Ah Pokemon…Can anyone ever recall those days when Pokemon had first came out? I can, and I remember trying so hard not to get sucked into it, and quickly failing that as I grew to love the series. I started out with the anime and through Pokemon Red, eventually gaining every game I could just so I could really catch them all. However, time quickly passed, and my interest waned as I grew older. The card game was outdated for me, the show bored me since it always kept staring Ash and didn’t change protagonists, and the actual games were not taking any real risks with gameplay, aside from using two Pokemon at once. And even with attempts to try and regain my love for the series, everything I did seemed pointless as nothing interested me when I had other games like the Shin Megami Tensei series available to me.
And then I saw Pokemon Conquest, a game I prayed would reach the USA. As a fan of the Samurai Warriors series, I was hyped for this game, even if it was a strategy game. Either way, the setting looked beautiful and opened the door to so many possibilities and such, it was hard not to be excited about it. In my opinion, this was the game meant to pull me back into the Pokemon fandom with a concept I never dreamed of. Did it succeed? Can it live up to my oh so high expectations!?
Allow me to explain more on this. The one aspect I was looking forward to from Pokemon Conquest was the characters and story. Every Pokemon game, except for more spinoffs and possibly the Gamecube games, had always been about simply being the best and rising to the top, as well as catching all the Pokemon. I was hoping for more of an evolution out of that formula, dealing with more problems and having actual character development. Monster Rancher 4 and EVO pulled this off rather nicely as they made me care about the story and characters. Here, not so much, and the only attachment I get comes from having played Samurai Warriors in the past. In fact, while the game says that the game is a crossover with the Nogunbaga’s Ambition series, the designs from Samurai Warriors 3 is used for all of the characters. This is great for fans of that game as they can easily point out their favorites.
There is a story however, just barely, and you have to dig for it. The short version is that Nobunaga is seeking to conquer all of the kingdoms in Ransei in order to find the legendary Pokemon, and curse this world into darkness once and for all. As a Warlord, it is your job to conquer every other kingdom, and unite everyone under one army in order to defeat Nobunaga and see his plans crushed before it is too late. Helping you will be Oichi, the sister of Nobunaga, as well as the warriors you defeat, save for ones strictly loyal to Nobunaga himself. There is no character developmen within the main story, maybe just a tad from Oichi, but that’s it. I cannot properly express how disappointed I am in the story.
But again, Pokemon has never been known for their stories. Rather, it is the gameplay and interesting creatures. Thankfully, the gameplay saves this game from getting a low score. However, my love is rather mixed. On one hand, the combat plays more like a strategy RPG, similar to that of Final Fantasy Tactics. You can control up to six Pokemon, 1 for each warrior, and on a board with different enviornmental effects, such as lava, water, etc. The type of Pokemon you use is very vital in guaranteeing your victory, not only in the enviornment, but in dealing with the enmy. Adding to this, each Pokemon has only one attack, so they must attack from a specific range. And in order to make things more even, aside from terrain benefits, Pokemon also have a number of side abilities, each one granting different abilities, like gaining attack power when low on health, or putting enemies to sleep. Warriors are not useless in battle either, able to carry into battle one item, and have a warrior skill. These skills vary and give different benefits, such as more health.
Leveling up is also treated far differently than before. This time, you have to build up the bonds with your Pokemon in order for them to grow stronger, as well as make them evolve. But it is not easy, as the links between Pokemon and warrior are not always strong. Limits will be placed, and you must find the perfect Pokemon for your warrior. Once you do, they were will be able to train that particular Pokemon better than anyone else can. Moreover, for the unique Warlords in the game like Oichi and Yukimura, if you build that bond high enough, you can actually evolve your them! Yes, you can evolve your trainers, which is usually a cosmetic upgrade with armor, but it also boosts the trainer’s stats and abilities, making them more effective in combat and training. Location are also important in battle, as the enemy will trying to take on your nations if they are nearby and weaker than the opposing nation, meaning your army must always be trained to be ready for anything.
However, there is a downside to it all. For starters, you cannot evolve your Warlords until you beat the main story and have access to the episodes for each character. Then, in order to get to those, you have to beat the main game, which should run you about 10-15 hours trying to complete it. Also, while you do have to make sure your army is strong, stats are reset once you beat the game. The only thing that does not change are evolutions, and they can carry in each of the episodes. The episodes offers more story than the actual game does, offering more insight into the characters, but at the same time, delivers very little. Really, these episodes serve only to expand on your gallery with more Pokemon and Warlords, and to serve as more of a challenge. And I really do like the opportunity for more challenges. This also opens the door to customization of nations, by building up various things with gold, such as battle locations and shops for more benefits. Even enemies become smarter and more aggressive, actually training themselves to be stronger.
Now why do I have a problem with this if I like it so much? You have to beat the main story in order to access all of this, the main game functions, and the main campaign takes about 10-15 hours, or more. The main campaign almost seems useless in the long run, serving more as a tutorial mode. This is almost as bad as Final Fantasy XIII, at least the idea and not the actual game. In FFXIII, people had claimed that the game became extremely good after about 20-30 hours. In a way, yes, they were right, but FFXIII never ascended to a good game after that. Passable, yes, but no one is going to play 20-30 hours just for the game to get slightly better. Pokemon Conquest defintely gets better after the campaign, and it’s hard to complain, but it just seemed like a waste of time if they withhold content like the nation build-up and evolving Warlords. That kind of thing could have been replaced with sidequests.
Also, the main drawback of this game is one little problem: Pokemon can only use 1 attack. In old Pokemon games, it was about customizing each of your Pokemon, making them more varied so they could handle other Pokemon they would usually not stand a chance against. For example, in the old games, you could teach Pikachu Iron Tail to be able to have him contend with rock type Pokemon. Now however, they are all restricted. Only by evolving can they change the style of their attack, and sometimes, it can get worse. I do like how this does have to make me more strategic in combat, but at the same time, this is pretty annoying and the biggest problem I had. And considering this game is a crossover with Samurai Warriors, I don’t understand why the fate of nations is left to a six on six battle. To me, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but then again, Pokemon has been aimed more towards kids.
And also, there is a Wi-Fi option to get passwords for more episodes and Pokemon, but don’t bother with it, as you can find the passwords under the cheat section, and they will work. However, each password only works once every save, so be very wise about the Pokemon passwords. And speaking of that, another flaw is the one save slot, but considering how much you can do with episodes and such, it’s not that big of a flaw.
And despite all of that? I love this game. Yes, I am massively disappointed by the story, but the gameplay is what hooks me into it all, being both addictive and challenging, if a bit unfair at times, but that just means I need to use my head more in battle. If you like strategy RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics, I can definitely recommend this game. You like Pokemon as well? Then this is a definitely a game for you, if you can ignore the flaws that is. People say how Devil Survivor 2 was the last great DS game were wrong. Devil Survivor 2 remains one of my all-time favorite DS games, but Pokemon Conquest, while maybe not my favorite, revitalized my hope and love in a series I abandoned. I hope to see more games like this in the future.
Pokemon Conquest evolves into a 4 out of 5, and to spare you from more horrible puns, I’ll just end it here.