Pokemon Conquest for the Nintendo DS is the latest entry in a series of spinoff games based around the Pokemon franchise. This new entry explores a new direction, in which the Pokemon brand is mixed with a Japan only franchise known as Nobunaga’s Ambition. This is the Pokemon franchise’s first attempt at a true strategy role playing game, and it is a well done first attempt.
Story: The story of Pokemon Conquest begins with the player taking on the role of a new warlord in the Ransei region. The Ransei region is a region in which Pokemon trainers are known as warriors and warlords, who bond with their Pokemon through a process called linking. This is radically different from other Pokemon regions, where Pokemon are captured in Poke Balls. During the introduction the player meets a girl named Oichi who tells the player that her brother, Nobunaga, is planning to unite all seventeen kingdoms within Ransei to summon the legendary Pokemon, who he can use to conquer the region. The player is then asked to complete this task before Nobunaga can, in an attempt to stop him from conquering the land. Along the way the player encounters many warriors and warlords, some of whom will willingly cooperate with the player in order to stop Nobunaga. Overall the story is relatively basic, and can be predictable at times, but it is a simple story for a franchise that usually places story on the backburner, and any story is a welcome addition.
Graphics: The graphics for Pokemon Conquest do not push the Nintendo DS to its limits, but they are not lackluster either. The world map is a flat, not allowing for exploration but rather the player simply selects which kingdom to attack or inspect. The character models range from very well-drawn to somewhat bland. All character models are 2-dimensional, similar to the models used in the Fire Emblem and Advance Wars series. The warlords all have unique models, and each one has a handful of different emotional states, which generally only change the model slightly. The extra warriors that fill out the roster of 200 characters all use a handful of generic models, each being used up to ten times. The models are rather plain, and can cause confusion when trying to select a specific warrior. The graphics within battle use 3-dimensional models for the Pokemon and obstacles that are placed around the battlefield. The Pokemon models are cartoon-like, complete with outlines and generally bright colors. The Pokemon models are mostly well drawn, though some of them have rough edges that can be easy to see when they are moving. The battlefields themselves are well drawn and it is generally clear what is part of the playing field and what is not. The only downside here is that many of the battlefields are reused, such as generic caves and plains. Overall, the graphics aren’t going to be the selling point, but then again, the Pokemon franchise has never really been known for graphics.
Gameplay: The gameplay in Pokemon Conquest is where the game takes its largest departure from the main Pokemon games. Pokemon Conquest is a strategy role playing game, meaning that battles take place on a grid where the combatants move toward one another in order to attack. The amount a Pokemon may move is based on its own movement value and the terrain around it. For instance, fire Pokemon may cross lava, and water Pokemon can swim. Also, any flying Pokemon or Pokemon with Levitate can ignore most movement restrictions. When the player reaches an opponent, they can choose to attack the enemy, or link with the Pokemon if it is a wild Pokemon. Each Pokemon only has one attack, which does cause a lot of limitations, forcing the player to choose different team compositions for different battles. Luckily, it is possible to preview which Pokemon the enemy team has before the battle begins. Pokemon gain power by increasing their link with their warrior, rather than gaining experience like most RPGs. Each Pokemon has a limit to how high their link can be with each warrior, and each warrior has a handful of Pokemon (usually all in one evolutionary line) that are their “Best Link”. These Best Link Pokemon can get their link up to 100% (or close to 100% in some cases), and should be the focus for training. Each warrior also specializes in specific types, similarly to Gym Leaders from the regular Pokemon games. When warriors link with these types, the maximum link is always higher than Pokemon of other types. Training and recruiting of new warriors can also be automated during gameplay. Each “turn” on the overworld is one month of time, and if the player does not wish to go through and control every kingdom, then they can set each kingdom that their leader is not in to be automated. This reduces a lot of the tedium, and the automated processes work well, as the computer does not make many mistakes (and if they do make mistakes they can be easily corrected on the next turn). One last note that is rather disappointing is the fact that there are only 200 Pokemon present in the game. This is probably due to the fact that there are 200 warriors in the game, and having all 649 Pokemon would cause several warriors to have around 3-5 Best Links apiece. Also, the lack of all the Pokemon may have been because of an issue with space on the cartridge. The gameplay is where Pokemon Conquest truly shines, and although some things could have been better (like letting Pokemon have more than one attack), the gameplay is really well done for the first attempt at making a true strategy RPG in the Pokemon franchise.
Music: The music of Pokemon Conquest is overall really well done. Most of the soundtrack is very catchy, and most songs don’t get too repetitive. Most of the music in the game sounds like Traditional Japanese music, albeit most of the songs are sped up quite a bit compared to truly traditional music. Each kingdom has its own music when the player is invading or being invaded, and almost all of them are very well made. Each one has a bit of the feel of the kingdom thrown into the music too. For instance, the music in the Dark and Ghost regions are rather eerie and spooky. The only real problem with the music is during the training levels. The generic caves, plains, and other regions used for training all have very similar music tracks, and the player will likely hear them a lot over the course of the journey. These songs may get old after a while, but this can be avoided somewhat with the aforementioned training automation. The sound effects in the game, unlike the music, are nothing special. Each Pokemon says their cry when they come out in battle and when they are defeated. These sound identical to the main game counterparts. The rest of the sound effects (for attacks and stage effects) are mostly fairly generic. Water based attacks sound like spraying water, punching attacks make slapping sounds, electric attacks make zapping sounds, etc. Overall, the music for the game is very good, but the sound could have used a fair bit of work.
Value: Like most Pokemon games, Conquest has a ton of replay value after the game is finished. However, unlike the regular series of Pokemon, the extra content in Conquest comes in the form of a multitude of bonus missions that become available after the main quest is finished. These missions focus on the other warlords that the player encountered during the main journey, and more will unlock as the ones available by default are completed. There were also some downloadable missions, but unfortunately they are no longer available. These additional missions, as well as going through all the warriors to try and get their Best Links (for players that like to do that) will add a significant amount of time to the game. Even the main quest, which takes about 15-20 hours for the average gamer, will give the player plenty of value, and that’s before adding in the aforementioned extra content.
Final Verdict: Pokemon Conquest is a welcome addition to the Pokemon franchise, and a very worthy spinoff. The game combines outstanding gameplay with a decent story and soundtrack. While some of the game’s individual aspects may not be the best, such as the graphics, the game as a whole is very well made. The first attempt at making a true strategy RPG within the Pokemon world went very well and here’s hoping that The Pokemon Company decides to make more games in the series in future.
To learn more about Pokemon Conquest, or to view screenshots and gameplay footage of the game, visit the following websites: