|Dev: Tecmo Koei/The Pokemon Company|
|Release: June 18, 2012|
|Players: 1 + Wireless Multiplayer Battles|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Mild Cartoon Violence|
by Becky Cunningham
At some point, every Pokémon fan has pondered what would happen if their favorite pocket monsters were allowed to do something beyond battle in gymnasiums for league championships. Perhaps using them to conquer a major region in Sixteenth Century Japan wasn't the exact scenario that came to mind, but one has to admit that the idea behind Pokémon Conquest is quite appealing.
Developed in conjunction with The Pokémon Company and Samurai Warriors creator Tecmo Koei, Pokémon Conquest is a Poké-themed version of the Nobunaga's Ambition series, which is not well-known in North America. The series is based on an actual historical period in Japan in which warlords fought constant battles for dominance until one man, Oda Nobunaga, united much of the nation under his rule. Pokémon Conquest pays homage to the series, naming every character after an actual historical figure from the time, without being bound by historical accuracy... unless somehow I missed Japan's possession of magic crystals and transport blimps in 1560.
Pokémon Conquest's fictional land is a region called Ransei that was created by a legendary Pokémon. Warriors there have the ability to communicate with Pokémon, partnering with them and leading them to battle. There's a legend that whoever manages to unite Ransei under one ruler will be able to meet its legendary creator, and thus warlords have been locked in an eternal battle, each trying to become strong enough to rule them all. The player takes on the role of a young male or female warlord with that very desire, which soon becomes a quest to usurp an apparently evil Nobunaga, who desires to use the legendary Pokémon to destroy Ransei.
This journey involves conquering seventeen castles in Ransei via turn-based strategy battles on gridded fields, similar to other tactical RPGs like Disgaea or Fire Emblem. Up to six Pokémon per side face off against each other, with warriors (normal characters) and warlords (special, powerful characters) providing tactical support via abilities that buff and heal the Pokémon. The tactical system in the game is simple but addictive. Each species of Pokémon has a single attack, and different attacks affect areas of different sizes and shapes on the field. More powerful attacks often have drawbacks, such as only being usable every other turn or having a large field of effect that requires the player to be careful not to hit friendly troops. Of course, attack damage is governed by Pokémon's complex "type" strengths and weaknesses, requiring the player to carefully choose which Pokémon to take into battle. After the first few castles, the player will face armies with mixed strengths and weaknesses, requiring good planning and strategy. Fortunately, there's an attack type chart included in the unusually beefy manual.
Beyond the immediate concerns of battle, Pokémon Conquest features its own version of the collection mechanic that keeps Pokémon fans coming back to the series. The player must amass an army by defeating warriors and warlords, thus impressing them and recruiting them to the cause. Normal warriors can be recruited by defeating them within the first four turns of a battle or with a super effective attack. Warlords must be personally defeated by the player character, on top of the previous requirements, and some warlords can only be acquired in the post-game.
Once a warrior or warlord has been recruited, the player must pay attention to its "link level" with its Pokémon partner. Links symbolize the growing partnership between warrior and Pokémon, and serve as the game's character development mechanism. As the link percentage grows towards 100%, the Pokémon becomes stronger, and most Pokémon evolve into stronger forms by reaching a particular link percentage or statistic level (such as 55 strength), which is obtained by gaining a stronger link level. Links are enhanced through battle and other activities such as using various castle facilities or consumable items. Not all Pokémon and warrior combinations can reach 100% link with each other, however. Every human character has a perfect match with a particular Pokémon species, so the player will want to search out that partner for as many warriors as possible.