Review by KeyBlade999
A risky move, but executed very well.
~ Review in Short ~
Gameplay: Unique for Pokemon. Very much like a cross between Final Fantasy Tactics and Pokemon. Fun, expansive, and engrossing.
Story: Takes place in the Ransei region, which acts akin to ancient Japanese tradition. It's unique and interesting.
Graphics: While not super-detailed, they are colorful and vibrant, albeit a bit blocky. Some of the DS's best.
Sound and Music: A wide variety of soundtracks are in the game, and everything sounds nice and it sticks with Pokemon tradition.
Play Time: About fifteen to twenty hours for the main story, but well over one hundred for everything as a whole.
Replayability: Moderately high. There's a fair amount of non-linearity and randomness, so it isn't the same thing over and over again.
Recommendation: Definitely a must-have for any Nintendo DS/3DS owner!
~ Review in Long ~
Have any of you ever heard of the Kingdom Hearts series? Kingdom Hearts, as you might know, was conceptually a risky move. After all, Square Enix used Disney and Final Fantasy to make the crossover series. Mentally, you'd find weird elements like that to conflict greatly and potentially not produce something nearly as great as the series is today.
Pokemon Conquest is a crossover between two different games: Pokemon and whatever series has Nobunaga's Ambition in it. These games are less conflicting than Disney and Final Fantasy, true, but that doesn't make the crossover any less risky.
Could Nintendo rise up to the task?
Pokemon is a turn-based RPG series developed by Nintendo. It began in 1995 with Pokemon Red, Blue, and Green on the GameBoy; Pokemon Yellow, the expansion, came out a few years later. In the late-1990s or early-2000s, Pokemon Gold and Silver came out on the GameBoy Color. Their expansion, Pokemon Crystal, came out about two years later. Sometime around this time, other side-games were released; namely, Pokemon Stadium 1 and 2. A Pokemon game was also planned, but never made, for the Nintendo 64DD at this time, I believe.
In 2003, Pokemon Sapphire and Ruby, marching in third generation, were released for the GameBoy Advance; Pokemon Emerald soon followed, as did the Pokemon Red and Green remakes, Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen. During this generation, Pokemon Colosseum, Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness, and Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Red/Blue Rescue Teams were some of the more well-known side-games to come out.
In 2007, Pokemon Diamond and Pearl ushered in the fourth generation on the Nintendo DS; Pokemon Platinum came a few years later. Pokemon Gold and Silver also received remakes in 2010: Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver. During this generation, Pokemon Battle Revolution, PokePark: Pikachu's Adventure, and Pokemon Mystery Dungeon 2: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky were among the side-games that were released.
In 2011, Pokemon Black and White brought in the fifth generation of Pokemon, still on the Nintendo DS. No expansions have been named as of yet, though sequels for these games -- Pokemon Black 2 and Pokemon White 2 -- are planned for release in late 2012. A few side-games have been released as of now: PokePark 2: Wonders Beyond, Pokemon Battle Rumble, and, of course, Pokemon Conquest, name a few. If the cycle of remakes continues, we should also see remakes of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire before a new region is made, but that is purely hypothetical.
Nobunaga's Ambition's series:
Yes, I know that probably is not the real name of the series, but anyone who has played it probably gets the idea.
Anyways, I haven't played the games myself yet, and don't know much about them except that they haven't had a new entry since the mid-1990s, if what I heard is correct. The games are apparently rather rare, because there have been some FAQ Bounties listed for them in recent times on the GameBoy and SNES. (Well, it's either rare or just hard to write an FAQ for.) So I may not be able to provide much on the history of these games, especially versus Pokemon, but I don't really see a lot of mysterious stuff in the game that could rise from these games anyhow.
First, we'll cover how battles will take place, an important element in any Pokemon game. The battles take place on a gridded field, much like in Final Fantasy Tactics. The two opposing forces, or "armies", are allowed up to six Pokemon per side -- no more than that may be used. Each Pokemon will have a set Range, or number of steps it can move.
To damage your opponent, you'll need to get within range of them with your move. Your move can have varying ranges. For example, Quick Attack hits an enemy next to you, Ember hits an enemy two tiles away, Ice Beam hits three tiles away and all tiles in-between, and Judgment will hit all tiles around the user. That can make it complicated.
