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Pokemon Conquest review

Great
AT A GLANCE
  • Addictive tactical gameplay
  • Complex strategy outside of battles
  • Despite cute characters, embraces deeper aspects of genre
  • Hours spent explaining all its eccentricities
  • Too obligated to Nobunaga series standards and practices
  • Sadly it couldn’t be a 3DS game

Much like the Pokémon themselves, Pokémon Conquest is a strange beast. After more than a decade of spin-offs in nearly every other genre, the world-conquering franchise has at last spread to the strategy genre, the more complicated brother of the RPG. Since Pokémon was born as an RPG, the genre fits it quite well, but things get complicated by crossing over Pokémon with a complex series largely forgotten by the English-speaking world. Though the Feudal Japan aesthetic enhances the already addictive turn-based battles, it sporadically overcomplicates a rewarding-but-dense game.

 

Pokémon Conquest is set in the world of Ransei, a Pokémon-rich land relatively similar to Japan in the 1500s. Unlike in the main Poké games, select citizens of Ransei connect with Pokémon and work beside them instead of catching them in balls. Many regions in Ransei are battling for dominance and each is kingdom is based on a specific Pokémon type. All 17 types (fire, psychic, dragon, etc.) are represented and are ultimately out to defend themselves against would-be conqueror Nobunaga. It’s up to your newly appointed leader and their Eevee to defend the region from his burning desire to awaken a legendary Pokémon.

Based on the cult tactical series Nobunaga’s Ambition, the gameplay works fairly similar to other classic strategy RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics and Advance Wars, so we love Conquest for the same reasons. Every combatant is represented on-screen by a single Pokémon on a team of six, battling it out in turn-based combat with another pack of Pokémon on map. The measured pace of the combat works splendidly on a handheld and Conquest adds some welcomed haste to its battles. Each fight has a limited number of turns, rewarding bonuses for quickly dispatching enemies, shaking up the repetitive nature of the action.

Much like the core Pokémon series, Conquest seems simpler on the outside than it truly is, and that begins with the battles. Conquest borrows the ingenious rock-paper-scissors approach to type difference from the main series and makes great use of it here. Invading the Dragon type kingdom? Better bring some Ice Pokémon with you. Much like in the main games, the hidden depth to the combat kept us engaged in battle after battle. Pokémon experts will catch on to the type differences immediately, but everyone else will learn gradually through the game’s continual flow of info.

We came to appreciate that complexity even if Conquest has so much to explain to players that it was hours before we finally discovered the “real” game. Continually, Conquest would reveal new aspects, from big changes like a Pokémon’s special, slowly charging skill moves to little touches like taking time to feed your monstrous friends ponigiri, a cuter version of a traditional Japanese snack. Experienced strategy RPG players might believe that they’ll just jump in, but even they need a few tutorials in Conquest’s unique approach to the genre. Ultimately we embraced these little touches that made the already enjoyable gameplay more unique, but not everyone will be so patient.

Patience is also key to preparing for encounters. Each member of your team is limited to one action per “month” (aka a turn outside of battle), meaning you have to plan out character placement, item purchasing, team building and ultimately your battle’s strategy “months” in advance. This kind of byzantine research is inherited from the Nobunaga series and even after we grasped the techniques, it occasionally felt like we were checking off boxes on a spreadsheet instead of playing a game. The prep made the battles all the sweeter when they finally happened, but a couple of those steps could have been cut without missing much.

However, all the extra touches and rules gave much more to Pokémon Conquest than it took away. If you were concerned that a strategy game starring Pokémon would be simplified for a wider audience, let go of your worries. PC retains the addictive qualities of battling and team-building we love in tactics titles while fully embracing everything strange about niche Japanese titles like this one. By coming at it from a different angle, Conquest finds its own special spot in the world of SRPGs.

More Info

Release date: Jun 18 2012 - DS (US)
Available Platforms: DS
Genre: Strategy
Published by: Nintendo
Developed by: Koei
Franchise: Pokemon
ESRB Rating:
Everyone: Mild Cartoon Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes

Topics

Pokemon

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58 comments

  • shawksta - June 19, 2012 2:46 p.m.

    Great Review, Pokemon was normally Deep to begin with, nice to see it transferring to Nobunaga awesomely, definitly gonna try it out. ”Despite cute characters, embraces deep aspects of the genre” Implying Pokemon already wasnt and Pikmin said hi, but I know you had to say it :P
  • onetimebuster - June 19, 2012 2:49 p.m.

    Well at least it works on the 3ds.
  • IceBlueKirby - June 19, 2012 2:56 p.m.

