How’s this for an odd crossover? Pokemon meets Nobunaga’s Ambition, and creates what’s probably the best Pokemon spinoff and one of the top strategy titles on the NDS. The Nintendo DS has had many titles similar to this over the years that it’s existed, but very oddly, Pokemon has never given it’s name to a proper strategy game like this before. This game shows exactly why the franchise should have done this before.Now, let me take you to Feudal Japan. Enter the Ransei region, a region where samurai and warriors fight with their partners, Pokemon of whom they’ve bonded with. No Pokeballs or anything, the connection that they share is a connection of the heart. By linking with a Pokemon, that Pokemon follows the warlord for all eternity, following commands and the warlords desires. Every citizen of the region knows the legend that says anyone who unites the entire region gets to met the strongest Pokemon of all, and as such, the region has been embroiled in a constant war.
Anyone who’s aware of the deep history that goes behind Japan, and thankfully, this game makes the best use of this. This is mostly done by the use of heroic characters like Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Akechi Mitsuhide, to just name three of the many figures in the game. The thought has even gone onto the individual Pokemon that everyone owns, with Nobunaga, the primary antagonist, owning a rather special Black Rayquaza, and Hideyoshi having a Reshiram. The amount of thought that’s gone into this is remarkable, and that’s only the icing on the cake.
The game starts off with you being a junior warlord, Daimyo Player. (I was Daimyo Alex), and how you journey to unite the entire region. Facing off against Daimyos, Shoguns and the like, you slowly uncover the Ransei region, and all the quirks that come inside it. Notice the little things like the region being shaped like Arceus, the accuracy of the warlords text and the quirks of the battle fields, which i’ll talk about at a later point. The story goes all the way from being a junior Daimyo to being the Shogunate, uniting the entire region with Arceus by your side.There are also several bonus stories where you go over the stories of the other characters, battling with a completely different army of people.
Thankfully, with the amount of stories and characters, the battling system had better be good. And it is. There are 200 unique Pokemon inside the game, each with their own style of gameplay and their abilities which affect how you use them. Favourites like the entire Eevee evolutionary chain appears, along with Pikachu, Lucario and even a handful of legendaries. And this is actually the only major complaint I’ve got with the game, with the sheer amount of battling and conquering that goes on within the game, there just aren’t really enough Pokemon to make every battle fresh, and some of them are pretty terrible under regular conditions. There are 649 Pokemon they could have used, cropping it down to 200 just feels like they wanted a shortcut.
There are a bunch of overworld mechanics, with different Pokemon appearing in different places, ways to develop your cities, and the little touches to control your armies. It plays a little bit like the older versions of Civilization, and I really love that little touch. But considering that complexity and depth that goes into every little aspect, it’s remarkable just how easy it is to pick up. The battle system on the maps are really easy to pick up, too, even though every Pokemon acts and handles slightly differently. It uses the basic format of grid based battling, but it’s given it it’s own little flairs and touches. The vast cast of the game all have Warlord Powers, the use of which can turn the tide of battle, and can be tied ever-so-slightly into the personalities of the characters.
Easy to pick up, easy to play, hard to master and become a natural at, Pokemon Conquest does everything that could ever be asked of a strategy game, with a multitude of secrets and special things to unlock. I’ve played a huge amount of strategy games in my time, and Pokemon Conquest is among the very best of them, if not the finest of them. It’s one of those “Must play within your lifetime” games in my opinion, and after playing it every day for the last month and a half, it feels weird to finally put it down.