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Ben Hornsby Ben Hornsby
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Pokemon Conquest' doesn't let you skip battle animations

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I guess there's a certain novelty here if you're already the kind of guy who knows that a Charmander evolves at level 16 or that flying-type pokemon are invulnerable to ground-type attacks. Here are all the perfectly simple mechanics we fell in love with (?) in 1998, only now you have to move your Pikachu around on a grid and line him up to thundershock the Squirtle in question.

I guess most important is The Gimmick, which is that 'Pokemon Conquest' is a crossover between Pokemon and a mostly-Japanese series called 'Nobunaga's Ambition,' which is about a bunch of samurai trying to take over Japan. So, yes, 'Pokemon Conquest' takes place in an alternate feudal Japan where the samurai use Pokemon to do battle instead of swords.

It's kind of hard to believe this game got made. Not in the 'whoa that's so completely nuts!' way - that makes it sound interesting. Instead it's just weird that either the Koei guys or the Pokemon guys suggested this crossover, and then it's weird that anyone else agreed to it. This is the kind of thing that seems like it only would have gone ahead if it was sure to become a million-selling buzzword of a game, but 'Pokemon Conquest' is just kind of blandly boring. Here: Let me explain!

There are about 17 systems in place for rearranging your numbers, and not even one of them is intuitive. Pokemon don't level up; instead they get more powerful as they grow closer to their masters. This closeness is represented by a percentage, and some warriors can only hit like 30 percent max with some Pokemon, while others can hit 100 percent. A Pokemon's mood goes up and down over time, but you can use up any character's monthly action to make them happy. You can command the characters located in any of your given kingdoms to act on their own to train or make money during months they don't act, though this involves a bunch of incomprehensible symbols flashing by at the end of each round with no explanation. Some characters will only join up with you if you fulfill certain requirements found only on Gamefaqs.com. Each warrior that does join up with you comes with their own monster, but any given wild pokemon is assigned a percentage that indicates how likely they are to join up with any given character, so I guess there's a way to have each of your warriors possess multiple pokemon, and I bet you can even switch between them.

The hilarious (not hilarious) punchline is that you can ignore most of this stuff. You can take a group of maybe 10 of your strongest dudes and just march them right along, swapping them in and out according to the weaknesses of your enemies. You'll never once have to stop to train your army or to feed your Pokemon or to send your most charismatic warrior to the level two potion store or figure out how to increase the incomprehensible stats of your warriors that I'm pretty sure don't do anything, anyway.

And sometimes it's kind of fun, particularly if you're the type that'll be hit by the novelty. I mean, potions still heal 20 HP. Cute! And taking a bunch of your fire dudes to smash up the grass-type gym is charmingly ridiculous in the feudal Japan context.

But besides the ocean of superfluous numbers, every bit of this horrific interface is also trying to stop you from doing anything. When's the last time a loading screen bothered me before? I don't know either. Good luck navigating through the four layers of randomly-placed unintuitively-designed loading-screen-sandwiched menus to check your Jigglypuff's defense!

I really can't see this game doing anything but wearing thin by the time a few hours have passed. Playing a regular Pokemon game is much more rewarding over time, and I can't imagine the 'Nobunaga's Revenge' games allow you to ignore so many of their complexities. So who is this for? We don't like brand loyalty, over here.

Long live The Maine Edge!

1 star our of 4

Ben Hornsby is going to buy one of those dumb new huge 3DSes and play Pokemon White 2' all night, baby.

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