When it comes to Pokemon spin-off games, I'm usually wary. Some of them, like "Pokemon Snap" or Pokemon Pinball," made great uses of the license, while others, especially more recently, have fallen into the avoid-at-all-costs category.
But then, a wild "Pokemon Conquest" appeared.
The game, a crossover between the Pokemon series and strategy series "Nobunaga's Ambition" (don't worry, I had never heard of it, either) brings the Pokemon universe to a feudal Japanese setting, where ninjas, samurais, and warring lords fight with their Pokemon to try to unite the land. Gone is the turn-based battle system fans know, replaced with a strategy grid-based tactic system, which, for many older Pokemon fans and fans of good old tactic RPGs, just might be the wet dream you never knew you had. It's a risky and surprising mixture that proves hard to put down, and thoroughly exciting to play.
Instead of leveling up your battle creatures like in other Pokemon games, in "Conquest" you grow each warrior's link with a Pokemon, which raises their stats. Each Pokemon and warrior also has a perfect link, andwith 200 warriors and 200 Pokemon, finding that perfect link for each warrior can be a task. I was a little disappointed to discover that the main character's perfect link is with the Eevee you start the game with (especially when other warriors have Articuno or Mewtwo), but you can chose to link with any of a warrior's compatible Pokemon, with fan favorites across every generation well represented.The game also mixes in elements of Risk.
Additionally, there is little level grinding -- to some a staple of the Pokemon games -- and I could challenge every subsequent warlord with almost no training needed in-between. I lost matches very rarely until the post-game, so it seems that the bulk of the challenge, and most of the rarer and stronger Pokemon, are reserved for that section. The game does include a multiplayer mode, but sadly it isn't online, opting for WIfi DLC missions as the only online support.
But, despite its few flaws, "Pokemon Conquest" is a gem of a game, and a surprising one, bringing Pokemon to a genre that I never considered and doing so refreshingly and successfully. And I mean, who can't get used to being called "Lord" all the time?
Willie Clark is a card-carrying Pokemon master; both figuratively and literally -- just see his Pokemon card wallet for proof. Make sure to follow him on Facebook or Twitter, where he will only invade your kingdom if you steal his Jigglypuff.