When word got out that the two franchises Pokemon and Nobunaga’s Ambition would be collaborating on a project, no one knew what to expect. Pokemon is all about collecting and raising hundreds of monsters in a journey to be the very best Pokemon trainer. Nobunaga’s Ambition, however, focuses on turn based strategic combat in an attempt to unify feudal Japan. Could two such different games such as these successfully mesh together? The answer is yes. Pokemon Conquest is the change of pace that Pokemon fans have been waiting for. By taking the qualities that make both series so lovable, Nintendo and Tecmo Koei were able to deliver one of the best gaming experiences on the DS.
Pokemon Conquest puts the player in control of a silent hero who is the new warlord of the kingdom of Aurora, one of the 17 locations in the region of Ransei. According to legend, the one who who can conquer and unite all 17 kingdoms is the chosen partner of the legendary Pokemon who is responsible for creating the region. After learning that Nobunaga, the most powerful warlord and the main antagonist of the game, wants to control this legend in order to destroy Ransei, the player sets out on a journey to conquer the 17 kingdoms in order to save the land.
What makes Conquest shine is its easy to learn, yet surprisingly deep, combat system. When the player engages an enemy they are put in square grid with each team on opposite ends of the battlefield. Each team can have up to six warriors on the field, each with one partner Pokemon. Fans of games like Fire Emblem will feel right at home playing Conquest, as each character has its own stats, attack type, and field of movement. Flying Pokemon, for example, typically have an extremely large area in which they can move but have weaker attacks, while larger monsters sacrifice movement for power. Information such as estimated damage and percentage to hit is shown above the enemy, making decisions on who to attack easier. Even the battlefield comes into play during combat, as sandstorms, falling rocks, and volcanic eruptions can drastically change your plan of attack; thinking one step ahead of your opponent is crucial, especially when you’re in unknown territory. While the style of combat is unlike standard Pokemon games, classic elements such as type advantages, catching and raising Pokemon, and evolution remain an integral part of Conquest.
The manner in which characters obtain Pokemon has been modified, as well. Rather than using various pokeballs to catch the over 200 different monsters available in the game, warriors “link” with the desired Pokemon. Once successfully linked, the warrior and creature duo have a synchronization meter that ranges any where from 0% too 100%, depending on that character. If the Pokemon is able to reach a full 100% link with that specific warrior, they achieve a perfect link, making them incredibly powerful. Each warrior (there are over 200 to recruit) has a specific Pokemon partner in the game that can reach the perfect link. Trying to find that perfect partner can be both fun and rewarding, as it keeps the Pokemon spirit of “gotta catch’em all” alive in a very different game.
Outside of combat the player is charge of managing the kingdoms they currently control and the warriors under their command via a map of Ransei. Protecting yourself against enemy nations, mining for gold, and training and recruiting warriors are part of a regular schedule. Conquest also allows players to assign warriors to delegate certain kingdoms if they want to focus on something else. This allows for much needed multitasking if you want to earn some gold while your off battling another nation. There’s a lot to learn and do in Conquest, but the game teaches the player all the basics at a good pace, and all of the gameplay mechanics meld together wonderfully. In fact, the only downside is it’s lackluster story, which seems to be a common trait in most Pokemon games.
Calling Pokemon Conquest a spin-off of the Pokemon franchise wouldn’t be doing the game justice; it’s more of an outstanding collaboration between two very different developers. It takes the best gameplay elements from both the Pokemon and the Nobunaga’s Ambition’s games and successfully blends them into one, a quality that many titles lack. This is a game that all developers should look at for future joint concepts. If Nintendo acts on the success of Pokemon Conquest, they could create a truly exceptional franchise for future generations of gamers, and I can’t wait to if they do.