Pokemon Conquest Review: The Reese’s Cup of Gaming

Pokemon Conquest Review: The Reese's Cup of GamingThere are few things that were seemingly made to go together. Chocolate and peanut butter; Lennon and McCartney; peas and carrots; macaroni and cheese; and Batman and Robin just to name a few. Another combination can be added to this list: Pokemon and Nobunaga’s Ambition.

Pokemon Conquest for the Nintendo DS (editor’s note: works on 3DS, too) is the creation of Tecmo Koei, the masterminds behind the classic Nobunaga’s Ambition series, and The Pokemon Company/Gamefreak, who created the Pokemon phenomenon. On paper, a Feudal Japanese historical war simulation and game about hunting, catching and training “pocket monsters” to do battle should not work, but miraculously it does. In a big way.

The game opens with a new Warlord (the player) coming to power in the Kingdom of Aurora. The new Warlord has a Pokemon (an Eevee), and is partnered with Oichi, who, along with her Jigglypuff, acts as a tutor to how the game is played. Oichi tells the new Warlord about the Legend of Ransei. Any Warlord who conquers all 17 kingdoms of the Ransei region will be rewarded with a visit by a legendary Pokemon. Far in the north, a dark Warlord has already sacked eight kingdoms, and the newest Warlord must conquer all nearby kingdoms to build up his or her army to meet the military genius Oda Nobunaga on the battlefield, as the first one to take and hold all 17 kingdoms wins the game.

Pokemon Conquest Review: The Reese's Cup of Gaming

In this brave new world, Warlords use Pokemon to fight their battles in turn-based, six-on-six fights. Each Warlord has at least one Pokemon, and if a rival Warlord is defeated in battle (and by satisfying certain conditions) they will join the player’s cause. Each Pokemon and Warlord share a bond, and the goal is to find the correct combination of the two to hit 100% bonding link, which unlocks awesome skills and powers. The bonding links are strengthened between Pokemon and Warlord by battling, or just using the Pokemon in any way (including mining for gold, or even shopping).

There are over 200 Pokemon in the game that can be caught and raised, but not in the usual way. Warlords can use their fighting Pokemon to “link” (the term is used a lot in this game) with new wild Pokemon, and if the link is successful, the wild Pokemon joins the Warlord. As in a standard Pokemon game, variety of Pokemon types works to a Warlord’s advantage. Also, when certain conditions are met, Pokemon will evolve and become more powerful.

The player can also assign ally Warlords to rule conquered kingdoms as the player works to take more and more kingdoms. Each delegated Warlord is responsible for hunting and raising the raising of Pokemon, mining for gold, and fortifying the kingdom from attacks. This really helps when asset and resource management starts to get out of hand (and it will).

Pokemon Conquest not only features Pokemon and historical Japanese Warlords, but there is also a level of tactical strategy, used in such classic games as Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics when it comes to battle.

Pokemon Conquest Review: The Reese's Cup of Gaming

The battlefield is laid out as a grid, and the battling Pokemon move spaces on the grid based on their speed. Combat is done by the Pokemon’s power, and a Warlord can initiate a special attack once per battle. Elevation and terrain come into play as the player moves the Pokemon around the board in the veritable dance of battle.

Graphically, Pokemon Conquest looks great on the aging DS system. The art design uses classic Koei anime for the Warlords, and wonderfully rendered Pokemon character models. While not fully animated, the art works to move the story along splendidly.

The music is a mix of classic Pokemon themes mixed with Feudal Japanese songs. It works amazingly well, and never gets boring or worn out, even after hearing the same songs over and over during battle after battle. Also, Tecmo Koei uses the original MIDI files for each Pokemon’s cry, which is a very nice touch.

Pokemon Conquest is not a short or quick game. Sure, conquering 17 kingdoms sounds simple, but as the game goes on, the rival Warlords get tougher, and the strategy elements begin to take precedence over catching a raising Pokemon. As with any turn-based strategy game, just fighting the core battles to move the story along can take 40-50 hours, but to properly get into the meat and potatoes of the game, 100 hours or more is needed.

Pokemon Conquest Review: The Reese's Cup of Gaming

When Pokemon Conquest was first announced, it was met with many questions by fans and reviewers alike. But now that the game is out at retail, its genius can be played by all. It is very safe to say that this game may be the best non-canon Pokemon game ever released, and one of the best Nobunaga’s Ambition strategy games as well.

The beauty of this game is that fans of Pokemon can jump in and truly enjoy it, and fans of turn-based strategy games and historical war sims will also find a deep, deep gaming experience. And Pokemon Conquest is unique enough to bring in new fans that aren’t already familiar with either of the two source franchises. It is, as they say, the best of all worlds.

This review barely even scratches the surface on the levels of fun that Pokemon Conquest conjures up. I’m happy to report that the amalgamation of two things that should never have been combined is a rousing success, and hopefully, Pokemon Conquest is the beginning of a new franchise for both Tecmo Koei and Nintendo. It is definitely the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of DS games.

Shop for Pokemon Conquest for a discounted price at Amazon.com (June 18, 2012 release date).

Pokemon Conquest Review: The Reese's Cup of Gaming

TheHDRoom may be paid a small commission for any services or products ordered through select links on this page.