Review by john_robert_lim
"Who would have thought that Feudal Japan and Pokemon make such a good mix?"
Being a Pokemon fan since my childhood days of Pokemon Red, I was pretty excited when I heard this game come out. After all, after reading through some previews, I really felt inclined to try Pokemon in a whole new concept that was never used in the series before, which is the strategy RPG format. Another thing about the game is that it is a crossover with the Samurai Warriors/Nobunaga's Ambition series, so if you happen to be a fan of said series, you will be seeing a lot of familiar faces in the game. So, how does Pokemon mesh well with the new gameplay mechanics? Let's take a look...
Given that this is a strategy RPG game, one would expect a gameplay pretty similar to Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. I would say that would be a pretty good idea of how this game plays like. For a simple summary of how the game plays like, the player would have access to an overworld map to view the kingdoms he may attack. The player would then "deploy" a team of Pokemon in a field and move them around in a grid battlefield to defeat your opponents with your Pokemons' attack. The game does add some variance in the battlefields with the inclusion of several variables with each battlefield such as balls that fall down randomly which you can hit your enemies with, randomizing teleporters that can carry you all the way across the map, and cog wheels that can open a path on the map while closing off another. Also, each character would also come with a support ability to aid battle, which could include increases in attack, healing the entire team, and adding some special effects to the attacks.
Since this is a Pokemon game, it has to have the collecting aspect which is a signature of a Pokemon game. The game comes with around 200 Pokemon for the player to collect, train, and use in battle. Another interesting concept this game included is the exclusion of the standard XP system that Pokemon players would be accustomed to. Instead, the game replaced that with a new Link system, which basically works the same way as the XP system. However, every character in the game would have access to different "Link Caps" with a Pokemon. Say, a character would have his link with Charmander cap at 70% and another would have his link with Charmander cap at 90%. A short way of looking at it from the traditional Pokemon viewpoint is that the Charmander under the control of the first character would cap at level 70, while the Charmander of the second character would be able to go up to level 90. Also introduced in the game are the "Perfect Links" Pokemon, which act as the Pokemon in which a specific character can have a link of 100%. Every character has their unique Perfect Link Pokemon, which makes this game play similarly to Digimon in a way, with each character having one partner Pokemon they may use to send into battle. Evolution also works differently in the game, since in this game, it is the current stat of the Pokemon which determines its evolution. Elemental stones make their return to this game, and equipping a compatible Pokemon with them would cause evolution after the Pokemon equipped with them finishes a battle or any other action.
Occasionally, several events would happen in-between months (The term used for turns used up in the overworld. Each character may only do one action per month, be it battling, buying items, or farming gold.) that include a rare merchant appearing, an adjacent kingdom attacking one of yours, or a character finding an item for you. Overall, the game has so much new concepts and gameplay ideas in store for both the newbie and veteran Pokemon players to enjoy.
Since this will be a spoiler-free review, a simple summary of the story would do. The hero character is revealed to be a warlord who gains the help of Oichi, a girl who is partnered with a Jigglypuff. Throughout the course of the story, the hero would have to capture kingdom after kingdom in an effort to unite the whole of Ransei in order to stop the powerful warlord Nobunaga, whose ambition is to "destroy" Ransei with the legendary Pokemon. Much more would be elaborated on that and Oichi's connection with Nobunaga as the story progresses.
Included in this game is a special bonus story mode included after the main storyline in which the player gets to play as the other warlords in their own respective story modes. Their own special story modes will act as a good insight for players in order to see the warlords' personalities and developments being fleshed out.
I'll be starting off with sound. Personally, the sound used as BGM are pretty catchy, although none were as memorable as the ones in the main Pokemon games. You do get the Pokemon cries from the main games in Pokemon Conquest. I just wished there was dialogue included with the game, as I am interested in how voice acting would add to the gaming experience. With all of that said, I think sound is the weakest link in the game compared to other criteria.
As for the graphics, the Pokemon models are reminiscent of the overworld models used in the main Pokemon games for the DS, which is good. I liked how the characters from Samurai Warriors were converted into an anime-like art style. They still retain their appearances from the Samurai Warriors games, which would make this transition of art styles a real success.
Now this is the section which caught me off-guard. The main story mode was short enough with around 6 to 7 hours of gameplay, enough for me to finish it in 2-3 days. However, the postgame stories would cover around 100 hours of extra gameplay, given that the player would have to play as each of the major warlords in the story in their own storylines. There are more than 30 of them, which would mean that players would be playing this game for a long, long time.
As with each Pokemon game, replayability comes from wanting to catch and collect the available Pokemon. However, I would advise against doing a lot of this in the first storyline, since the player would lose access to the Pokemon he obtained in the first storyline temporarily after finishing the main story. He would get those Pokemon back soon enough, and by that I mean after playing through all the warlords' side stories.
I really recommend this game for Pokemon fans or non-Pokemon fans alike. Who knows, the game might get you into Pokemon. What it did for me is it got me interested in the Samurai Warriors series, which I had no clue about before I played the game. Still, a lot can be improved with the gameplay especially with the fluidity and speed of the battle. A lot of the environmental obstacles have their own animation which causes some battles to be 10 to even 20 minutes longer than they should be. Also, the fact that every Pokemon would have access to only one move might be a downer to some players. Personally, I think it adds more to the depth of strategy the game requires, since now, players would have to think about which specific Pokemon to bring into a battle, not just which type to bring. Another area of improvement would be the overall playtime. I think they really overdid the playtime of the game with the post-game stories, with the player being required to complete all of them in order to regain the old Pokemon which the player trained in the first storyline.
Overall, Pokemon Conquest would get an 8.5/10 for me. It's not the perfect game, but hey, nobody thought feudal Japan would mesh so well with Pokemon in an SRPG setting? I hope they we would get more of Pokemon SRPG, although at this point, I don't think it's going to happen soon.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/25/12
Game Release: Pokemon Conquest (US, 06/18/12)
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