Pokémon Conquest - Staff Review  

Gotta Conquer Them All
by Michael "Wheels" Apps

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20-40 Hours
+ Multiple campaigns to conquer
+ Fantastic battle system
+ Varied battlefields
- No way to skip starter campaign
- Same old Pokémon sound effects
- Animations a bit lacking
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   Pokémon Conquest is the crossover that no one saw coming. A mix of classic Pokémon RPG mechanics and Koei’s long running historical strategy and simulation series Nobunaga’s Ambition, at first glance it seems like they would make for a poor pairing. As it turns out, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Though Pokémon Conquest largely drops the historical aspects of Koei’s series, it keeps the kingdom conquering and strategy battles, now fought using Pokémon. The result is a game that feels like a perfect mix of the two series. Though it's certainly not without issues, this mix shows a very promising future for Pokémon spinoff games.

   Pokémon Conquest features multiple campaigns which a player can undertake, each with their own story. Only the main campaign, which has the most story content of all of them, is available at the start. It stars the player’s own named hero, male or female, as they try and conquer the entire kingdom of Ransei and obtain the Pokémon of legend. The story is mostly aimed toward younger gamers, but story scenes are short and breezy and never get in the way of the gameplay. The other campaigns are lighter on story, mostly allowing players to go about the business of conquering and gathering Pokémon. The characters in the game are historical figures, but the game doesn’t seem to take this connection beyond the names. There’s no real historical element to the game, which seems like a missed opportunity. Pokémon Conquest at least changes the nature of controlling Pokémon for its pseudo-historical world. Instead of using Pokéballs, the warriors in Pokémon Conquest forge telepathic links with their companions. Overall, the story does a good job of providing bits of entertainment, and staying out of the way when it needs to.

Gotta conquer them all Gotta conquer them all!

   Gameplay in Pokémon Conquest  consists of two modes: kingdom management and battles. Generally in any of the game’s many different campaigns the player will begin with one kingdom and a small number of warriors and Pokémon. From the kingdom management screen one can take a look at enemy areas, shop for items, go off to battle in conquered locations, and invade enemy kingdoms. Battles in locations players currently control provide a way to recruit new Pokémon and warriors, as well as level existing ones. The game even lets the player delegate both of these tasks to be done automatically, so players don’t have to micromanage as much. Though in the main campaign one can mostly breeze through with one set of Pokémon and ignore the defenses of their kingdoms, in the other campaigns this is a more pressing concern as the AI gets much more aggressive. The interface for this portion of the game is well designed, providing multiple ways to list Pokémon and warriors, and zone in on a more specific list if it is accessed while viewing a single kingdom.

    The battles themselves are where players will be spending the majority of their time with the game. Players and enemies can bring a maximum of six Pokémon into battle. Each Pokémon has only one kind of attack it can use in battle, generally an elemental attack related to its type(s). The warriors each have an ability they can use once per battle to enhance their Pokémon, and sometimes other allied Pokémon as well. In addition, each warrior can carry one item into battle, such as a healing potion or poison antidote. Battles play out like most turn-based strategy games, with the player and the enemy taking turns moving and attacking. Each Pokémon having only one attack may make these battles sound simplistic, but with the various strengths and weaknesses of each Pokémon type, there is plenty of depth to battles. In the main campaign you can stick to the default Pokémon each warrior has, but in the more difficult campaigns tracking down Pokémon with a perfect link with a given warrior becomes more vital. To survive these challenging campaigns you'll need the powerful bonuses such links provided.

Pokémon and stategic battles make a perfect mix. Pokémon and stategic battles make a perfect mix.

   Pokémon Conquest provides some additional twists in battle to keep things interesting. Battles always have a turn limit, forcing players to move quickly in some of the tougher battles. More interestingly, each of the battlefields in the game features various traps and objects to interact with. For example, a battleground based around rock type Pokémon has boulders that can be knocked down hills to hit enemies. These do a lot to spruce up battles, and choosing the right Pokémon to bring along to a certain arena could mean the difference between victory and failure. The final element that Conquest adds to the mix is that major battles have different victory conditions, usually either killing all enemies or capturing banners on the battlefield. Often these encounters just lead to wiping out the enemy’s Pokémon and capturing the banners afterward, making these encounters not so different from a standard encounter at all. Still, by and large Pokémon Conquest’s battles are breezy and fun.

    Graphics in the game do an admirable job of creating a colorful world. The Pokémon’s models in combat are easy to recognize, and the warriors in the game have an anime look to them. Many of the major warriors show characteristics of their main Pokémon, which is a nice touch. Battle animations aren’t quite as well done, most being as simple as one would expect from the earlier main series Pokémon titles. This goes for Pokémon sounds as well, which sound like they were taken straight out of the Game Boy games. These are quite disappointing given the high quality of the presentation in other areas. The music has a nice traditional Japanese style to it, but is mostly unmemorable. This is a shame, given the many classic tunes the series has been able to produce.

    At the end of the day, despite some presentation and interface issues, Pokémon Conquest does a splendid job of combining two seemingly uncombinable franchises. With a wide variety of campaigns to experience at varying degrees of difficulty, the game can provide countless hours of strategic entertainment. Its a shame then, that forcing players to complete the intro campaign regardless of the player’s skill creates an unnecessary barrier to the real meat and potatoes of the experience. The campaigns after the main one make full use of the game's many kingdom management features and provide a much more in-depth experience. Despite this, Pokémon Conquest proves to be a remarkably engaging game, and a sign that the Pokémon franchise has plenty of life to it.

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