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Pokemon Conquest - A Review
This hub is going to review Nintendo's latest Pokemon spinoff title, Pokemon Conquest, for the Nintendo DS. If memory serves, this is actually the first time in the franchise that a strategy game has been created with the Pokemon IP. In any case, it is quite the fun game, if a bit repetitive. Pokemon Conquest serves as an introductory level strategy RPG game for those people who have never played one before.
So, please read on as I review Pokemon Conquest!
To be fair, it's a bit disingenuous to try and ascribe a single story to Pokemon Conquest, as part of the allure of the game comes from the many different episodes (at least 33, by my reckoning) you can play through, which have you taking on the role of different Warlords and Warriors as they attempt to complete their various objectives in the region of Ransei.
With that said, here are some core details:
- The game takes place in the region of Ransei, a curious continent shaped like the legendary Pokemon Arceus.
- In Ransei, there are 17 kingdoms (one for each of the Pokemon types). Each one is ruled by a Warlord and companion Warriors.
- Warlords/Warriors lead Pokemon into battles against their opponent, be they wandering Pokemon, wandering Warriors, or enemy Warriors.
- Poke Balls don't exist in Ransei. Instead, Warriors form links with compatible wandering Pokemon.
And here's the plot synopsis for the tutorial episode:
The tutorial episode (which some people erroneously assume is the full game) allows you to name the hero and choose their gender, much like the mainstay Pokemon titles. You are the new Warlord of Aurora, the Normal-type kingdom of Ransei, who linked with an Eevee while only a child. You meet fellow Warrior Oichi, linked to a Jigglypuff, as she offers her services to you (no, not THAT kind). Some time later, you learn about the legend of Ransei, which speaks of a legendary Pokemon that appears only to the Warlord who has conquered all 17 kingdoms of Ransei. Nobunaga seeks to unite the region for this very purpose and Oichi convinces you that allowing him to do it is a really bad idea. So, you are tasked with taking over each of the kingdoms and eventually pushing back Nobunaga to his final kingdom of Dragour. Once there, a meeting with the legendary Pokemon is at hand...
Of course, that's only the first episode. Once you beat the game the first time, you unlock the episode menu (which starts with eight unlocked episodes) that each tell varying stories of a wide array of other Warlords. Here's a small list of other episodes in Pokemon Conquest:
- A trio of episodes telling the somewhat briefer stories of the trio of children you meet in the tutorial episode (and who never fight in said episode). Each of the three episodes places you as the warlord of one of the three kingdoms surrounding Aurora. Your objective is to conquer the three kingdoms you don't currently control (the two of Ignis, Greenleaf and Fontaine that are under enemy control, and Aurora, led by Oichi).
- Ieyasu's episode. Also the easiest way to break the rest of Pokemon Conquest if you're feeling lazy and don't want to struggle in most battles. Ieyasu is the Warlord of the Steel-Type kingdom of Valora and he decides to bring peace to the region and bolster his forces by recruiting a total of 100 Pokemon.
- Mitsuhide's episode. In the tutorial episode, Mitsuhide serves as one of the last roadblocks to reach Nobunaga, and is quite the loyal servant. However, in this episode, he has had enough of Nobunaga's despotic strategy to "unite" Ransei and decides to fight back, in an attempt to secure peace for the war-torn region. Nobunaga humors the attempt and allows Mitsuhide three years to overthrow his entire army (consisting of ten kingdoms).
This is normally the part of the review where I talk about how to catch Pokemon, Pokemon Centers and such. However, this is a spinoff title, so here's an overview of what the game is actually like.
You have three distinct screens you'll be seeing a lot of in Pokemon Conquest, so let's talk about those first. The very first of these is right besides this paragraph. Basically, that screenshot (source: Nintendojo) is showing off the World Map screen. From that screen, you can order your Warriors to challenge other kingdoms to a Pokemon battle or just march to other kingdoms in your control. This is especially useful if you want to protect your forward kingdoms by sending in extra forces from your kingdoms farther away from the front lines.
Given that you need to have a land connection between your kingdom and your enemy's kingdom, certain kingdoms are automatically safe once you have captured all adjacent kingdoms (as the enemy has to get through some of your other kingdoms before they can get to that one). In the case of that screenshot, Aurora cannot be attacked until one of the three other kingdoms surrounding it falls.
The second screen is the one you see when you enter any kingdom from the World Map. In every episode barring the tutorial, the kingdom will invariably have a Bank. Banks are used to upgrade the other locales of your kingdom. Here's a list of some of the other possible locales in a Pokemon Conquest kingdom:
- Shop: Fairly self-explanatory. Leveling up a shop increases the variety of items sold.
- Mine: Get lots of gold! Leveling up a mine increases the amount of gold you gain.
- Ponigiri Shop: I want to say ponigiris are rice cakes (they sure look like they them). In any case, Pokemon love these. Feed Pokemon Ponigiri to increase their Energy level.
The third and final screen is probably the screen that you will spend the longest time in, seeing as how it is the battle screen. So, let's talk a bit about how Pokemon battles work in Pokemon Conquest.
