The first question people might ask themselves about this game is what do the Sengoku period warlords and Pokémon have in common? When I first heard that the game Nobunaga’s Ambition was going to do a crossover with Pokémon, my first question was how? Well ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you that despite initial hesitation this is the best handheld Pokémon spin off I’ve ever played. Before we get into the meat and bones of the review, let’s talk about the individual series.
The first one most people have heard of, unless you have been living under a rock since 1995. That game is Pokémon. Pokémon is so iconic as it has spawned many games, both main and spinoff. The main game-play, however, boils down to you being a 10-12 something-year-old boy or girl, get a starter and pokédex, fight some evil organization, attempt to catch the legendary whatever, and beat the Pokémon league. Yeah the formula is the same, but I still love the games nevertheless. The next game is a less well known game series created by Tecmo Koei called Nobunaga’s Ambition. It is a strategy based game series that puts the players in charge of armies during the Sengoku period of Japan (basically the the period of unification). It was a fun game and one of the earliest strategy games ever made. Later Tecmo Koei would use the Sengoku period for one of their other franchises Samurai Warriors.
So what Pokémon Conquest does is combine the strategy aspects of Nobunaga’s Ambition with the gotta catch ‘em all attitude of Pokémon. I was shocked at how well Tecmo Koei kept faithful representations of both games and integrated them so well. The game starts off by having you chose to be the hero or heroine (Go Lady Morgana!), and from there, you learn the basic concepts of fighting and training. Like most strategy games, you move about a map and where you attack from matters (i.e. you do more damage attacking someone from behind than head on). Just like in Pokémon, types are very important as attacks can do massive damage if the opponent it is weak against it. Unlike in Pokémon where you capture creatures in poké balls (seriously how that works is beyond me), you instead form “links”. A link can be anywhere from about 40%-100%. Every warrior has something called a perfect link which represents that warrior’s perfect partner. In addition to linking with Pokémon you can also recruit warrior to expand your armies to attack and defend more territories. One of the reasons I loved the Pokémon series was to see how a Pokémon can potentially evolve. So it was awesome to see that not only can the Pokémon evolve, but the main warlords can too! The added touch is when a warlord evolves, he or she looks more like their perfect link. So this is where I found myself addicted to the game; looking for the prefect link for my warriors but also trying to fulfill the conditions to evolve my warlords.
The main story functions as a giant tutorial, for the real fun comes from the 100+ hours of post-game stories. In these stories you take control of a different warlord and experience the land of Ransei (gee, I wonder which Pokémon it looks like) in a different light. This is where the game-play can get rather stale as many of the stories are similar. This is only a minor complaint though and I’m sure if there is a sequel, it will be smoothed out along with giving Pokémon more than one attack. One of the best aspects of the game is how well the main warlords are partnered with their perfect links. For example Nobunaga, the man who almost united Japan single-handedly, gets both Zekrom and Rayquaza, while the man who killed him, Mitsuhide, gets Articuno (ice types are super effective against dragons). This game is a must buy, as I just scratched the surface of what it has to offer. For anyone who is a fan of strategy games or Pokémon, you won’t be disappointed. This is a game that I am still playing and it came out in June. Definitely a new spin on gotta catch ‘em all!