Pokemon Conquest Review
By: David Habinski
Video game crossovers are nothing new to this generation of platforms. And why not make a crossover? May as well target multiple fan bases, right? Waiting for the release of a crossover title it always feels as though the game will be a shameless cash-in with minimal effort provided in order to make a quick buck. However, once these games are released, more often than not they prove to be at least decent games with recognizable effort put into their development. Why? I couldn’t tell you. Maybe people just seem to like these games because of the characters, or maybe it’s the joint effort of developers aiming to appeal to multiple fan bases. It may even be a bit of both. And while there are certainly exceptions to the success of a crossover, games like, Super Smash Brothers, Marvel Vs. Capcom, and Kingdom Hearts seem to stand out in the minds of many gamers, and in cases such as these, even become their own franchises. So here’s a strange one, Pokemon Conquest; Pokemon meets Nobunaga’s Ambition. While the concept of mixing these two franchises is unique enough, it’s even more unique given it’s North American release; the lack of success Nobunaga’s Ambition has had in the west being what really raises question marks (an attempt to somewhat hide the lesser accepted franchise can be seen in the games change of name from it’s Japanese Pokemon + Nobunaga’s Ambition, to the North American Pokemon Conquest). Looking at it this way, the game is also a crossover of a series that found success in North America, and a series that didn’t. There’s a more important way of looking at the game, though; whether or not it’s worth your time.
The concept of combining Pokemon and Nobunaga’s Ambition is, as mentioned, strange. But I’d argue that the strangest part of the game is the main plot. In Conquest, you play as a “hero” of your naming and choice of gender; “hero” is in this context questionable, seeing as you’re a warlord. Your goal as a warlord, alongside your very own Eevee as well as Oichi and her ever faithful Jigglypuff, is to unite the seventeen kingdoms of Ransei region, in an attempt to fulfil the legend which states the creator Pokemon will appear only when this task has been completed. How do you unite the kingdoms? Well it ain’t peaceful diplomacy, that’s for sure. Why, you have to defeat the ruling warlords in every other kingdom, of course! And what better way do to that than with Pokemon!
The story of the game isn’t what anyone should care about anyway; if that was the case, Pokemon may have been finished after its second generation. What’s most important in Pokemon Conquest, like most other games, is the gameplay and mechanics. The battle system plays like most tactical RPGs. The Pokemon are placed on a grid based map where the characters will move around and attack their opponents strategically. Each Pokemon within the game has statistics that allow for it’s strength, defence, evasiveness, accuracy, and ability to move. As well as this, every Pokemon has a particular passive special ability, and an attack which has a specific targeted area and an elemental effect that corresponds to the Pokemon’s type. Each warrior, or Pokemon trainer, also has a once-per-battle special ability which can aid the team and potentially tilt the match in one kingdom’s favour. Battles between rival kingdoms can contain up to 6 Pokemon soldiers per team, and have one of two possible means of victory; defeat all foes or capture all flags. Winning battles will not only result in a successful takeover of the kingdom of your choosing, but will also increase the link between a warrior and their Pokemon, increasing their stats and potentially causing them to evolve. In either type of battle, you will be allotted a specific amount of turns to complete the given objective. Should you take too long, then you will lose the fight; a little unfair considering your opponent didn’t do anything more than you did but it does make the battles more interesting. Also spicing up these fights are unique battlefields, each favouring an elemental type of Pokemon and loaded with various kinds of traps and special event tiles. For example, some battlefields have rivers in which only water Pokemon can tread or flying types pass over with ease while others have rocks and logs that, when targeted, can fly at your opponent’s Pokemon dealing damage. If there was any issue with the battle system it would have to be during the capture the flag matches. Most of these matches end up being a match where you have to defeat all your opponents and then capture all the flags. To make matters worse, when a Pokemon waits on a flag tile they will heal a portion of their HP at the beginning of their next turn. This became a serious issue on one map in particular, in which there are portals you must use to reach the flags, but these portals change where they will take you to, leading to your inability to reach the final flag and defeat whoever is on it before you run out of turns. On the whole however, the battles are quite enjoyable; the unique attacks and abilities coupled with specialized battlefields provides enough variation within battles that the game doesn’t feel completely repetitive.
