Did anybody else know about Pokemon Conquest? I sure didn't, so when I got wind of it while looking up information on the new Pokemon Black 2 and Pokemon White 2 games, I was quite surprised.
Pokemon Conquest was released on the DS on June 19th 2012, and is a spin-off on the Pokemon franchise. It's based off of Pokemon, with a mix of the Japanese game Nobunaga's Ambition, and all comes together for a turn based strategy game of fighting. It's not a 3DS game, but like any other DS game you can play it on your 3DS with no problems. There aren't any special features for playing on 3DS either, so don't bother looking. At the end of the day, the game doesn't need the 3D features anyway.
Unfortunately, if you live in NY, odds are your local store didn't get this game in until Wednesday due to a shipping error. Most of the Gamestops in my area didn't.
When you load this game for the first time, you're thrown right into the old Pokemon nostalgia of being asked if you're a boy or a girl. I selected being a boy, obviously, and the pokemon joining you is predetermined as Eevee. If you chose the girl, I assume you begin the game with Jigglypuff, as the female character joins you anyway. Unlike other Pokemon games, there are no professors, no overconfident parents, and there is a distinct Risk-style plot outlined already. You begin the game in the kingdom of Aurora, as it's new Warlord. The aim of the game is to conquer other kingdoms, and unite the land, to bring about the legendary pokemon. There will be people trying to do the same, of course, and it won't be easy as the kingdoms do fight back. Have no fear though- you're not in Kanto anymore.
You're thrown into easy battles at first, selecting your team of Pokemon based on your allies. Other pokemon elements take a place in this game, so have your type chart ready as you can do super effective moves as well as have some tough battles ahead of you. You go into battle equipping one item, rather than an entire bag, and the aim of each battle is to ultimately knock out all of the opposing pokemon, but some stages have other goals as well.
Instead of normal 1 on 1 battling, Pokemon Conquest revives a battling system a few people may be familiar with. If you've ever played Vandal Hearts or Fire Emblem, you know what I mean. You have a grid of squares, you move your pokemon throughout your turn, and either make them attack or wait where they are. You can see where each Pokemon, yours and your opponents, is able to move, and if you check the details you can see their range of attack. Each pokemon can move and attack, so you need to plan accordingly. While the battles will be short at first, rest assured they become longer as you progress through the game.
There's no catching pokemon early on, so you'll have to tough it out with Eevee, Jigglypuff, and a few allies for the first few battles. You do get the option roughly 4-5 wins in, so sit tight until then. When you get to that point, the system is set to making links- you go right next to the pokemon, select "link" from the menu choices, and play a timing mini-game very briefly. To recruit pokemon with their trainers, you need to fulfill a certain condition, like beating them within the first 4 turns of the battle, or finishing them with a super-effective move. Additionally, Nintendo and a few other sources have provided passwords (It's not cheating, there is an input option on the main menu) to make certain Pokemon appear for battling, but only one time per password! There's one included in the game for Dratini, as well as a few others on the Pokemon Conquest website, but ultimately you could always visit the reliable Gamefaqs.com for other passwords.
At first glance, this seems like the type of game older Pokemon players would enjoy, as the levels require far more strategy than your standard Pokemon game. Some pokemon can, and should, attack on-field objects. Some of the attacks deal damage to an adjacent square, while others can target two squares in a direction, while others can target multiple squares. Like the more recent pokemon games, certain pokemon have built-in abilities to aid you, or cause you grief if you're against it. Lastly, this isn't such a narrow game- out of the 600+ Pokemon we know about, it appears that over 200 appear in the game. My "I grew up in the 90s" sense is tingling- I remember being completely in awe at 150 Pokemon. Also, the pokemon come from all 5 generations of Pokemon gaming (Red/Blue/Yellow, Gold/Silver/Crystal, Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald, Diamond/Pearl/Platinum, and Black/White) so it is a brand-new game concept.
If nothing else, this IS the Pokemon Spin-off that we've been waiting for. I say give it a shot, you might enjoy it!