Platform: Nintendo DS Publisher: Nintendo Developer: Techmo Koei Players (Local Wireless): 1 - 2 Genre(s): Role Playing Game (Turn Based Battles)
With both Sony and Nintendo hailing from the land of the rising sun, you tend to find a fair few franchises never leave their homeland some, like the Professor Layton series, take ages to make their way across the pond, but plenty never reach us at all, presumably as the powers that be think we'd likely deem them too weird, and shun them in favour of something more familiar. One such franchise we've missed out on by not living in Japan is Nobunaga's Ambition, a stategic role-playing game series set in feudal Japan, where you play as a warlord hoping to unite Japan through a series of turn-based battles (no, we've never heard of it either). But why is this relevant, we hear you ask, and what does it have to do with Pokemon Conquest? The answer? Because they're practically the same game. Helping the series leave Japanese shores for the first time ever, Pokemon Conquest is known in Japan as Pokemon + Nobunaga's Ambition, forming an unlikely, if somewhat interesting mix of the loveable Pokemon with battles that actually took place in ancient Japan.
Pokemon Conquest sees you playing as a young warlord and his companion Pokemon, as they set out on a journey to recruit allies to strengthen and protect their growing kingdom and as with the Nobunaga's Ambition series, the characters you meet will be heavily influenced by ancient Japan. In the land of Ransei where the game is set, only the warriors and warlords can communicate with the Pokemon that inhabit the land, and legend has it, that if a single warrior were able to unite and conquer the seventeen regions of Ransei, a legendary Pokemon would awaken. You'll also be able to 'link' with some two hundred Pokemon, including many from the recent Pokemon Black and White games and Pikachu of course.
This whole linking thing looks a tad painful...
Linking with Pokemon seems to just be another word for catching them really and with an additional two hundred warriors and warlords to seek out, it's nice to see the Pokemon 'catch 'em all' mentality is still perfectly intact. There are two types of allies you'll come across on your journey warriors seem to be your bog-standard troops without any real special abilities, whereas warlords are special characters with their own types and special abilities, and can evolve if you use them in battle enough, basically like less cute, human Pokemon. Soon your army will be kind of like a Pokemon trainers' convention, as both warriors and warlords are able to link up with several creatures to create their own teams of sorts, but with one crucial difference they can only use one Pokemon at a time in battle, so they'll need to pick and choose the one that fits the bill best. Each of your recruits has their own preferences too, and matching them up with the best Pokemon for them will take a bit of trial and error the relationship each has with a specific Pokemon is rated as either bronze, silver or gold depending on how well they get on, and higher grades will result in more powerful pair-ups. If you can successfully match the perfect warrior/warlord and Pokemon together, you'll get a Perfect Link, which is basically a match made in heaven, and brings with it mega bonuses to their power.
The battles in Pokemon Conquest are slower paced and require much more thinking than you may be used to in the Pokemon games more along the lines of Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics games. Basically like a giant game of chess, you need to think carefully about which six warriors/warlords and their Pokemon you should send into battle and what strategies to use the position of your people is also paramount, as if you end up with your back to an enemy, you'll take extra damage. They don't completely disregard the Pokemon battles we're all familiar with though, as the strengths and weaknesses of the Pokemon types are still important for example, while you wouldn't like the results of sending your Psychic Pokemon to battle with a kingdom full of ghosts, sending your water Pokemon onto the battlefield of the firey kingdom of Ignis will probably fare better. Each of the more powerful warlords also has their own special ability to help change the tides in battle, with one of the more useful being Warlord Oichi, who can heal all the Pokemon in your army. It also may be entirely consequential, but the seventeen different kingdoms of Ransei are the same in number as Pokemon types so we'd hazard a guess that each kingdom may be themed around a specific elemental type, much like the Pokemon gyms in the Pokemon games.
So far there's no European release date for Pokemon Conquest yet, although it is hitting American DS' this week, so it should (hopefully) not be too far away so make sure you keep checking back. In the meantime, we did get a trailer for Pokemon Conquest from E3 a few weeks ago: