Nukezilla Review: Pokémon Conquest (DS)
Christened Pokémon + Nobunaga’s Ambition in its native country, Tecmo Koei brings a bit of feudal Japan to Nintendo DS in the turn-based strategy RPG mash-up Pokémon Conquest.
While Pokémon has grown to become a global phenomenon, spawning a long-running TV series, more than a dozen movies, a collectable card game, countless merchandise and more than 50 video games, Nobunaga’s Ambition has more quietly been around since 1983.
Pokémon Conquest takes place in a new region of the Pokémon universe called Ransei, where the player’s character befriends an Eevee, is joined by a girl named Oichi and her Jigglypuff, and leads the fight against Nobunaga to prevent him from uniting the 17 kingdoms and releasing a pokémon capable of destroying the world.
The Nobunaga’s Ambition part of the equation provides most of the mechanics of the game, in which players recruit warriors and warlords from the kingdoms they defeat in order to unite against Nobunaga. Up to six warriors can send their pokémon into battle on the isometric maps.
As for Pokémon, it comes in almost the form of a shell, where warriors send their Pokémon into battle instead of fighting themselves, as they would in Ambition. Through battle, mining or shopping, warriors can improve the link percentages with their pokémon to have them get stronger or evolve. Warriors can also link with wild pokémon to get a perfect match.
The game seems to have a bit more Nobunaga to it than Pokémon. Conquest plays similarly to the other grid-based tactics fair, like Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics. However, the battles may seem a bit watered down or simplistic for fans of those games.
There aren’t really weapons and armor in Conquest, in lieu of a held-item system such as in the main series of Pokémon games. The pokémon each have just one attack, which hits a certain number of squares in varying range on the map.
The evolution and attack system does lead to a few particularities, though. For example, a Scraggy has the dark-type Faint Attack, which is super-effective against psychic or ghost pokémon, until it evolves into Scrafty and only has the fighting-type High Jump Kick, which is weak against psychics and can’t hit ghosts.
In another instance, Luxio has the electric attack discharge, which hits all of the squares surrounding the pokémon. When it evolves, however, Luxray only knows Thunder, which just hits one square, three spaces in front of the pokémon.
With these quirks, it’s occasionally beneficial to prevent pokémon from evolving into stronger, but often slower pokémon with a less-useful attack. It would have been better if Conquest would have adopted the four attack system to which poké-fans are accustomed.
The pokémon themselves, however, look great. These are the best looking designs for the about 200 pokémon featured in Conquest that the franchise has ever seen, and the rest of the graphics are sleek and colorful. The music isn’t as varied as it should be, and the repetitive sounds will likely have players turning down the volume a couple of hours into the game.
The main story of Conquest can be played through fairly quickly, in about 10 hours, but the game also has 32 extra campaigns where players can build on some of their progress, and each of them are about as long as the first.
While it isn’t perfect, Pokémon Conquest is definitely solid and likely the most fun Pokémon spin-off since Pokémon Snap for Nintendo 64. Its simplistic gameplay may become a bit tedious for turn-based strategy RPG fans, but it also allows the game to be accessible by younger gamers.
In effect, this makes Pokémon Conquest a beacon of hope. If it is successful in appealing to the younger audience and bringing them to such a niche genre, maybe developers will take more risks in shipping this sort of game to countries other than Japan.
Because of this, I want to give Pokémon Conquest seven out of five stars, but it will have to settle for four.