Feudal Japan becomes the setting for this latest Pokémon spin-off, which proves to be one that surprisingly integrates perfectly well alongside the core franchise. Whereas in Japan it was released under the unimaginative Pokémon + Nobunaga’s Ambition, it graces western shores as the equally lacklustre title, Pokémon Conquest.
Yet behind such an uninspired name Tecmo Koei succeed where others have not, masterfully intertwining their long-running Nobunaga’s Ambition series with that of the globally popular Pokémon franchise.
A legend foretells that the one who unifies each of the seventeen kingdoms of the Ransei region may encounter the Legendary Pokémon Arceus, the being responsible for creating the very lands themselves. With the Warlord Leaders all keen to capture and exploit Arceus for their own greed, the kingdoms fall into conflict and disarray.
Players step into the role of a young Warlord Leader of the Primus Kingdom, blessed with the ability to form strong bonds with Pokémon, who sets out with a noble heart on a quest to conquer the seventeen kingdoms of the Ransei Region to see it united once again as a single nation.
To do so, you’ll befriend Warriors, Warlords and Pokémon alike, continuing to build and expand upon your armies to ensure that you can not only successfully invade neighbouring kingdoms, but to also defend yourself from a counterattack whilst you are off on your conquest.
As a departure from the normal Pokémon fare, the battles themselves take place across open fields, gardens, rocky climbs and such forth. These still remain turn-based and will be familiar to those that have played similar Nintendo DS games such as Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift.
In alternating turns the player moves their Pokémon within designated spaces, attacking enemy Pokémon whenever you come into contact. Each kingdom plays home to a Warlord Leader, with ever increasing quantities of Warriors under their command, that have an affinity for a specific Pokémon type. Already recognised as a core staple of the franchise, it is down to the player to deduce the enemy Pokémon’s weakness, to then tactically use the corresponding Pokémon to inflict increased damage.
Items may be used to restore health or to remove inflicted status ailments, whereas each Warlord Leader is also capable of using powers to aid the course of battle. These range from increased movement range, avoiding all attacks for a turn, or recovering HP. Warlord Leaders are also able to evolve, unlocking new powers as well as acquiring more striking, extravagant armour.
The usual form of levelling is replaced by continually building the ‘Link’ that you have with your Pokémon through battling. This is indicated by a percentage that improves through battling, the result of which continually seeing you able to build the strength of your Pokémon and, once you’ve reached the required link level, could see them evolve.
After completion of the central storyline, further special episodes are unlocked that serve to expand upon the core game. These see you go up against a single Warlord Leader and task you with varying objectives such as taking and holding a specific kingdom within the Ransei region.
And, if that didn’t prove to be enough to occupy you, further downloadable episodes are steadily being made available, as well as opportunities to catch rare Pokémon. With the embarrassment that was Super Pokémon Rumble still ringing in our minds, Pokémon Conquest stands tall as an enormously successful diversion from the core series.
Pokémon fans will find much to enjoy within this incredibly approachable spin-off, and, with the care that Tecmo Koei has taken here, we’re hoping that it will see enough success for similar titles to be released in future.
Version Tested: Nintendo DS
Review copy provided by Nintendo