My reaction towards any spinoffs of the Pokémon main series will always be one of intense suspicion and caution. After all, I’ve stuck with the main series since Pokémon Red and Blue and their consistent ability to entertain and engage me means that the main-series games have never disappointed me. Spinoffs in general, however, tend to take the concept and twist it into disrepair until there’s nothing but contempt left for the title. Regardless of the positive reviews I’ve read about it, my mistrust of Pokémon Conquest was at an all-time high when I began to play it. I’d even go as far to say say that the positive reviews served to increase my reservations about it, since I couldn’t accept that playing around with the Pokémon concept could result in anything but failure. I didn’t wholeheartedly enjoy the original, either. After being so disappointed, I thought it productive to jot down a few ideas that would result in Pokémon Conquest 2 being an altogether better title.
Yes, warriors all over the Ransei region are fighting for the chance to encounter the legendary Pokémon Arceus in order to be bequeathed with absolute power for unifying the region, but why are there Pokémon here in the first place? No matter which way you look at it, the presence of Pokémon in the game feels entirely superfluous, unnecessary even. Why is it the norm for warriors to have a Pokémon sidekick in the first place? Why aren’t battles fought in the way that all conflicts were settled in feudal times? It is questions like these that make it hard for me to take the game seriously.
The lack of justification for the Pokémon being there in the first place and the game’s failure to explain why they act as weapons of war instead of actual weapons is less than acceptable. The fact that ‘Pokémon’ is in the title simply isn’t enough of a reason for them to be there, and it shows a distinct lack of depth in the storyline and the game in general that these kinds of gaps in the fictional history of the Ransei region and its people aren’t filled with more substantial explanations. Pokémon Conquest 2, should one ever be created, would need to address these creative shortcomings and provide a sensible and believable account of the reason why Pokémon are used as instruments of war. One way this could be achieved is the creation of a prequel to the game, or at least a regular sequel that presents us with some delightfully stylised flashbacks (perhaps in black and white for maximum effect) that explain how the Pokémon came to be involved with these warriors and warlords in the first place.
Perhaps fans of Pokémon were blinded by their love for the series (I know I often am), but simply expecting players to gloss over the unexplained inclusion of Pokémon in what is essentially a strategic war simulation with its claws taken out is somewhat presumptuous.
Plan Heavy, Battle light
At the heart of Pokémon Conquest’s appeal is its union of the two vastly contrasting battle styles of light-hearted, creature-based conflict and real-time, wartime-centric strategy and planning. It seems that in the fusing of the two game’s styles of play, however, that the developers have neglected to properly strike the balance between the intricate and time-consuming strategy of battle preparation/development and the comparatively shallow and overly-simplistic nature of the battles themselves. When it comes down to it, the painstaking preparation, logical thought and general complexity of the process that must be followed to assemble your own people-with-Pokémon army seems to be too much of a stark contrast to remarkably basic battle mechanics that follow this long-term groundwork.
Specifically, I’m talking about the turn-based nature of it all, which is of course indicative of both of the game styles that this game is based on, but is altogether quite repetitive. Each Pokémon has a single move, and your victory is based simply upon the level of your creatures, a few environmental factors such as your physical position in the battle, and your Pokémon’s type relative to that of your opponent’s. Pokémon Conquest 2 needs a little more complexity during battle, such as the ability to choose between moves by learning new ones as you develop your Pokémon like in the original games.
Less Nobunga, More Pokémon
Considering the fact that the game is a Pokémon spin-off, it seem seems odd that so much of the original features of Pokémon and its strategy have been sacrificed to make room for the wartime strategy elements that should merely be a frame around which Pokémon’s brilliant features can be built and developed. I understand the need for the sacrifice of some of Pokémon’s original features, otherwise we’d just be dealing with another main-series game and wouldn’t have any room for features that make it a spin-off.
Pokémon Conquest 2 would be an altogether more enjoyable experience, however, if more elements of the Pokémon battle mechanic were to remain. While the type of your Pokémon plays a role in your efficacy during battle, I wouldn’t mind seeing elements such as the ability to learn more moves (as mentioned above) and the ability to capture and train your Pokémon, which is essentially what the whole sentiment of Pokémon is based on. I feel that there simply isn’t enough time spent nurturing and raising any one single Pokémon and therefore the creatures are reduced to nothing more than living tools of war; merely weapons with consciousness and a cute, approachable, and collectible appearance.
Return to Familiarity
How about we move away from the Ransei region where the action took place in the original and set Pokemon Conquest 2 in a familiar region? Pokémon fans that are disillusioned about the relative lack of Pokémon spirit in the original would be more than happy to learn that the sequel will be based in the Johto, Kanto, Sinnoh, Hoenn or Unova regions. Returning to familiar surroundings would strengthen the link to the main-series of games as well as giving the creators of the game the opportunity to explain why Pokémon had become the companions/weapons of feudal warlords in their effort to conquer the Ransei region. Creative depth and familiar surroundings? I’ll take one of those to go.