Not long ago, we looked at Megadimension Neptunia VII and lamented that the game, while good, didn’t commit to the bit. It had an idea and the freedom to run with it, but didn’t. Fortunately, there’s a game out there that goes all-in. Yo-kai Sangokushi fully and completely commits itself to putting all of the characters from the Yo-kai Watch into a Romance of the Three Kingdoms experience.
It starts with the actual locations. While Yo-kai Watch’s town is known in Springdale in the localizations, it’s Sakura New Town in Japan. When your character is pulled into his unification quest, he’s trying to bring all of Sakura Country under his control. Which is Sakura New Town. Every location is unchanged. Territories are divided up by blocks and important locations, so characters are fighting for control of schools, playgrounds, shrines, stores and homes. It’s pretty fantastic, because it’s tapping into the dream-like atmosphere suggested by Jibanyan, Komasan and USApyon’s adventure.
Not that it’s completely ignoring the Romance of the Three Kingdoms connections. Each character’s appearance is a good nod to the series’ continuity. While each Yo-kai is his or herself, they’re also representations of iconic historical characters. The three heroes are Jibanyan Liu Bei, Komasan Sun Ce, and USApyon Sima Ye. Whisper is Whisper Kongming; which is appropriate since both act as counselors in their respective games. Each one has a counterpart and, while not all are as appropriate as Whisper, the outfits characters wear are mostly accurate and fitting with the theme.
Though, the duels really hammer it home. Sometimes, characters will engage in a duel with an opposing character on the field. When this happens, portraits of the actual Romance of the Three Kingdoms characters appear on screen. It’s completely inexplicable, totally out of nowhere and simply amazing. One minute, your Yo-kai are fighting other Yo-kai; the next two are singled out, channeling the spirits of the people they represent. It’s so weird, but works so well.
But, as I hinted earlier, Yo-kai Sangokushi never forgets its Yo-kai Watch roots. The characters each have four possible actions for each turn. There’s a standard attack, a status-inflicting Inspirit move, a magical Technique, and a Soultimate special. Yo-kai can be befriended in battle or by spending coins in a Crank-a-kai gacha machine. There’s a sense of levity that supersedes Romance of the Three Kingdom’s severity.
It’s a perfect balance of two good things to make an equally-good third thing. We know Yo-kai Watch is a great JRPG. Romance of the Three Kingdoms is an established strategy series that has withstood the test of time. The two mashed together highlight some of the best parts of both games, resulting in a whimsical adventure that gradually grows in both size and difficulty, while still offering undeniable charm and mirth. It perfectly commits to the bit and is better for it.