What is it? In spite of all the genres out there that Pokemon
have dominated (fighting games, pinball, photography) one of the oldest and
most hardcore has been left untouched. Until now, Pokemon have never appeared
in a traditional strategy title. Made in the style of Fire Emblem and Advance
Wars, after spending some time with the game, the niche genre seems quite fitting for the pocket monsters.
Who is the developer? Though Nintendo and/or Game Freak has
handled the majority of Pokemon games, this spin-off is being done by the unlikely companion
of Tecmo Koei, the company behind Dynasty Warriors and Ninja Gaiden. Why? Because the game is a recreation of Koei’s decades old series Nobunaga’s Ambition, a
strategy franchise set in feudal Japan. This time around the long dead
generals of Japan are teaming up with pocket monsters for some interesting
How does it look? Conquest embraces Pokemon’s colorful
visuals and cute animal designs head-on, as you’re soon teaming up with iconic
Pokemon like Pikachu and Jigglypuff. The setting technically isn’t feudal
Japan, but we won’t fault you for mistaking it in the screenshots. The game takes
place in the land of Ransei, an area split up into 17 different regions, one
representing each type of Pokemon (ice, grass, so on). After choosing between a boy or girl for the
main character, you and your Eevee have to quickly defend your realm from the
invading fire forces.
We teamed with Oichi and her Jigglypuff to defend ourselves
from Hideyoshi’s fiery troops on the grid-based map. The vibrant graphics
worked well with the isometric perspective and each Pokemon on screen looks great
from every angle, on par with what we’ve seen in classic strategy RPGs. And
though the game won’t feature every beast in the Pokedex, a good percentage will be
How does it play? The Nobunaga series was one of the
pioneers of the strategy RPG genre and Pokemon Conquest continues that
tradition of gameplay. It plays like a mix of Final Fantasy Tactics and Fire Emblem, as
your team of up to six Pokemon move around the board multiple turns, fighting
enemies and completing objectives. What makes it distinct are the touches from
the Pokemon series, like the inclusion of the diligently balanced type
weaknesses, only now you also have to worry about which direction your unit is
Outside of the battles things get a bit more complicated, as
Koei has brought their own spin to tactics games, with emphasis on economy and
troop deployment. You have to be careful which officers you assign to fortify a
kingdom after you conquer it, lest it be overtaken, and each town you control offers a different variety of shops to purchase items that increase your bond
with you Pokemon. The kingdoms also feature areas to hunt for new Pokemon and
team members in, each that have their own powers, specialties, and type
affinities. A varied team is the key to beating Nobunaga and stopping him from
conquering all of Ransei.
There’s also a timeline to deal with, as "months" pass throughout your playthrough, though the campaign is also separated into episodes. Additionally,
your Pokemon don’t level in the standard way, instead growing stronger as your bond
with them increases, which is helped along consumable items like Ponigiri (a
play on traditional Japanese snack onigiri).
Though we expected Pokemon’s approach to tactics games to be simplified, this
is one of the more complicated strategy RPGs we’ve seen on the DS, though we
think when we play the final game we’ll settle into these concepts gradually
and come to truly understand them.
When is it out? Pokemon Conquest is out for DS on June 18 in
North America (no European release date has been revealed yet).