Back when this game came out in March, I was absolutely ecstatic to see that Pokémon, arguably Nintendo’s greatest company asset, had tied itself to a popular JRPG series: Nobunaga’s Ambition. To give a quick history lesson, Nobunaga’s Ambition was a game originally created in 1983 by game developer Koei Games in which as the name implies; the player is tasked with trying to complete Oda Nobunaga’s ambitions for the conquest and unification of the Japan, effectively closing the book on the Warring States chapter of Japan’s Sengoku period. While the player didn't have to exclusively pick Nobunaga, it can be presumed that of the various character choices, the late emperor was easily one of the most popular. (Note, this game does don't follow true to chronically documented facts and should be treated as a work of fiction. Then again, anything Pokémon related is going to be more "child friendly," so I'm taking this with a grain of salt.)
As time passes however, viewpoints of characters gradually change. Over the years, Nobunaga’s character design has changed (interestingly enough in all media) from a man with a mission common for most adventurers -to inevitably rise to the top and become king- to where his appearances have made him look evil, power-hungry and controlling. As of late, his character design has placed a good deal of emphasis around making him visually appear to be like some kind of dark knight while projecting an aura of control, power and authority. It must be the goatee.
This aside, our player character (whom we name whatever we desire) is first introduced to the general battle mechanics of the game by childhood friend Oichi who leads the player through their first fights and gives some tips when fighting, up through your first “kingdom” fight sequence. From then on, the player is walked through various other aspects of the game such as taking over other kingdoms, training Pokémon, capturing Pokémon and recruiting other people to join your army.
The game itself felt innovative for someone like myself who’s ignorant on other tile based strategy games, like what Conquest tries to provide, but at some points, the game did feel somewhat lacking. While thankfully some rules as in the Final Fantasy Tactics game series don’t apply to Conquest (think of a Jaghd area from Tactics Advance, where death means death), there was no way to make any use of the fallen members of your team, and in a bind, revives wouldn’t be able to provide any sort of help. This deiscrepancy aside, I felt as though Conquest had -tried- to be great by taking a brand new approach in their gaming, but the design of the characters, ambiguous “level” designing and evolving process, the capture process and the fact that attacks could not be varied all made the game feel rushed and sadly a bit on the primitive end. Don’t get me wrong, the game is still a lot of fun, but it could have used some work. Let me elaborate.
I’ll start with the design of the characters and their movesets first. The notion of the game and by extension bringing several pokemon to life in this manner was refreshing and definitely a different take on the franchise, which if played well would have worked out great for Nintendo. Unfortunately, the design seemed almost as though the creators of the game wanted to cut down on a Pokémon’s full potential by giving each one a single move which could not be changed throughout the course of gameplay. While that works in some situations, it also leaves the player to think that they’re being gipped of a full sense of gameplay. Heck, a Charmander that knows Iron Tail would certainly fare better against an Onix than if it only knew Ember. Needless to say, there was something lacking in that department, which was made up for slightly by trainer commands. The commands (as well as items which had to be equipped in order to be used) themselves varied from each vassal you had under your command, but were limited to a once per battle usage.
With good thinking, which is what I pegged the creators had in mind, one could easily overlook any potential inconvenience caused by the lack of action. Seeing as how the player could see who their opponents are ahead of time, an available roster made by linked (note: not captured) Pokémon helps set the stage to allow the player to play with an army that works entirely to their advantage with no consequences. Furthermore, by limiting the actions a player can use when handling their team also requires the player to think with strategy and to predict what possibilities might arise in both defending and attacking against their opponent. Think with strategy and plan for uncertainties; only then one may see a spark of genius.
On to capturing, leveling and evolution. As I had mentioned before, the players have to establish links with the Pokémon that they wish to follow them. The design mechanic is relatively sound, but I think the presentation could have used some work. With several Pokémon, the player will be able to see with various vassals different medals (gold, silver and bronze) and each one dictates the overall level of difficulty involved in acquiring the Pokémon they come across. On a counterintuitive note though, the higher up in the medal grade a Pokémon is, the EASIER it is to get them to follow you. No Pokéballs, no status ailments to make things easier (not to say that one can’t inflict status ailments), no buffer room… and if one fails to successfully gain an alliance, then every vassal under your command is denied the chance to attain them, so think wisely. “Leveling” as best I could describe is set up in a way that with more exposure, the link percentage between the trainer and their Pokémon grows ever steadily and upon a leveling up, the only thing that rises is a basic attack value and a defense value in proportion to attack. In other words, not terribly expansive.
Evolving was never explained in the game and in my several hours of playing, I honestly only had it happen once. A fairly accurate assumption would be that at certain points on one’s synchronization ratio, the Pokémon would evolve at predetermined points, much like at certain levels in the original Pokémon game series, although I have not actually seen where these are decided. Thankfully, to help simplify matters, several Pokémon do not make an appearance in the game and much to my chagrin, tradables such as Gengar and Alakazam are not present.
Knowing that this game takes after the Pokémon franchise and incorporates elements from the grid based strategy games like Final Fantasy Tactics, one would think that the game could be made much more expansive than its predecessor, right? Unfortunately no. Through the aforementioned ability limiting, lack of an item system and limited commands, it felt like the game was stopped early in production. From what IS there though, the game is fun, but at the same time, many fans like myself might have expected more from Game Freak, but at the same time, Conquest really isn’t that bad. It could use a bit of tweaking, but the game itself is pretty alright. I think I’m willing to extend the benefit of the doubt to the studios that put everything together. An entertaining plot was provided, it offered the player to strategically think with their Pokémon and tackle challenges accordingly. It hearkened back to the days of old where players were just supposed to have fun with their Pokémon, but for those who have gotten so wrapped up in various things like EV training, Nuzlocke Challenges and breeding programs to make pedigree Pokémon, playing Conquest would be a culture shock in gaming.
Pessimistic Rating: 3/5
Optimistic Rating: 4.25/5
Reviewer Rating: 4/5
Reviewed by: Kaz