Why? The battlefield has terrain, which should have been expected. You'll get a huge variety of different terrains: snow, ice, sand, soil, lava, water... It's a pretty long list. While the terrain can produce various effects for abilities -- i.e. the Gulp ability will heal the Pokemon while it is in water -- it will also make for some strategy. Only Pokemon of certain types can travel certain terrain: only Fire-types can go on lava, or Water-types on water. (Of course, if the Pokemon can't be hit by Ground moves, terrain doesn't really affect it too much.)
The terrain can therefore be an obstacle because you may end up in a corner and want to hit the enemy with a ranged move, but can't because there isn't enough space to do so. You'll have to think pretty far ahead; much moreso than in Final Fantasy Tactics. Some different things are added in to the terrain. For example, one area has a metallic field filled with cameras and tall fences that cannot be passed, and the cameras can take you to a random place if you get spotted.
Also a factor in the terrain is height. It is a bit of a minor factor, but important nonetheless. This is because Pokemon can only climb up so high with one step, one flap of the wings, or whatever it is that Pokemon may do. Additionally, height can also affect your moves. It won't matter if you and an enemy are on adjacent tiles if you're opponent is on a pillar twice as high as you and your move is Tackle.
There are also random objects found on the battlefield. Some of these are natural objects, such as trees. Some of those kinds of objects can be destroyed and you might find items; other times, you'll attack one to move it, or maybe it moves on its own! Sometimes, as well, you'll find Treasure Boxes on the field; if you collect it, you'll usually receive an item.
What else affects the battle system? Well, each Pokemon and each move have a "type". A "type" is a sort of element attached to the Pokemon. For example, a Charmander is a Fire-type, a Squirtle is a Water-type, a Treecko is a Grass-type, and Pikachu is an Electric-type. Each move has a certain effectiveness to another type, letting the move deal more, less, or no damage at all. For example, a Fire-type move does lots of damage to a Grass-type, but little to a Water-type. Another example is Fighting-type moves doing lots of damage to Ice-, Rock-, Steel-, and Normal-types, but no damage at all to Ghost-types. You'll really have to strategize before you get on that field!
And there's more to mention! Most Pokemon are owned by Warriors; their Warriors have special Warrior Skills. These skills can affect the battle in some way, such as by healing HP, raising Attack, increasing Range, or healing various statuses. Pokemon also have their own abilities, which can do a huge variety of things, like paralyze Pokemon that touch you, heal you on a certain terrain, or make you immune to certain damage. Warriors can use only one Warrior Skill per battle, though, and they also have an item that they can use but, again, only once per battle.
Generally, a battle has two obvious win conditions: beat all Pokemon to win, and get all of your Pokemon beaten to lose. However, in certain locations, if you battle there, there will be other conditions. For example, some areas have banners on the field, and your goal is to collect all three of them to win rather than beat the stuffing out of the Pokemon. Of course, beating up the Pokemon is also a good idea to make things a lot easier on you.
Anything else? Well, each battle has a set number of turns each army can take. If you run out of turns -- usually somewhere around ten or twenty -- you'll end up losing. A "turn" consists of you moving your Pokemon, then your opponent. Additionally, after a battle, you'll raise your Link percentage and may recruit Warriors, but more on that later.
Warrior and Pokemon Recruitment:
First and foremost, what is a Warrior? A Warrior is a human who has the rare talent to be able to silently communicate with Pokemon; of course, some Pokemon Trainers in other regions have this talent. But, given the society in Ransei, Warrior is more appropriate.
Anywho, as you take over kingdoms in the game, you'll probably want to make your army larger or more varied. After all, an army of one or two people, even if they used legendary Pokemon, can have trouble against six-Pokemon armies. To recruit Warriors, you'll go to where a free Warrior -- one not attached to a particular kingdom, sort of like a mercenary -- roams and you'll impress them.
How does one impress a free Warrior? Well, in most cases, you can do one of three things. You can beat the Warrior's Pokemon in under four turns, beat the Warrior's Pokemon with a super-effective move (i.e. Flamethrower on Snivy, a Grass-type), or beat the Warrior's Pokemon without taking any damage. In some cases, there is an extra condition that you must satisfy.
