|Dev: Tecmo Koei|
|Pub: Nintendo/The Pokémon Company|
|Release: June 18, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Mild Cartoon Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes|
by Becky Cunningham
Most teenage and adult Pokémon fans have found themselves wondering, at one time or another, if they'd ever have a chance to play a Pokémon game in which the battles went beyond simple gladiatorial tournaments. Enter Pokémon Conquest, a tactical game by the developers of Nobunaga's Ambition, a popular Japanese tactical RPG series. This crossover game allows players to do something we never thought The Pokémon Company would allow: teaming up with Pokémon to conquer castles in feudal Japan.
Although the game takes place in a bloody historical era in Japan's history, Pokémon Conquest's E rating with the ESRB suggests that the events the player is taking part in will be cleaned up in order to be appropriate for all ages. Players will take on the role of an enthusiastic young male or female warlord who desires to rule over the entire Ransei region, which is a fictional land resembling Japan in the 1500s. Starting out with an Eevee for a companion, the player must conquer Ransei's seventeen regions, each featuring specific Pokémon types and ruled by a warlord from Japan's history. These warlords appear to sport colorful personalities and are partnered with Pokémon that match their temperament. In order to face these warlords, the player must recruit powerful warriors with their own Pokémon allies, whose skills can be honed in battle.
The gameplay flow in Pokémon Conquest is divided into months, and each warrior allied with the player can perform one action per month. These activities include such things as encountering wild Pokémon, mining, shopping, bonding with a Pokémon partner, or attacking an enemy castle. Battles are turn-based and involve up to six Pokémon on each side. The Pokémon take turns moving and attacking, which can be a complex affair in castle battles, as the castles are stocked with various hazards and gizmos like springs and (completely historically accurate, of course) teleporters. Battles are won by meeting specific criteria that vary, making combat more interesting and versatile than simply defeating all enemies in every battle.
Beyond the obvious difference of being a tactical game, Pokémon Conquest brings several changes to typical Pokémon traditions. There are no Pokéballs in Ransei—the warriors are simply too tough and noble to resort to that sort of capture. Instead, the player will capture new Pokémon through force of will, taking advantage of a character's natural affinity with different Pokémon types and victory in a simple rhythm-based minigame. Ensuring that one's allies have strong potential bonds with their Pokémon partners is important, as the better a character's affinity is with its Pokémon, the stronger the Pokémon is able to grow as it battles and gains trust for its partner.
Another difference between this game and mainstream Pokémon titles is that each Pokémon only has a single attack that it can use. The attack changes as the Pokémon grows and evolves, but Tecmo Koei has clearly chosen not to make move-set choice part of the strategy of Pokémon Conquest. Instead, strategic choice involves choosing the correct warriors and Pokémon for the job at hand, as well as properly navigating the battlefield.
Of course, the ever-addictive activity of collecting Pokémon remains, but has been enhanced with the additional challenge of collecting human warriors. The game boasts around two hundred possible warriors to recruit via the traditional avenue of roundly kicking their butts in battle. These warriors have statistics that influence their partner Pokémon's attack power, defense, and evasion, meaning that players will want to look at the power of both warrior and Pokémon before sending them into battle. Warriors will have the ability to create links with between two and six or seven Pokémon, so some will have a more versatile stable of Pokémon than others.
It's unfortunate that Pokémon Conquest is a DS game rather than a 3DS title, but it's understandable since Tecmo Koei appears to be using existing Pokémon assets for the battles, and we suspect that those assets aren't yet completed for the higher-resolution 3DS yet. Although the battle sprites look about as one would expect from viewing previous Pokémon games, the interface and character portraits are well-designed and look sharp and attractive.
As a complete package, Pokémon Conquest looks appealing to fans of tactical RPGs, Japanese history, and/or Pokémon. Since it's designed for all ages, the game is unlikely to be amongst the most complex or difficult tactical RPGs out there, but it definitely looks like good, light fun. It's great to see The Pokémon Company allowing its property to be used for something new and different in this way, allowing even longtime fans to have a fresh Pokémon experience.
Date: April 23, 2012