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Pokemon Conquest preview - Feudal Japanese strategy meets adorable pocket monsters

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 results.

 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 included.

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 facing too.

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).

15 comments

  • espenrio - May 5, 2012 6:42 p.m.

    The fact that this already has a US release date while the Fire Emblem game for the 3DS is still awaiting a confirmation bugs me to no end, this game is a much bigger risk to localize than Fire Emblem so why hasn't it happened yet!
  • GameManiac - May 4, 2012 10:40 a.m.

    I love the Final Fantasy Tactics series and adore Pokemon will all of my heart. Why WOUDN'T I buy this game?
  • ZhugeLiang - May 4, 2012 8:58 a.m.

    Lu Bu vs. Charizard who would win
  • HitmanSB07 - May 4, 2012 8:43 a.m.

    Is the DS region free? It f**king better be!
  • thatnerdguy1 - June 4, 2012 2:38 p.m.

    Yeah, but only the phat/ lite models. Anything newer is locked.
  • Hobogonigal - May 4, 2012 12:46 a.m.

    We start off with an Eevee... that is sooo Poke'mon Colosseum. But besides that it looks like an interesting concept.
  • IceBlueKirby - May 3, 2012 10:37 p.m.

    This game sounds like it might take a little getting used to even though I've played numerous strategy RPGs, but I'll have to give it a shot regardless to see how well the combination of Pokemon and strategy games worked out.
  • Dadyo238 - May 3, 2012 9:04 p.m.

    My first PSone game was FF Tactics, loved it. If this is anything like that experience, then it's a day one purchase for me.
  • shawksta - May 3, 2012 8:15 p.m.

    Im really loving the concept, shit, i didnt know it was all 2D, now im interested. I also love how your doing the preview's now, Keep doing that.
  • BladedFalcon - May 3, 2012 7:07 p.m.

    The art-style and gameplay of this is highly appealing to me. It's still currently not enough to make me want a 3DS just yet, but it helps. More games like this, and I might just end up giving in before long XD
  • Hiruandan - May 4, 2012 12:14 a.m.

    But this is for the vanilla DS :D For some reason Game Freak seems to hava a just as hard time as you to move on the the 3DS.
  • BladedFalcon - May 4, 2012 7:23 a.m.

    Yeah, but it so happens that I don't have a vanilla DS anymore XD In fact, one of the reasons I feel more and more compelled to buy a 3DS, is so I can play some of the later DS titles that I missed out one, like Ghost Trick or Pokemon Black and White.
  • Hiruandan - May 4, 2012 3:33 p.m.

    Actually that was the reason I got an 3DS, the power button of my lite broke just before the release of B/W so I was left with the game without anything to play it on D: I don't regret a second of it trough, really awesome machine. Also... Is that a Sol from Guilty Gear Overture i spy on your avatar? :D
  • BladedFalcon - May 4, 2012 3:57 p.m.

    That is indeed Sol in his GG:Overture costume, yeah! ^^ And he's actually part of a drawing in which he's calmly chilling above the conflict below him between Classic Sol, and young, Reckless Sol XD In my two years of hanging around in this place, you are the first person to recognize, let alone acknowledge my avatar ^^ And well, the main reason I haven't been very quick in getting a 3DS is because firstly, I wasn't (and I'm still not)interested nor impressed at all by the 3D itself. And the initial game catalog wasn't too appealing to me. (Even with the arrival of MK7 and SMB:3D. I could live without those.) Not to mention that it initially cost 259 bucks. But well, not it's more than a half cheaper, and while I'm still not completely sold on the gaming catalog. The promise of games like this one, Project X Zone and Fire Emblem make good arguments along with the aforementioned DS games I missed. Anyway, I probably won't really decide until after E3, and even then, I probably won't buy it until I go to a trip to Los Angeles in November XD
  • Cyberninja - May 3, 2012 5:53 p.m.

    seriously looking into this I love SRPGs and Pokemon

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