As in the mainstay titles of the Pokemon franchise, each Pokemon has an ability and a move they can use in combat. Unlike the aforementioned titles, however, all Pokemon of a certain species will have the same move. Furthermore, each Pokemon can only have one move. This creates certain annoying situations where you have a Pokemon like Wooper (with Water Gun) evolve into a Quagsire (with Mud Bomb) and suddenly it changes the entire dynamic of how you can and can't use your Pokemon. In Quagsire's case, evolution makes it worthless against enemies of the Flying-type and enemies who have the Levitate ability.
Moves have different ranges and radii depending on what they are. For example, Water Gun hits the two squares in front of the user. Confusion hits a target that is exactly two squares in front of the user. Fire Blast has a very quirky radius effect that is pretty hard to explain, but can hit targets up to three squares away from the user. Petal Dance hits the four squares directly adjacent to the user. Basically, choosing your Pokemon of choice will also depend on how they can use their move in combination with their allies. It's usually a poor idea to have no Pokemon that can hit targets directly in front of themselves, since it's exploitable.
In true Pokemon fashion, your Pokemon's moves can deal additional damage or reduced damage (or no damage, as mentioned a while ago) against enemy Pokemon depending on the typing of the move versus the typing of the enemy. For example, Water-type moves do double damage to Fire-type Pokemon, but only half damage to Grass-type Pokemon. The fact that each Pokemon can only have one move shakes up the foundation just enough that certain Pokemon in Conquest drop from being overpowered to rarely used (or worse), after evolving, which seems backwards to how you would normally expect it to work. Let's just say that Luxray (for one example) is particularly overrated with Thunder and leave it at that.
One of the last things I'd like to mention in this section is the concept of Links. Links are a big part of Pokemon Conquest as they are equivalent to Pokemon capturing in the mainstay titles. Each Warrior has a Perfect Link somewhere in the list of 200+ Pokemon that make their appearance in Conquest. In the protagonist's case, that Perfect Link is Eevee and its evolutions (like Flareon and Jolteon). Note that Warriors can have multiple Perfect Links. When you meet a wandering Pokemon in one of your kingdom's locales (like the Farm, for example), you can have one of your Warriors link with them. Unlike Pokemon capturing in the mainstay titles, Linking will always succeed if given enough time. However, not all Warriors can link to all Pokemon. Basically, the main factors that affect the ability to link with a particular Pokemon are:
- The Warrior's preferred Pokemon types. Each Warrior has one or two preferred types that represent those Pokemon they have the most affinity towards. Links outside of said types are usually lower-strength than those done inside of the types.
- The Pokemon in question. If a Pokemon is dramatically different from a Warrior's preferred type, you won't be able to even attempt a Link between the two!
So, what is all this babble about Perfect Links and Link strength? Well, when you link a Pokemon to a Warrior, they get a maximum link value between 30-ish percent and 100 percent (100 being a Perfect Link), which is determined by the factors above. Link strength is this game's equivalent of Levels in the mainstay title. As the link between Warrior and Pokemon improves, the Pokemon's stats increase and (at 20% intervals, if I recall correctly) the Pokemon's move becomes stronger as well (this usually translates to extra damage, which is always good).
Also, and to close this section, Warriors can evolve as well (although the proper term is actually transform). When a Warrior evolves, their stats improve and their Perfect Links may change. For example, Oichi and Wigglytuff are only a 90% Link relationship. However, when Oichi transforms, Wigglytuff becomes a Perfect Link.
The graphics in Pokemon Conquest are rather polished, especially for the kingdoms and cutscenes. The only place where they falter a bit is during battles where you can see some pixelation on the Pokemon and on the environmental objects (such as trees and rocks). With that said, I don't think anyone will be able to gripe about Pokemon Conquest in terms of graphics.
There is a musical theme that plays while you are on the world map, and each kingdom has its own distinct battle theme when you are defending or attacking. My personal favorite battle themes are the ones for Violight and Valora. Pokemon cries also make their way into this game and are played when a Pokemon is deployed at the start of a battle and when a Pokemon is knocked out during the battle. There are also a bunch of miscellaneous sounds for things like poison damage, burns, moving statues, and flag capturing. In essence, there are some good music tracks in this game and the sound just helps the game along, although there's nothing that quite screams spectacular, at least to me.
I'm going to level with you here: Pokemon Conquest is repetitive. If you like the strategy RPG formula as presented, then this won't be a problem. However, if you're a hardcore strategy RPG player, then this game may get stale after a while. Far too many of the episodes fall into "conquer all opposing kingdoms" and very few of them feel like Ieyasu's episode, which have alternate victory conditions.
In conclusion, if you are a Pokemon fan and/or strategy RPG fan, then this game will not disappoint. For the rest of you, I still recommend this game as it is pretty easy. However, I honestly feel that it is not going to be worth your 30 USD if you are not part of the aforementioned demographics. If that is the case, grab it at a discount, since it still deserves to be played, even if at a partial price.
Feel free to ask me questions about Pokemon Conquest in the comments section, or just talk about your own experiences with the game!
Until the next time, take care and have fun! ;)