside. USApyon happens upon them, and the three are pulled into a world that is equal parts Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Yo-kai Watch. The only way to return home is to conquer all of the Sakura Kingdom, which is exactly what USApyon (or Jibanyan or Komasan, if you prefer) sets out to do.

Yo-kai Sangokushi begins as a rudimentary simulation game with strategic battles and gradually raises the stakes.

Yo-kai Sangokushi begins as a rudimentary simulation game with strategic battles and gradually raises the stakes. Players are tasked with building an army of Yo-kai and gradually acquiring more territory each chapter, facing some sort of monumental boss or bosses at the end. You’ll spend much of your time looking at a map, determining if units need to be sent to specific locations to bolster defenses, trained to improve their power levels or find supplies, complete side-quests or attempt to take more territory. A lot of plotting is involved, as later battles require people to keep character tribes in mind, so you’ll do the most damage, as well as whether your current party has a good mix of physical attackers, mages and support units. At the outset of many chapters, it’s best to focus on defenses and prepare for opponents’ invading forces, rather than attempting to prepare your own siege.

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That doesn’t mean the plotting and preparations are plodding or the predominant part of Yo-kai Sangokushi. You get to spend just as much time in strategic, turn-based battles and let me tell you, they’re pretty great. Each side gets to take in six characters, with the overall power levels of both sides displayed before a match. This gives you an idea of what you’ll be getting into, once the fight begins. Each character has a standard attack, some sort of special technique, an inspirit move that can inflict positive status effects on allies and negative on enemies, and a Soultimate special that must be charged for a devastating attack or immensely helpful boost. Turn-order is determined by speed and is always displayed on the bottom screen, so you can work out more advanced strategies by seeing who’ll be acting next.

It’s in these battles that all these little game elements come together to create something that’s pretty close to perfect. Having a character pause and not perform an action will offer an opportunity to pull a card that can have a positive effect on that unit and, if it’s a high enough rank, ones around it. Treasure boxes may hold items to grab. You can build the Soultimate gauge by collecting blue wisps. It’s even possible to grab drinks that allow you to perform a technique or inspirit move again. Surrounding an enemy with allies results in a team attack. Winning isn’t about racing to opposing units to take them out as quickly as possible. Finesse is key.

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Especially since so many battles have varying objectives. In some, you can win by capturing a and holding a certain number of flags to take the territory. This isn’t always easy, as a Noway NPC will be walking in a set pattern on the field, pushing enemies and allies away from flags. Another battle involved being the first side to collect five loaves of bread. Mirapos appear on some maps, allowing friends and foes to teleport across the field. You’re always getting something new to do, which means you’re able to continually come up with new strategies to seize the day.

Yo-kai Sangokushi is an absolutely inviting game; it’s constantly offering new activities to pull in players.

As good as the regular match-ups are, the boss fights take it to another level. Some offer giant-sized opponents, while others requiring certain puzzles to be solved to deal damage. Yo-kai Sangokushi’s first boss fight is a fantastic example. There are three bosses behind an energy wall. Touching it instantly kills both allies and enemies, and you can’t get around it. Instead, you must press buttons to push that wall into three bosses one-by-one, dealing 999 damage to each as it hits them. Meanwhile, one boss spawns enemies on your side, another uses an area attack that hits a 3×3 grid near each of the buttons and the third uses ranged attacks. All three have the ability to push the wall back, should the player dilly dally. It’s a thoughtful challenge, and an example of one of the many battles that switch things up.

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This doesn’t even get into Yo-kai Sangokushi’s special features. You can take on side quests to get more items or recruit additional Yo-kai. There are Challenge battles, which reward you with tickets and junk that can be exchanged for more characters and items. It’s possible to fight other players with the game, even via StreetPass. It’s packed with things to do and incentives for investing time and energy into the adventure.

Yo-kai Sangokushi is an absolutely inviting game; it’s constantly offering new activities to pull in players. Look, my power level increased! I can finally completely those side-quests and challenges. Hey, I’ve almost conquered all of this chapter’s territories! May as well spend another half hour or so to finish this segment of the story. Wait, this area’s in a precarious place! Better take a few turns to train characters, invest in the area and rearrange troops. There is always something to do, and that’s a wonderful thing.

Score: 9/10
Publisher: Level-5
Release Date: April 2, 2016
Developer: Koei Tecmo
Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Questions? Check out our review guide.
This review is based on an imported product. It is based on the experience of playing the game with little to no knowledge of the language, and the content may change if/when released in other regions.

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