Ever wonder what would happen if you took the historical accuracy of Dynasty Warriors, mixed it with the characters and style of Pokemon, and turned it into a strategy RPG akin to Nobunaga’s Ambition? You’d get Pokemon Conquest, the latest addition to the popular Pokemon franchise. It’s time to fight your way through the 17 kingdoms of Ransei and unite them all under one banner. The real question I found myself wondering before playing it was: will this be a fun deviation from the typical Pokemon gameplay? Or will this eclectic attempt be a total dud?
Developer: Tecmo Koei
Genre: Another Pokemashup
Release Date: June 18, 2012
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Pokemon Conquest is an interesting take on both traditional Pokemon gameplay and the history of the warlords during the Warring Kingdom period of Japan under Oda Nobunaga. I wouldn’t call the game historically accurate, though many of the main players are there. After all, this is only loosely based on Japan, and the characters have Pokemon, which I don’t think those warlords had back in the 1500s (though I could be wrong). Also, the warlords are all colorful, more along the lines of characters from a wacky anime series.
The Legendary Pokemon Arceus is said to have created the Ransei region. The warlord who unites all the kingdoms will be able to connect with him and fight by his side – but uniting the 17 kingdoms is a difficult task. That’s where you come in, with your starter Pokemon, a trusty Eevee. As you’re introduced to the game through the tutorial, Oichii, another female warlord, joins you and helps you learn the ropes. She has a Jigglypuff, and together the two of you begin your conquest of the region.
There are many facets to this game, starting with the battle system itself. It’s a turn-based strategy game, meaning your entire team takes their turns, and then the enemy takes their turns. You have one Pokemon, and several warlords who accompany you with their Pokemon. You can choose which ones enter the battle with you. From there, you choose if you want to move within a set number of squares, or attack another Pokemon. Be careful when setting up attacks with Pokemon whose attack range covers more than one square – you can hurt your own! Also, you don’t get to choose what attacks your Pokemon make – you just get to choose whether or not you want to attack. Warlords also have special moves (like Oichii’s ability to heal the party) and can use items that have been previously equipped.
There are also treasures around the maps, and if you end your turn on one, you get to claim whatever’s inside, whether it’s a consumable, something you can equip, or gold. Whenever you defeat an enemy, they also leave treasure behind as well, which you can also pick up. But take care, as your enemies can pick up these items as well, robbing you of items and money.
As you go to each kingdom and defeat the warlords, you claim those kingdoms for yourself. Once they have your banner flying, you can enter them and use whatever’s inside – some have stores to buy and sell items, some have Ponigiri Shops to eat ponigiri which gives you energy boosts, and others have ways to mine gold. All of them have at least one place inside of them in which you can either fight warlords with their Pokemon and/or wild Pokemon. If you fight the warlords and beat them within a certain number of turns, you can then recruit them into your army. If you face off against wild Pokemon, you have the option to Link with them.
The Link can be tricky. First off, it’s a Quick Time Event, meaning you have to go up to them, hit the “Link” option, and then test your skills on the DS buttons (really just testing your timing with the A button). Each trainer has a Pokemon specialty – for example, the character you start off with is strong with Normal Pokemon. If the warlord you’re playing faces up against a wild Pokemon that is more likely to connect with him or her, the Pokemon will have a gold Link. There’s also silver and bronze for those with whom a connection is less viable.
As you fight beside your Pokemon, the link between you grows stronger. You can link with any Pokemon, but as you fight with them and that link grows stronger, if you’re not compatible, it will only go to a certain point… and so will their growth and evolution. Also, if you do successfully link with a Pokemon, that particular one is added to that warlord’s list of Pokemon, which you can switch between when you’re not in battle. This is very helpful if you have a warlord who doesn’t have any Pokemon that match his specialty, and can help you build solid teams as more warlords join up with you.
Once you’ve taken over a kingdom, you can choose to leave warlords in it to protect it, as your enemies can attack any kingdom that is attached to a hostile one. I left several in each kingdom, and then I would use the Delegate option to have my warlords try to recruit more Pokemon. There are two other options as well – one is to make the links stronger between the warlords and Pokemon, and the other is to mine gold for you. After I’d amassed a fairly large army, I set the kingdoms that had six warlords (the maximum for a kingdom) to mining gold, and got rich really fast.
After your main team – which consists of your character, Oichii, and whoever else you choose – has finished taking their turn, and all other warlords have delegated, you proceed to the next month to progress the story. You can also save anytime, which is very handy in an SRPG – at least, it was super handy for me, because I spent a lot of time grinding between major battles. Each kingdom presents a different challenge, against which you have to build a strategy and likely level some of your Pokemon. About to deal with a lot of Fighting Pokemon? Find some Flying ones to take them out. Facing off against a city full of Ghost types? Better dig through your army and find some Dark types. If you’re into the dynamic of Pokemon, you will very likely love this game as much as I did. It really lets you scratch that Poke-itch. Slight spoiler alert: once you’ve finished the main game – which I did in about 16-17 hours – there’s a lot more game left to play. You can go back and replay the entire game with other warlords in charge of your army. This is a lot of gameplay for a normally priced DS game, especially if you just want more Pokemon and enjoy SRPGs.
Despite the silliness of the way the warlords look, the artwork is still terrific in this game. I love the warlords with their Pokemon, especially when the Pokemon begin to evolve. The evolution of the Pokemon is a little cheesy – it’s just a sprite of the original Pokemon, and then a sprite of the Pokemon it evolved into, without much of an animation. Perhaps once we get a full 3D game for the 3DS we’ll get some better animations. The music is also very catchy – as with most games in this franchise, I never found myself turning the music down or off for any reason. It fits well with the action and doesn’t detract from the game at all.
Pokemon Conquest is a great addition to the DS library for Pokemon and SRPG fans alike. It’s got more than you could ask for: battles, strategy, something that passes for a plot, characters based on actual warlords from Japanese history, and, of course, Pokemon. If you’re looking for a game to keep you occupied for the summer, Pokemon Conquest more than delivers. It’ll keep you going until the fall rush begins in a few months.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of Pokemon Conquest was provided by Nintendo for the purposes of this review.