If Pokémon Black and White are the most Western of Pokémon titles, Pokémon Conquest is certainly the most Eastern. So much so that the series has somehow hit a time paradox and fused with feudal Japan. Itís a strange move for the otherwise predictable Nintendo franchise, especially where a number of aesthetic elements were lifted straight out of Tecmo Koeiís Nobunagaís Ambition series, but somehow it makes for a truly engaging and unique tactical RPG experience. Forget chocolate and peanut butter as this pairing is more like chocolate and fried onions — random and
strange in all the right ways.
Naturally, the game takes the standard modus operandi of Pokémon and contorts it to form fit this interpretation of feudal Japan wherever possible. Your goal is the unification of the Ransei Region through battling and befriending two hundred similar Warriors, Warlords, and Pokémon. The hope is that your forces will eventually be strong enough to stand against a similar takeover of the region by the forces of the infamous Nobunaga Oda and his badass Pokémon. While marching your troops from conquered castle to conquered castle, you can develop their links with their Pokémon, find wild Pokémon to add to their arsenal, and possibly create a perfect link between a specific officer and particular Pokémon.
Interestingly enough, the game both adapts and abandons several of the Pokémon gameplay systems weíve become accustomed to. Each Pokémon on the field has a trainer, but there are no Pokéballs involved and the standard four attack set has been chopped down to one upgradable attack. In some manners combat itself appears more simplistic, but the scope of gameplay has actually widened to that of a strategy title. Thankfully, like a traditional Pokémon game, the end of the main quest doesnít mean the end of play as there are always more evolutions to occur, more rematches, and even downloadable episodes to keep you engaged. Itís the most original Pokémon title to come out in years, and quite possibly our favourite at RPGamer.
Finishing out the category are two titles from Atlus USA. Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time, a remake of the fourth game in the series, took second place. This is the first time this particular release hit North America shores and it did so with a bang. Breathing a little extra life into the PSP, it brings the very unique Growlanser battle system together with a story that unites mankind and angels in a battle for the fate of the world. Following right behind is the DS release Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2. A sequel to the 2009 RPGamer favorite, Devil Survivor 2 brings back more tactical RPG love in the SMT world. Together these two RPGs show that Atlus is staying at the top of the game in the handheld arena.
by Trent Seely, Michael A. Cunningham