If you’re a Pokémon fan looking for another fix, Nintendo and Tecmo Koei are happy to assist with Pokémon Conquest. Fair warning though: the game is a crossover between the Nobunaga’s Ambition and Pokémon series of games. I admit that I am only familiar with the Pokémon universe, so my comparisons will be made as such.
The Ransei Region is ruled by 17 warlords who are in competition with each other. Your job as a new warlord is to attempt to unite the other kingdoms so that you may have the opportunity to encounter Arceus, one of the legendary Pokémon. Of course, you do this by beating them all into submission and getting them to join your army.
In contrast to other games in the Pokémon series, you do not only control one trainer (or warrior, as they’re known in this title). Each warrior can have multiple Pokémon linked with them, with only one active at a time. Every time you enter battle, you can use a maximum of six warriors and control their movements.
The combat has been both simplified and complicated from the traditional turn-based system used in the Pokémon games. While the Pokémon themselves each have a single attack now, there is movement and position to consider — more in the vein of a traditional turn-based strategy game. In addition, each warrior has an ability which can be used once per battle to shape the way you play.
As they battle with Pokémon, the warriors will improve their link with them. The higher this percentage, the stronger that Pokémon it is. Through this mechanic, certain Pokémon may also evolve as this game has done away with traditional levels. As well as the Pokémon, your Warriors and warlords like your main character can “evolve” similar to a Pokémon increasing their power.
Depending on a warrior’s proficiency, they can link with multiple Pokémon. Instead of the now-classic throwing of a Pokéball, warriors sidle their battling buddy up a wild Pokémon and attempt to link with it — a process requiring a series of timely “A” button presses. The more accurate you are, the better chance you’ll form a link between that warrior and Pokémon.
While the meat of the game is in the battling, some management is required to take care of the kingdoms that fall under your dominion. It’s always a good idea to keep warriors in each location you control, as enemy territories can and will attack you. However, it need not be tedious. Pokémon Conquest features the ability to delegate activities in each kingdom, instructing the warriors to focus on finding new allies, or strengthening their team etc.
Once you’ve defeated all the warlords, 32 “episodes” are unlocked. These contain new and interesting warlord battles with a higher difficultly level and changed objectives. After completing all 32 episodes? ANOTHER final episode is available to you. In short, you won’t be running out of things to do.
Pokémon Conquest can be controlled either using the touchscreen with the stylus or physical buttons. I felt that the buttons were a lot easier to use in battle particularly as the stylus didn’t seem too accurate when selecting Pokémon or the exact square you want them to move to.
The game does fall short in a crucial area which I did touch upon in my mammoth review of Pokémon Black and White: notably that Nintendo have stuck with the pixellated graphics for battling, which, while bearable in a 2D game, look woeful on the rotatable playing field. Also, the chance was there to make the jump to the 3DS but they missed it!
I was also surprised to be driven crazy by the music. Pokémon titles are usually filled with enjoyable loops which are rarely tiring, so it was disappointing that I was soon playing Pokémon Conquest with the sound turned down.
Pokémon Conquest is one of the best spin-offs from the Pokémon series to date, of which there have been many lackluster titles (but also some gems!). It brings the unique feel of a Pokémon game to a more traditional turn-based strategy to great effect.