Pokemon is a franchise that has taken the world by storm since its inception, becoming such a global juggernaut that it’s hard to see these tiny monsters ever going away. Over the years the series has continued too produce games that don’t really stray too far from their proven winning formula of travelling around, capturing monsters, and battling other trainers to achieve glory.
There have been a number of spin-off games that have tried to do different things, such as Pokemon Trading Card Game, which turned the popular card game into video game, Pokemon Snap which put playing in an on-rails photography game, and Pokemon Go, which for one brief moment united phone gamers in a sense of peace and community we’ve not seen since. But the most unusual of these spin-off games would have to be Pokemon Conquest, which has just turned 10-years-old.
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Pokemon Conquest is a tactical role-playing game that moves away from the traditional turn-based battles and instead puts the player in command of an army out to conquer a nation. The game isn’t just a Pokemon title, however, as it’s also a cross-over with the obscure but popular game series Nobunaga’s Ambition.
Originally announced at the Jump Festa anime and manga event in December 2011, Nintendo and Tecmo Koei revealed the game to stunned audiences. More details would be slowly released over the coming six months before the game’s release, with the promotion making use of live-streaming events to build excitement. It was revealed that the game would break away from the regular series game-play, and even art style, as it aimed to give fans something that they’d never played before.
The game puts you in control of a warrior in the Ransei Region, a nation divided by war as the 17 kingdoms battle for supremacy. The region is also home to Pokemon, and the warriors that make up the armies form links with certain Pokemon, taking them into battle with them. It has been foretold in ancient legend that a warrior who can unite all 17 kingdoms of Ransei will be able to encounter the legendary Pokemon that created the region. If that warrior proves to be good and pure it will lead to great prosperity for Ransei and its people, but if the warrior is evil it could lead to death and destruction. Partnered with your Eevee, you set out to find a way to bring together all of the kingdoms before the cruel warlord Nobunaga is able to meet the legendary Pokemon.
The traditional Pokemon battles that made up the bulk of previous games are gone, with turn-based strategy battles taking their place. Rather than commanding a single Pokemon, players are put in charge of several, and direct them around a small battle-field to engage with opposing creatures. Each of the Pokemon featured in the game have different abilities, letting them move differently, attack differently, and affect the battle-field in different ways. Some abilities would allow you to do things such as increase the attack power of your Pokemon, or to heal your team; but could only be used once per battle, meaning that you’d have to think carefully about what abilities you used, and when.
The game made use of the Nintendo DS’s dual screens in battle, allowing the player to direct their troops on the bottom screen by using touch commands, whilst keeping an eye on the battle as a whole on the top screen with tactical information displays. Over the course of the game players are able to recruit up to 200 warriors to join their conquering force. Each of the warriors can assemble their own team of Pokemon, allowing players to choose which they use in battle, though they do each have specific Pokemon they bond best with, leaving you to seek out their perfect partners so as to assemble the strongest army possible.
The game had a pretty in-depth main campaign that would take you tens of hours to complete. There is also additional ‘special episodes’ that the player can take on after finishing the main story-line that expand upon the game and give you additional missions. In total, the game can easily take near a hundred hours to complete everything, and the more complex battle system means that more time and thought had to be taken to battles, leading to one of the bigger and more complex Pokemon games at the time of release.
Despite how different the game was it was received well by fans and critics, receiving strong review scores and praise for daring to try something different. The game was celebrated for its complex, yet easy to learn, game-play mechanics, as well as its art style and setting. Pokemon Conquest would go on to sell more than 350,000 copies in Japan alone, and even featured on the IGN ‘Top 25 Nintendo DS Games‘ list.
Pokemon Conquest might not be the first thing folks think of when they think of the franchise, and probably aren’t even on the list of stuff you think of on your second thought. But it’s proved to be a popular game that tried to do something different and really did succeed in combining Pokemon with a completely different type of game-play experience.
Pokemon Conquest was released in the UK on 27th July 2012.