Ever since Sakurai brought third parties to Smash starting from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, many fans started to speculate which third party character they want to see in the next Smash. So far, Konami, Sega, Capcom, Bandai Namco, and Square Enix has joined the project as they brought their company mascots and iconic characters to Smash, making Smash an exciting character fighting game with many possibilities. If there were to be more third parties involved in the future, which company would join the next Smash, and who would that be? Today, I will discuss the company that has the strong connection with Nintendo, Level-5. And when it comes with Level-5, everybody would probably think about Professor Layton first, but if we were to discuss the main face of the company, I’d argue that Yo-kai Watch’s Jibanyan is the natural choice.
The first Yo-kai Watch contains 380 species of Yo-kai (now the count is over 500 with Yokai-Watch 3!), and Jibanyan is one of them as a mascot of the franchise, similar to Pikachu’s position to the Pokémon series. He is a D-Ranked Yo-kai in a Charming Tribe, and lives in a fictional town in Japan called Springdale/Sakura New Town. During his lifetime, he was an ordinary cat with a name of Rudy/Aka-maru by his former owner Amy, but he got run over by the oncoming truck. Since Amy called him lame upon his death, he became a Yo-kai to take revenge against any oncoming trucks, in an effort to prove his former owner how strong he had became. Due to this effort on never giving up his dreams, he later befriends with the main protagonist, Nate Adams/Keita Amano or Katie Forester/Fumika Kodama (depending on a gender you choose from the beginning), and aids them whenever they need by granting them his Yo-kai Medal.
During his first debut, he wasn’t really focused as being a mascot of the franchise as he had lesser roles during storyline. However, the anime version which was aired after the game’s release described him to be lazy, uncooperative and selfish like every cat is. He’s also heavily addicted to chocolate bars, and a huge fan of the music idol group Nextharmeowny/Nya-KB48. This description was added to the later sequels and spinoffs, giving him more roles during storyline, and lead him to become the real mascot of the franchise. Although Yo-kai fight automatically and randomly during battle without giving any commands, his main special move (or called the Soultimate attack) is his rapid punching attack called “Paws of Fury”, which was based from Fist of the Northern Star’s protagonist Kenshiro’s “Hokuto Hyakuretsu Ken”. As he also can evolve into Baddinyan and Thornyan through fusion, he also has many variation of himself or alternate cat Yo-kai, such as his future robotic counterpart Robonyan, and his samurai ancestor Shogunyan.
Jibanyan also appeared as a main protagonist in many spinoffs; such as being the member of Yo-kai Watch Busters, and even portraying himself as a Sangokushi warrior in Yo-kai Sangokushi. In Yo-kai Watch 3, which is planned to be released this summer 2016 in Japan, Jibanyan moves to the fictional town in the United States called St. Peanutsburg, alongside with the protagonist (Nate at this moment) due to their father’s relocation. He’ll be assisting the protagonist on solving Yo-kai problems in America, while a new secondary protagonist Inaho Misora and her Yo-kai partner USApyon will be solving mysteries as Yo-kai Detectives in Japan.
Reasons of Inclusion
Level-5 has its long relationship with Nintendo since their first release of Professor Layton and the Curious Village for DS in February 2007. Ever since the first Yo-kai Watch was released in July 2013 in Japan, the franchises were mostly released for the Nintendo handheld console, while they released Yo-kai Watch Dance: JUST DANCE Special Version on Wii U as their first home console game. The only series that was released on the non-Nintendo console was on mobile platforms such as Yo-kai Watch Puni Puni, and arcade platforms such as Bandai’s Data Cardass game Tomodachi UkiUkipedia.
Although the sales for the first game in Japan wasn’t successful from its release to 50,000 copies, its popularity later grew up after the anime’s release in January 2014, resulting to sell over 1.33 million copies in May 2014. The Yo-kai Medals, the collectable medals using a similar mechanics as the amiibo figures, have also sold over 3 million copies. It’s sequel Yo-kai Watch 2: Ganso/Honke have also sold over 3 million copies, which Famitsu announced that Yo-kai Watch 2: Ganso/Honke won first place in 2014’s Top 10 Sales Ranking, winning over Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire in 2nd place for selling 2.4 million copies. It’s expansion version Yo-kai Watch 2: Shin-uchi has also won in 5th place for selling 2 million copies, as resulting Level-5 selling 6.21 million copies in 2014. Its manga released for CoroCoro Comics also won two awards, while the first movie that was aired on December 2014 sold over 1.1 million tickets, resulting to win the 33rd Golden Gross Award for the highest Japanese box office of 7.8 million yen ($65 million). Due to this success, Yo-kai Watch has become a new face of Level-5 over the previous popular games, Professor Layton series and Inazuma Eleven series.
