So, Pokemon conquest has been out for a little over a month now. As a Pokemon fanatic (I primarily use Tumblr to look at adorable pokemon pictures all day) I pre-ordered this game well in advance and devoured it the second I picked it up from GameStop. For those of you who may have been iffy about the whole Pokemon + Nobunga’s ambition cross-over, you were right to follow your instincts.
Story: The story of Pokemon Conquest goes like this: you are a warlord, you need to beat all the other warlords in battle and bring all of Ransei under your command to before Nobungas, the evil warlord does. Why must you do this? Because it has been foretold that once a warlord unites all the kingdoms under one command, the creator of Ransei (spoilers: It’s Arceus) will appear and bend to the Warlord’s will. Nobunga wants to use Arceus to destroy Ransei, while your Warlord strives to stop this. Compared to the Pokemon plot of “catch all the pokemon and beat the elite four” this Pokemon Conquest story should win a nobel prize. However, like most video games, the story is simplistic, but serviceable.
The main problem I had with the story was the way it abruptly ended. Going into the last fight, you should be aware that it is the last fight. However, once you defeat Nobunga, the game is over. You don’t get to continue playing as your Warlord and any assets you had (warriors and pokemon) disappear. I expected to be able to keep playing in Ransei with my warlord while I continued collecting pokemon and warriors. This is not the case. Instead, there are several end-game quests, where you typically control one of the Warlords you fought during the main storyline. The quests can be fun, but they get repetitive. If you complete all of them, then “The Two Heroes of Ransei” episode is unlocked where you get to play as your hero again. As much as I wanted to go back and play as my hero, playing through all of those episodes just wasn’t worth it.
Gameplay: Battle system in Pokemon Conquest resembles that of previous strategy JRPGs like Final Fantasy: Tactics. You can control up to six pokemon on a grid. Like a traditional pokemon game, these battles take type strengths and weaknesses into consideration. Psychic can’t hurt Dark, Dragon falls to Ice, etc. The majority of kingdoms favor a specific type of pokemon, reminiscent of Pokemon Gyms, which makes larger battles easy to prepare for. In these battles it is necessary to micromanage your pokemon and think beyond action/reaction to play well. You must carefully think about pokemon types and the scope of your pokemons attacks. Some pokemon can only attack one square ahead of them, while others can attack through three squares. If you like strategy games, than you’ll probably enjoy this type of combat. The merging of Pokemon with Nobunga’s Amibition worked particularly well here to create a unique and enjoyable rendition of strategy RPG combat.
While the majority of the game is focused on combat and conquering new kingdoms, there is a secondary emphasis on collecting warriors and pokemon. Within each kingdom there are locations where you and your warriors can travel to fight wild pokemon and warriors unattached to a kingdom. You must defeat “wild” warriors within three turns to be able to draft them to your side, although with certain warriors there are other conditions that must be met. To obtain pokemon, a warrior must link with themWarriors can link with any pokemon, but most warriors favor specific types and have one pokemon that they form a perfect link with. The higher the link the stronger a pokemon can become. For instance if my link with a pokemon can only go up to 50%, then once 50% has been reached, the pokemon stops growing. Perfect links are are links with the potential to get to 100% which theoretically means those pokemon should be pretty powerful. If a warrior has a 100% link with a venipede, it still doesn’t work out that way.
There are over 200 pokemon to collect, and almost as many warriors to recruit. If you really want to catch ’em all, then you have a patience for tediousness only rivaled by John Goodman:
Luckily, the episodes at the end of the game give you a lot of opportunity to obtain pokemon and trainers, and collecting them all is much more doable than getting 649 pokemon (number will probably change soon with Pokemone Black and White 2 coming out so soon).
Gender/Race/Sexuality: You get to choose which sex you want to be at the beginning of the game, hooray! Regardless of what you pick, your warlord gets saddled with a loveable warrior named Oichi and her jigglypuff. Judging from the fact that the first woman you meet owns a jigglypuff, I feel justified in saying that there are some slight problems with the depiction of women in this game. Most of the women are either weak like Oichi, or very sexy. There are some depictions that are fine, but considering OIchi is the first woman you meet in the game, and the one you spent the most time with (you have to put up with her through the entire main storyline) I find the game’s representation of women to be kinda sexist. You could make the argument for historical realism since the game is in a feudal setting, but its that involves pokemon which invalidates all arguments of realism. There isn’t any diversity in terms of race, all the characters are the fun white/japanese hybrids that we typically see in JRPGs. As I mentioned in a previous post, Japan has a homogenous population and typically produces games with homogenous populations. LEARN TO DIVERSIFY!
To Play or Not To Play: If you’re a huge fan of Pokemon or you like strategy RPGs, I would say go ahead, pick up the game, but maybe wait a few months for the price to go down. The game is a really fun mash-up, but the abrupt ending of the main storyline, and the endless end-game Episodes drove me up the wall. Since you’ve been forewarned now, the game might be more enjoyable. Now here’s your reward for reading through this review (as if the review weren’t reward enough)