But an army is not efficient if it lacks flexibility. After all, it is quite possible to end up with an army of all Fire-types and then lose to a Water-type army. You can Link with wild Pokemon when you find them, though some require passwords to come into the game. To Link with a Pokemon is to make an intense emotional bond of love and trust; basically, it is like catching a Pokemon in the mainstream games or anime. Most Warriors can bond with around three or four, though only one can be brought into battle.
I'm not talking about the main character from the Legend of Zelda series. As I said previously, a Link is an intense emotional bond of love and trust between a Warrior and a Pokemon. Forming one can occur in a battle where a wild Pokemon is present; you cannot form with Pokemon Warriors already have.
The Link will allow the Warrior to control that Pokemon in a battle. Of course, there's a lot more to it than not. Over the course of many battles and other events, the Link between Warrior and Pokemon will strengthen. The Pokemon will more fully trust its Warrior, be more willing to obey the Warrior's commands, and, therefore, be more willing to unleash its true power.
In effect, going into battles will strengthen Links, and therefore strengthen Pokemon. It is much like the leveling system of any RPG. The Pokemon will not learn new moves; however, its stats will go up, and even its move can gain new properties and new power. Because of this, each Warrior has a "Perfect Link" Pokemon, one with whom it can raise Link percentages to 100%. All Links have some sort of cap, and therefore can limit growth. A 100% Link is the most powerful of all.
Eventually, a powerful enough Link will result in the Pokemon evolving into a new form, sometimes. The evolve conditions are much like in the mainstream games. Some Pokemon cannot evolve by having their Link percentages rise through the roof. Rather, some, for example, will require stones (Fire Stone, Water Stone, and so on).
It is also worth noting that the Warriors themselves have the possibility of "evolving", though I'm not entirely sure if it is based on Links with Pokemon. But, in effect, the Warrior will change appear and his or her personal stats and Warrior Skill can change. It's a bit interesting.
Kingdoms and Conquering:
In the region of Ransei, there are seventeen kingdoms, much like the various towns and castles and so on of Final Fantasy Tactics. Each has its own spot on the map, its own habits, and even its own locales.
The legend of Ransei drives people to conquer all seventeen kingdoms. But how do kingdoms become owned by someone? A person must defeat the kingdom's Warlord, or leader, in a battle. It's as simple as that.
As you start to conquer more and more kingdoms, you'll begin to realize that other Warlords are not sitting idly by. Some will invade others' kingdoms, and sometimes even your own! If you don't have Warriors stationed in a kingdom at risk, you could lose it in the blink of an eye! So, yes, you'll almost always have Warriors in multiple kingdoms.
As is obvious, you can search for Warriors and Pokemon in a kingdom. But each Warrior is only allowed one battle/shopping day/etc. per month, and it will be annoying to control all seventeen kingdoms by hand. How does one handle this? There is a "Delegate" option. At the cost of losing control of the kingdom (you keep it, but your Warriors run it), you gain time. The Warriors there can train to strengthen Links and Pokemon, search for wild Pokemon and Warriors to recruit, or develop the kingdom.
Developing a kingdom is a bit interesting. For a cost of some money, you can upgrade certain features. For example, you might upgrade a shop and get a better repertoire of items to choose from, upgrade a cave to get better wild Pokemon, or upgrade a gold mine to get more money when you dig there. You don't have to delegate a kingdom to do this; you can do it by hand. But, in short, the option for delegation is a very convenient one, especially when you don't want to have to strengthen dozens of Warriors by hand!
After the Main Game...:
When you first play the game, you'll play along the main storyline. That, in itself, can easily last fifteen to twenty hours. Remember that the main gameplay will consist of conquering the seventeen kingdoms in Ransei, as dictated by the initial in-game scenes.
But afterwards? There are thirty-three side stories surrounding the other characters in the game. These are ones you play through like the main story. Some of them are the same as another one you've played, but from another character's viewpoint, thereby making it easier or harder, and usually different, than before.
Of course, it won't matter how many there are if they last ten minutes. In fact, there's more than a few of them that will be like playing through the game again, but with different characters. That greatly changes the circumstances around your strategies. But the big thing is how long the game will get to last.
