Review: ‘Pokémon Conquest’ for the Nintendo DS
With The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers hitting theaters this summer and together making approximately all of the money, conversations at work have gotten weird. I mean, I have definite opinions on which superhero would win against which superhero in a fight (for the record, Squirrel Girl always wins, Batman never loses and Rainbow Dash beats Starscream), but these people are not geeks. They could probably beat me up, they have social lives outside of the Internet and I’m pretty sure they’ve all lost their virginity.
Okay, I get it, comic books are cool now, although my coworkers were still so puzzled by Squirrel Girl that I was spared from having to explain who Rainbow Dash is. But when they debated whether Mewtwo or Professor X* was the better psychic, I almost lost it. I am not sure I like this brave new world where even Pokémon are cool.
The good news is, Pokémon Conquest for the Nintendo DS is not cool. How not cool? Well, it came out in June, I am reviewing it in September, and have almost wasted 200 words not talking about it. I guess I should start doing that.
Gameplay is part of why it has taken me forever to beat this game, and I am not talking about the difficulty. This is a turn based strategy game, not unlike the Fire Emblem series of games from Nintendo, of which the GameCube iteration is my entire previous experience with the genre that ended in a completed game.
Turn based strategy games are kind of like the caviar of video games; I hear it’s great if you can afford to develop the taste, but most of us don’t. These games require a high investment of time, and can be very frustrating, but that makes the final victory, if you can pull through, worth it.
That’s the major drawback of Pokemon Conquest’s gameplay; it’s not frustrating and can be breezed through very quickly. It didn’t take me two months to beat the game; it took me a couple hours and then two months to drag myself back to the game after I went on “vacation”.
It’s a watered down experience; it may be an acquired taste, but if you like sturgeon eggs enough you’re willing to pay full price for that stuff, you want real sturgeon eggs.
Over a year ago, I mentioned the story as one of the highlights of Pokémon: Black and White, which vastly improved previous generations’ simple “unknown challenger becomes contender” storylines. This is a perfectly fine storyline that appears in at least one Oscar Best Picture nominee a decade, but you do not really appreciate it in the Pokémon games until you play one that fails to make good on even this simple premise.
You are the new Warlord of a kingdom in the land of Ransei, which is divided into seventeen kingdoms, just like there are seventeen types of Pokémon. Essentially, you are the Normal type Warlord. If someone conquers all of Ransei, they will awaken a legendary Pokémon, the creator of Ransei, and the one who happens to look like the world map.
The Dragon type Warlord, Nobunaga, has decided he wants to conquer the world, but his little sister, Oichi, decides that would be bad, and that she would rather you do so instead. And that’s it. Conquer the world, one kingdom at a time using watered down strategy mechanics, that one Pokémon shows up and basically says hi before disappearing, and end game. Now here are some side quests, which I did not bother with.
The game comes with 200 Pokémon spread fairly evenly between generations; unfortunately, the list does not seem to be one compiled by furries. You can’t avoid a few animal based Pokémon, but a lot more are just random creatures. Each Pokémon featured has new artwork, which is actually pretty good.
I don’t know how you play your core Pokémon games, but over the years I’ve developed a system, almost by accident, where, by the time I reach the Elite Four, my team consists of my original starting Pokémon, a legendary ringer (usually the one on the box cover, but not always) and four random Pokémon who have managed to stick around. I get rather attached to those four guys. Usually, they aren’t the statistically most powerful, or the ones I would have picked out before the game started, but, due to the nature of the series, the ones that really do worm their way into your heart.
In Pokémon Conquest, each Pokémon is paired with a warrior, who must be recruited. Each warrior has one Pokémon that is their best match, but they almost never start off with their best match. So that you can find it yourself, adding replay value, I guess. What I know is that, since you can’t trade Pokémon between warriors, I ended up bringing an underpowered Darmanitan to the final showdown — not because I was lax on the grinding, but because I liked him. My warrior didn’t, so he wouldn’t allow the Pokémon to level up past a certain point.
So, boring story, boring gameplay and Pokémon you’re punished for caring for.