Jibanyan has been in a spotlight as an iconic and marketable mascot for a long time ever since the franchise became a social phenomenon in the Japanese society. They’ve opened two theme park attractions in Japan, even their official shop at Toyosu since last October. They even tied with many railway companies like JR Kyushu for a special promotional event. They even tied with Hawaii Tourism Japan as Jibanyan became a “Kids Friendship Ambassador”, which this was the first time the franchise was revealed in the West before the localized game was released. They also owned the sponsorship with McDonald’s Japan, which was formerly owned by Pokémon before their contract ended. Toys, books, clothing, souvenirs…Yo-kai Watch can be found everywhere in Japan, and Jibanyan will always be shown on its cover.
That’s right; as mentioned above, Yo-kai Watch won over Pokémon as their main competing franchise. While Pokémon was Japan’s social phenomenon back then, Yo-kai Watch has taken over many sponsorship as the franchise became successful and popular. Due to this effort, many fans suggested that they want to see a crossover of Yo-kai Watch and Pokémon in some sort, having Jibanyan and Pikachu compete each other as rivals. Not to mention that Jibanyan was actually voted in the Top 20 Most Requested Characters in Japan at 14th place, alongside with the DLC candidates Cloud and Bayonetta in the same listing.
Reasons of Exclusion
Yo-kai Watch is popular in Japan as it won over Pokémon many times. But even though their game has gone overseas, Yo-kai Watch isn’t really that popular in the West. While Japan sold 1 million copies of their first game, the localized version only sold up to 110,000 copies, not reaching to the million seller. Unlike Japan, Western viewers negatively views Yo-kai Watch to be a Pokémon rip-off due to their similar genre of monster capturing/breeding RPG. Although it’s not true due to their differences, people still view it as is, so this negativity may be the cause of Yo-kai Watch being an unpopular franchise in the West. Also, many Western fans strongly prefer Professor Layton to join Smash as a Level-5 representative than Jibanyan. Due to Professor Layton’s iconicness and popularity in the West, he was placed at 16th in the Source Gaming Polling, while Jibanyan was at the lower rank of 256th place.
There is also one more point that I could agree for Jibanyan’s exclusion; his lack of movesets. Unlike Pokémon which can learn new moves by leveling up but can carry up to four sets of moves, Yo-kai Watch doesn’t have an ability to learn new moves. Plus, although there are possibilities that certain characters may use original attacks that were not from the actual games, those moves must be iconic to that character. For Jibanyan’s case, his iconic move is his Soultimate attack “Paws of Fury”. Other than that, there’s none. He does have an inspirit ability to slow enemies down and shoot fire to attack in the game, but none of them are iconic. Furthermore, it is difficult to think how unique Jibanyan can be if he doesn’t have any specific and iconic move other than his Soultimate attack. This could be addressed by having Jibanyan using the other “Jiba” form moves, or moves from other characters in the game.
Besides, it is unknown how long Yo-kai Watch’s popularity will even last. Although the franchise has conquered the Japanese society over Pokémon, it’s true that the franchise’s popularity is starting to decline. Since we don’t know when the next Smash to be released, it’ll be the matter of time of how long Yo-kai Watch will stay popular in the future. Pokémon will be uprising once again as they celebrate their 20th anniversary this year, with a new Pokémon Sun & Moon planning to be released worldwide this holiday. So Yo-kai Watch’s popularity may possibly fall due to that event, if their third sequel becomes successful with it’s release this summer.
What is Smash without music? Here are few tracks you can look forward to Jibanyan if makes it in.
Mains: Yoshi (64), Game and Watch (Melee), Wario (Brawl), Wario/Pac-Man (Smash for 3DS/Wii U)