Of what I've discovered (no, I haven't beaten all of them), three of them are effectively replays of the main game, four are half-replays, another two are around quarter-replays, and one more is a lot of recruiting. Altogether, from just ten stories, you'll find around 125 hours of entertainment, counting the main storyline. I could theorize that the rest would bring it to 200+ hours!
That's actually about it, from what I've discovered. I haven't beaten all of the stories yet -- heck, it's barely been 125 hours since this game was released in the U.S.! (From when I wrote this review.) I would mention how there are several hundred Warriors and Pokemon to find, but the side-stories should really bring you up to having almost, if not fully, completed your Pokemon and Warrior lists.
There are some multiplayer modes you can use in this game, though I haven't really tried them yet due to a lack of access to others with the game. We'll conclude with this relatively small section.
Okay, there's actually really just one mode -- no trading is apparently in this game, unlike with pretty much every other Pokemon game. But it basically allows two people to battle over local Wi-Fi so long as they both have DS's and both have this game. It's not elegant, but the in-game computer can honestly be a bit stupid sometimes, unlike most humans.
This game takes place in the Ransei region, a region almost completely isolated from Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, Unova, and the others; only rumors of their traditions reach Ransei. The Ransei region, which really forms more of its own continent, is composed of seventeen kingdoms. The Ransei region seems to have a society like ancient Japan.
Anyways, there is a legend in the Ransei region: if one should conquer all seventeen kingdoms, the legend of Ransei will be reborn. For this reason, Ransei is practically always in a chaotic state: Warlords continually invade and attack other Warlords to expand their empire across the whole region.
When you begin the game, you have just become Warlord of Aurora, one of the southern kingdoms in Ransei, which is one of the more peaceful areas. As could only be expected, however, your neighbors to the north quickly want to take down the newbie. You beat them thoroughly, making all think that you could be "the one", not only because of your skill, but because of the strong, intense bonds you and your Eevee have.
And so begins your long journey. Over the course of several years, you will set out on a journey to conquer all seventeen kingdoms and bring about the legend of Ransei. But it will not be without hardship. Few of your fellow Warlords believe you can do this task; many of them will get in your way by trying to take over kingdoms or being extremely persistent in battle. And there is also another to the north, thinking of doing the same as you, but for vastly different reasons than your own...
The story itself gets fairly deep and spread-out decently throughout the main playthrough. It is an interesting story, and filled with a nice few twists and turns. The side-stories that focus on the other characters are also interesting and provide some neat background information on some of them that you would never have expected.
The graphics in Pokemon Conquest, as per the series' modern standard, are vibrant and colorful. The environments are not exceptionally detailed, as in seeing every blade grass or seeing behind waterfalls, but all in all, it is nice and detailed. Much moreso than the first generation of Pokemon for sure.
While the battlefield is most of what you'll be seeing, some of the best graphics come in the various cinematic sequences. While there not a whole lot of animation in these, you'll find shots you'd expect straight out of the TV anime! There is a lot of that, overall, here; again, more than in the mainstream games. You'll get decent shots of each Pokemon and each character, which is a bit more than the mainstream games give you, as far as size and quantity.
The moves are a bit lacking in quality, I'll admit. One would expect Ember to fly up in the air to hit the opponent, given its ranged quality, or Rock Wrecker to have a large rock tossed, Earthquake to make cracks in the ground, or Quick Attack to actually be blindingly fast. But you don't get, so it's a bit sad. Some of the graphics are also a bit blocky-looking when you get up close.
One thing most of you will be contemplating is what would have happened had it been a 3DS game. It is honestly a question I wonder often myself; after all, the 3DS has been out for quite a while, yet even Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 are coming out for the regular DS. It's a bit of a blunder on Nintendo's part, as far as graphical quality goes, for Pokemon could be amazing in 3D. Of course, that would probably also push back production a lot. Eh, maybe in the next generation...
SOUND EFFECTS AND MUSIC: 9/10.
I'm not really good with this section, but let's give it a try... There are a fair few background tracks in the game; pretty much one for every area. Each area gets a theme that fits it: the overworld gets a nice theme that seem to fit the idea of a conquest; the major fights get ominous themes; the peaceful scenes have calm music. I know it's not a lot to say, but, trust me, you'll find nothing wrong with the background music ... except perhaps its volume. It is a bit loud when you play it at the max volume, moreso than for other DS games.