Pokemon Conquest is more than these six on six fights with other warlords, however. There’s also a lot of planning involved in the game. When you’re not taking on a neighbouring kingdom directly, you can spend your time doing a considerable amount of other things; many of which can be very important for achieving victory. After winning a battle, for example, you may have the option to recruit some of the opposing warriors. Choosing what warriors you wish to recruit and where you wish to station them can prove to be the difference between advancing your main army forward or being forced to retreat and recover one of your fallen kingdoms. You can also choose to visit various locations within your own kingdoms, such as shops, gold mines, and battlefields inhabited with warriors and wild Pokemon alike. In these battles, you can link one of your current warriors with the wild Pokemon, allowing them to choose any Pokemon they have established a link with to send in to battle. As well as this, if you have allied warriors stationed in one of your kingdoms, rather than explore the kingdom manually, you can delegate them to complete certain tasks. These tasks include searching for more allies, training existing warriors and Pokemon, or even finding gold and developing the locations within a kingdom to find better items in the shops, and Pokemon in the wild. You may also take the time between battles to equip your Pokemon with items and change which Pokemon you want a particular warrior to use for the upcoming battle.
The main story of Pokemon Conquest is almost like an eight hour long tutorial of the game. Once you complete it, you are provided with a “story select” screen, where you can pick one of the historical figures within the game and learn more about what they are doing after the main story. Completing these side stories unlocks even more side stories, as well as giving you the option to replay any previously completed stories. While these stories are mostly fun and a nice way to both develop the secondary characters as well as present different challenges to the warlord player, they can also become very repetitive. These side stories also seem to have, at least somewhat, randomly generated rivalling kingdoms; there were instances where I would load up a story and find myself in a situation that made it almost impossible not to lose at least the first attempt of fighting someone and other times where it was simple enough to sweep through all other kingdoms without stopping for extra training. This side story mission select component also leads me to my biggest problem with the game; no observable progress. Of course you can see that you are completing these missions and unlocking more, but once you finish one of them, the game just goes back to the story select screen and you lose any data for the story you just finished. Although you are supposed to unlock one final episode after completing them all which would allow you to once again advance your warriors and their Pokemon, you have to spend a lot of time doing all of these side stories; based on what I completed in these side stories, I would estimate it takes at least thirty hours to complete them all.
As expected of any Pokemon game, the other aspects are very solid. The illustrations of both human characters and Pokemon are very well done. Each kingdom, their respective warlords and battlefields are designed to complement one another and provide a particular feel that is unique and specific to that kingdom. Furthermore, the variety of Pokemon within the game is greater than one might expect for a spinoff title. It’s also great to hear the familiar battle cries and fainting sounds when a Pokemon is defeated, and while I wouldn’t say the music is amazing, it’s by no means bad. There are a few exceptional tracks, however, which really put you in the mood to ransack a kingdom and claim it as your own.
On the whole, Pokemon Conquest is a very good game. It takes familiar Pokemon characters and puts them in a genre of game that they fit into as naturally as their own genre. Being a crossover title, it comes as no surprise that the story is bizarre and outlandish, but it doesn’t really stop you from wanting to conquer all of the Ransei Region. While the side quests are great for adding hours of gameplay as well as making it easy to pick up and start playing again at any time, it’s also annoying to not have any observable progress with your characters or their Pokemon. If you’re a fan of Pokemon games, or tactical games then I strongly recommend this game. It does what a good crossover title should; takes familiar characters and places them in a setting that complements both of the series which it combines. Now I can only hope that when they start making Nobunaga’s Ambition + Pokemon they make Nobuaga’s evolutions as cool as some of the Pokemon.