Review: Pokemon Conquest
by, 20th August 2012 at 02:56 AM (850 Views)
I like how The Pokemon Company aren't totally adverse to giving other game developers a shot with the Pokemon IP and it's disappointing when side series games get written off as just riding off the 'Pokemon' in the title in order to get sales. Like Pokemon Ranger, Pokemon Conquest is another example of this going right for the Pokemon Franchise.
I have no experience at all with tactical RPGs - and honestly without Pokemon in this game, I certainly wouldn't have given it a second look, but that's probably because Pokemon gives the game instant structure from my perspective as a player, I went into the game understanding the various type matchups, moves and abilities, as they all carry over from the main series games - making the transition to the tactical style easier because I'm already aware of the basic tactics. Or to put it another way, the use of Pokemon in this game removes a major stumbling block that I'd have otherwise had with the genre, Conquest has enough things that are familiar to make the new stuff an easier learning curve.
The battling is fun, when you get the perfect positioning of your Pokemon to both neutralise the opponent and attack away without getting hit yourself it's a great feeling. The standout battle for me was when I was trying to defend one of my kingdoms, one of the defend the flags I was in a terrible position - two far more powerful Pokemon left against Pokemon that were weak to them. But through what is probably just a fluke, I managed to block the two remaining Pokemon in an order that left one with a long distance attack in front, and the one with a short distance attack in the back, allowing the Pichu that I had which would have otherwise been killed in one shot by a ground attack to win just by standing still.
That example shows two of the main plus points of the game, the variety in the battle system that the different fields creates, requiring different tactics and secondly that the game allows you the chance to make come from behind wins in what would otherwise be easy defeats by taking advantage of the fields. When you get it wrong, things go wrong fairly quickly, which led to quite a lot of frustrating moments, but when it goes right they are some of the most rewarding wins in the Pokemon series.
A third plus point for the game is the extremely faithful translation, with no attempt to make the character names and places more English sounding, which avoids what no doubt would have been bad naming choices, and helps keep the tone and setting of the game in line with the original.
Finally, the art design is fantastic, both the characters (especially Oichi) and the different take on Pokemon designs. The different appearance of the Pokemon goes back to my initial point, I really like how TPC are confident enough to take a risk and give freedom to the developers. Gastly and Simipour are probably the standouts in terms of their designs, though I like how Blitzle and some others get away from their other portrayals as just being small and cute, though Igglybuff and Pichu show that there's plenty of cute left in the game. They aren't all winners, Pikachu's ugly design almost makes me prefer the abomination which is the round headed Pikachu... almost. If this game wasn't developed in Japan you'd write Bidoof off as being every Asian stereotype combined.
It isn't all good - the game's main storyline is frustratingly short, just as it starts to develop a bit of intrigue in the story between Nobunaga and Oichi, you're already at the final battle for the region. It took me about 10 hours to get through the storyline, which is disappointing. Balancing this out somewhat is the side stories after completion, which in a semi-New Game+ manner reset your stats/link without totally removing all your previous Pokemon. Time spent on the side stories has gotten me to double the playtime already, and there's plenty left to do. I just wish that more could have been put into the main game, it's anti-climactic as it stands.
My second major complaint is about an overpowered Axew.
The writers have totally ruined IriWell not just Axew, all the Dragon types in the post game story seem to have Dragon Rage, which does the same flat 40HP damage that the move does in the main series games - the problem being that they are plentiful in these post game storylines, but your Pokemon have all had their power levels reset, so that 40HP damage, which is a minor issue in the main storyline playthrough, suddenly can wipe out just about everything on the field, making for some extremely frustrating early battles.
That said, the difficulty jump isn't totally unmanageable, and with a bit of luck (saving mid battle is a useful feature) you can eventually get to a power level to get past it. The post-game is made better by the other castles being active, you can't just sit at your home base and grind the whole time, because you do get challenged without warning. It especially makes it important to balance power out, making the post-game tactics balance harder to achieve.
In summary, the game is a good take on Pokemon, was very enjoyable, a bit short - but with a strong post game to make up for it.
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