    I've started playing Pokemon Black and a bit of Rumble Blast, so I'm in the mood for more Pokemon, and this ought to fit the bill. I've played plenty of SRPGs but not really many straightforward strategy games, so getting used to this will probably be a challenge, but one that I don't think I'll mind spending a while to overcome.
  • BladedFalcon - June 19, 2012 3:12 p.m.

    Awesome to see this game deliver! And quite honestly? it's the main reason I got a 3DS already instead of waiting a little longer. I love me some good Turn based Strategy games, and really, Pokemon actually works as a series that adds to the genre rather than take from it. Also, I'm a tad disappointed on how short this review was, since it doesn't go into detail about either story, or collecting stuff, which is something this actually does pretty well, by both encouraging you to collect not only all of the 150+ pokemon in the game, but ALL of the human characters that are attuned to each specific pokemon. I thought that was a cool feature and it's a bit weird to not see it mentioned.
  • RonnyLive19881 - June 19, 2012 7:42 p.m.

    I just hope it can hold its own against FF Tactics, Jeanne D'Ark and Metal Gear Acid!
  • BladedFalcon - June 19, 2012 8:45 p.m.

    Well, I don't expect it to be better than FF Tactics in terms of story, and perhaps it won't have the dept of the job system. However, I'm pretty sure this game has a chance to have a depth and addictiveness of it's own that FFT couldn't have. I liked Jeanne D'Ark a lot, but for me, the graphics alone of this game makes me like it so much better. To me, 2D sprites > 3D Polygons every single time, specially so if your game is in a 2d plane anyway. And to be honest? I never got into either of the Ac!d games, I can see the appeal, but to me the weird mix between turn base, cards and combat never really meshed enough to keep me hooked till the end.
  • RonnyLive19881 - June 19, 2012 9 p.m.

    I felt the same towards Valkyria Chronicles, I didn't like how you moved around freely and took aim. Plus I couldn't stand how they told the story. I do feel I didn't get it a fair try though, since the games are so affordable now I think I may give them a second chance sometime before the Wii U's launch.
  • BladedFalcon - June 19, 2012 9:36 p.m.

    You probably should, as should i as well, since I got the game gifted to me since last year, but haven't gotten time to touch it at all >>;
  • ihopethisisnotantistasblood - June 19, 2012 3:26 p.m.

    unfortunately for me, i will have to wait around two weeks to get it
  • garnsr - June 19, 2012 3:43 p.m.

    Do you still get to worry about giving your people rice, and make strategic marriages? I haven't played Nobunaga since the first one on NES, I wonder if it ever got any easier to deal with?
  • CrashmanX - June 20, 2012 12:28 a.m.

    Luckily no. It's not THAT complicated this time around. I've been just thinking of it more as Pokemon + Fire Emblem. It's really not TOO complex. I mean some rules are kinda over the top (Beat within 4 turns OR using the opposite type [super effective move] to defeat them OR not letting your allies get damaged to capture the other person), though it's pretty simple usually. I've clocked about 2 hours into the game so far so I can't say much but it's really fun and addictive.
  • tehtimeisnow - June 19, 2012 4:27 p.m.

    ha ah i new this stuped game would b bad pokaman is a horrable games and nitedno needs to stop makeing garbege like this and give up and admet that iphone beat them theirs no way to compete nitedno is a faleure of a company
  • christian-shaffer - June 19, 2012 4:47 p.m.

    You really need to take some basic english courses. Your spelling, grammar, and punctuation is atrocious.
  • BladedFalcon - June 19, 2012 4:50 p.m.

    You're wasting your breath, he's a painfully obvious troll.
  • Dadyo238 - June 19, 2012 8:39 p.m.

    You're onto something, but he should probably go to kindergarten first, though.
  • TheNumberT - June 19, 2012 5:20 p.m.

    Terrible Troll and a Terriable Speliar.
  • Tjwoods18 - June 19, 2012 7:36 p.m.

    Oh my god! You sire are the epidome of horrible. Seems like I am looking at a two year olds words.
  • FierceDeity - June 19, 2012 5:47 p.m.

    oh articuno, how I've missed you
  • GameManiac - June 19, 2012 7:17 p.m.

    I love the Final Fantasy Tactics series. I love the Pokemon series even more. I just bought this game and I'm dying to see just how well the SRPG genre fits into the world of Pokemon.
  • KidJustKid - June 20, 2012 4:20 a.m.

    <cough>EU/UKRELEASEPL0X<cough> No idea why there would be a lag, and scares me into thinking there might not be one...

Showing 1-20 of 58 comments

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