As for sound effects, Pokemon get their traditional static cries from the mainstream rather than their "true" cries from the anime and some of the side-games. It is a minor thing, but something I'd want nonetheless. There are a fair variety, though; pretty much something for everything. Again, I kinda suck at describing sounds. But they are pretty good overall ... you know, minus the volume issues and the lack of the true Pokemon cries.
PLAY TIME: 10/10.
We'll begin with the subject of a single playthrough. A single playthrough of the main story will consist of conquering the seventeen kingdoms in Ransei and just a little more than that. Given you'll have to do a fair deal of recruiting and whatnot, my playthrough (for the FAQ/Walkthrough I wrote) time of about fifteen to twenty hours fits pretty well.
After the main story, you'll have a whopping thirty-three side-stories to complete. Some of these last as long as a single playthrough, because that is what they are effectively! Of the ten I have unlocked, I can estimate that those ten would add about another 100 hours to your play time, with the remainder easily adding another 100 to 200 hours, if they effectively multiply.
I would mention completionism -- finding every Pokemon and every Warrior -- but the side-stories will easily do that, at least mostly, for you. Each start-to-end playthrough, stories and all, should compile about 200 hours of entertainment for you, which is the most I've ever seen in a Pokemon game.
Okay, maybe not the most, but definitely the most lacking sheer repetitivity in trying to catch a Pokemon. I don't really think I've ever seen a game that could take such a long playthrough. It is astonishing; you'll have trouble finishing this in a month or two by far!
Given what I've seen in the game, even having not replayed it, I think I can objectively rate this category.
The game has a small bit of linearity in the main playthrough. You'll be given so-and-so kingdoms at a time to conquer before you get some more. You can conquer these in any order, and do not have to do them right that moment. In fact, you can spend pretty much all the time you want just fighting in areas to recruit Pokemon, shop, or whatever you want, within reason. You probably will have to fight off invaders at some point, though.
Speaking of invaders, that is something to mention. See, as could be expected, each of the seventeen kingdoms in Ransei specializes in the one of the seventeen Pokemon types. When one kingdom beats another, the winning kingdom ends up having some of their own Warriors there. That can actually scramble up enemy armies greatly, making it hard to have the same fight twice.
In addition, there is a bit of randomness in the game. See, as I mentioned earlier, you can recruit Warriors and Pokemon. But Pokemon and Warriors will only appear in certain places at certain times, if even that -- it might actually be completely random! Given that you'll almost never have the same battle and shopping habits in one playthrough as in a previous one, you can rest assured that you'll have trouble recruiting the same Warriors or Pokemon twice.
Another factor to the randomness is the fact that enemy Warriors' Pokemon will grow alongside yours throughout the course of time. You'll be finding enemies having, for example, Magikarp at the start of the game, but having Gyarados or even a completely different Pokemon a few in-game years later. This is because each kingdom will also try to find their own Pokemon and Link with them, recruit new Warriors, and so on. You won't really be able to notice the "new Pokemon" ideal in the main playthrough, but you'll get a strong reading of it in the side-stories.
And that is my big factor for this: the side-stories. As I have said several times before, these side-stories can add a sheer 100 or 200 or even more hours of entertainment. You'll be greatly defamiliarized with the story by the time you finish everything, I think. That's the big element for replayability in RPGs: being able to enjoy the same story over and over again without being bored. If you're forced to go along for so long without the story, you'll enjoy it over and over again. Plus, let's say you adapt to the average teenager's gaming habits of about one half-hour per day: that means it'll take you about a year to finish it! That's just theoretical, but you can see my point by now, I hope.
THE END. Overall score: 9.6/10.
And so, that finally ends my review for Pokemon Conquest. Pokemon Conquest is by far one of Nintendo's riskiest moves, being a crossover game. But it is also by far one of Nintendo's best games ever created. It has gameplay like Final Fantasy Tactics with its simplistic grid system, but the strategy is so unimaginably deep. The computer has so much of an effect on your gameplay, and the game has an interesting, unique story. The game will last for many dozens of hours, and will be easy to play over and over again.
And, to sum up my review in one statement: this game is very definitely a must-have game for any Nintendo DS/3DS owner!
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Pokemon Conquest (US, 06/18/12)
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