Available on Nintendo DS (compatible with 3DS and 3DS XL)
The words ‘Pokémon’ and ‘Surprising’ don’t often end up in the same sentence. The game series and the whole kid’s sub-culture that surrounds it have prospered for nearly sixteen years through a process of slow evolution, the mixture of ‘gotta catch ‘em all’ collecting and monster-battling barely changing along the way. What’s more, Pokémon’s spin off games have been almost universally mediocre, if not outright appalling. While less-discerning youngsters might have enjoyed the likes of Pokémon Battle Revolution or Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, the magic has always been strongest in the classic Yellow/Red/Black/Platinum/Emerald/Diamond series.
Yet Pokémon Conquest is surprising. Firstly, it’s not what you expect from a Pokémon game. Secondly, it’s a Pokémon spin-off that, amazingly, fails to suck. Not only is it a slightly bizarre Pokémon spin on the historical strategy genre, but it’s a Pokémon game whose appeal might extend beyond the classic eight-to-twelve age range.
A History Lesson
The plot and the gameplay are based loosely on the historical story of Oda Nobunaga, who attempted to unify Japan under a Shogunate in the late 16th Century, and on the hordes of video games, anime films and movies that Nobunaga’s zeal for conquest have inspired (some of you may remember his demonic turn in the PS2 classic, Onimusha). Of course, Pokémon Conquest moves the setting to a fictional Ransei region and fictionalises the historical figures as Pokémon-controlling warlords, but this is effectively a game of strategy and conquest, albeit one aimed at a younger audience.
The action is completely turn-based. Each turn you muster your available commanders and send them off to the different kingdoms on the map. In kingdoms under your control you can fight skirmishes against wild Pokémon or rogue commanders, mine for gold or buy supplies. Enter a kingdom not under your control and you initiate a battle against its rulers. Once all your commanders have been moved or utilised the turn ends, and the generals of any remaining kingdoms take their turn.
Armies of Pokémon
But what about the battles? Well, instead of armies, your allied and enemy commanders field Pokémon. The action is again turn-based, and you can move your Pokémon to a position, simply wait there, or attack enemy Pokémon in range. Every Pokémon has its own method of attack, and each is stronger or weaker against specific types of enemy Pokémon. For instance, your fire Pokémon will knock the stuffing out of hostile grass Pokémon, but will struggle against any water Pokémon on their side.
Each battle has a simple objective, whether capturing a number of banners or just defeating all enemy Pokémon on the field, and achieving this goal will bring you victory, plus experience for your commanders and Pokémon and potentially a new kingdom or new commanders to recruit.