The Pokémon franchise is no stranger to spin-off games like Pokémon Snap (and better-late-than-never sequel New Pokémon Snap), the Mystery Dungeon series, and the battle simulator that is the Stadium games. One game in particular is my personal favorite, and I’d consider it a lost gem for Nintendo DS: Pokémon Conquest, developed by Koei Tecmo as a crossover with the Nobunaga’s Ambition series.
The game launched in 2012, just as Nintendo 3DS was starting to somewhat gain momentum, but it received a mostly positive critical and fan reception. Pokémon Conquest introduced me to tactical RPGs (also called strategy RPGs). If it weren’t for this game, I probably would have ignored games like Fire Emblem and XCOM. And the format of this particular game is so good that Nintendo and Koei Tecmo should really revive it on Nintendo Switch.
Conquering the Ransei Region in Pokémon Conquest
Pokémon Conquest was released during the 5th generation of the franchise, and its in-game Pokedex included 200 Pokémon across the five generations (arguably quite restrictive considering the total 649 unique creatures available in the series at that point). Throughout the game, you command an army of warlords and their Pokémon partners.
Most of the mechanics from the main Pokémon series are retained or altered to fit the world of Nobunaga’s Ambition. For example, Pokémon evolution is determined by the connection between the master and the Pokémon. These are called Links and boost the stats of the critter by a large margin depending on the percentage. Warlords themselves can also evolve, which causes their appearance to change and improves the movement speed of their partner. This can only be achieved if you choose a suitable Pokémon and raise their Link level to an incredibly high percentage.
Looking at it another, more Nintendo-centric way, Pokémon Conquest might feel like if Fire Emblem and Pokémon had a baby. The battlefields are a lot smaller than Fire Emblem‘s, especially in the earlier sections of the game. Although this restricts your movement, it requires a high level of strategy when maneuvering the environments. I wouldn’t describe the game as difficult, but the endgame content tends to become challenging if you’re unprepared. The final area is easily the most tricky, as you face none other than a Shiny Rayquaza!
I love the game and easily think it’s underrated. Once you wrap up the main story, 36 postgame stories become available to the player. Each one has its own unique narrative with different warlords as the protagonist. If you’re resourceful with your armies and do a decent chunk of grinding, you could finish the story in about 15-20 hours. However, according to HowLongToBeat.com estimate, a full 100% playthrough can take over 100 hours to finish. That doesn’t surprise me, as the content is enriching and provides you with plenty to do.
In search of a new Conquest
Pokémon Conquest is such an effective crossover that I have craved a sequel or even another Nintendo property to receive the same treatment. There are plenty of candidates, like Mario (see Mario + Rabbids) or even Splatoon. However, the franchise that I’ve always thought of for this is The Legend of Zelda. My idea would be to do something similar to Pokémon Conquest but, obviously, place characters from The Legend of Zelda onto the battlefield.
The story could go in multiple directions, but I have a pretty interesting idea if I say so myself. A dimensional rift could open that transports the warlords of Nobunaga’s Ambition to the land of Hyrule. Ganondorf and Nobunaga could team up in an effort to conquer Hyrule, while Link and the gang team up with those who want to stop both antagonists. Gameplay-wise, it would stay the same and bring mechanics across from The Legend of Zelda, such as dungeons, fairies, items, and puzzles. There could also be a wide variety of locations such as Zora’s Domain, Death Mountain, Hyrule Castle, and much more.
If the game embraced the Zelda canon as Hyrule Warriors (also developed by Koei Tecmo) does, it would allow for an absurd amount of Zelda references and characters. I’d love to play through some content from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (the best game ever made) where we battle against Skull Kid whose also teamed up with the main antagonists. The idea of this fills me with giddiness, and hope springs eternal that we might see more collaborations like this next year.
Pokémon Conquest is a great spin-off game that I’ve spent a huge amount of time with. Unfortunately, the game can easily sell for premium as not many copies were made, especially in the U.K. If someone from Nintendo is reading this, get Eiji Aonuma on the phone and ask him to get the ball rolling on a similar game for the Zelda franchise. Or if not, I’d be happy with a sequel to Pokémon Conquest or even a Nintendo Switch port with improved visuals.