Game Diary: Tokyo Jungle and Pokemon Conquest

October 9, 2012

As I write this, I’m sitting on a flight back from a friend’s wedding in Vegas trying to figure out if I’ll have enough time to make it to Gamestop on the way home from the airport to get Pokemon Black/White 2 before the store closes.

Ten years have passed since I first encountered and subsequently became hooked on the series, and the only thing that could stop me from cashing in my day-one purchase is an incredibly important event, like a friend’s wedding (which was super fun, fabulous and beautiful, by the way). I think the impulse to buy a Black/White 2 on day one is more out of tradition and not as much because I’m expecting incredibly revolutionary things from it.

This last week was a scramble to keep the normal day-to-day activities going while I did some last-minute prep for this trip. As a result, I haven’t gotten to spend as nearly as much time with Tokyo Jungle as I’d’ve wanted, although I have played through a good two centuries’ worth of in-game time. So I’ve been revisiting some iOS games on my phone and trawling for Streetpass tags in airports and casinos (three tags total, for the record), playing a couple more chapters of Kid Icarus and falling deep into Pokemon Conquest, which was an unexpected gift. So I’m gonna talk about that because it’s what I’ve played most and since I’ve got 10 years of experience, it’ll be easy to go on about. Really, I’m an adult. I swear.

I think I voice the general gamers’ reaction to Pokemon Conquest here: I really did not expect it to be so entertaining. And, like most games in the Pokemon series, strategies can be surface-level or run very deep as you decide how to manage your army and how to develop what a few hours in becomes roughly 50 warlords and their Pokemon. I’ve never played a Nobunaga game, which is the other half of the cross-over in this title, but not knowing the backstory is ok.

The typical Poke-verse language is tweaked for feudal Japan. Trainers become warlords, your team becomes castles and instead of striving for badges and championship titles, you fight for ownership of castles. Pokemon are still partners in friendship and crime, and somehow The Pokemon Co. gets away in yet another game without directly labeling Pokemon as weapons, even though, well, they basically are. Bravo.

If you stick to the basic rules of knowing your type advantages/disadvantages and developing a team rather than creating just one super-Pokemon, then Pokemon Conquest isn’t that difficult. I’ve had a couple of mis-steps where my army started to falter, but these situations were quickly remedied with items or deploying the right abilities at the right time. That’s not to say it’s easy; the AI is pretty sharp. Like in any well-constructed strategy RPG, it does take skill and a considerable amount of clever planning to really lay the hurt on and defeat the opposing army quickly.

From what I’ve played so far, Pokemon Conquest has some interesting tweaks on the traditional back-and-forth turn-based play. The changes result from a Pokemon’s evolution are much more pronounced—not just in appearances, stats and abilities, but a Pokemon’s movement and the range of their attack and have a real impact on how your team functions together. I had a Charmander that evolved into Charmeleon, and its Ember changed to Fire Fang, the former of which is ranged and the latter is melee. A similar detraction in range occurred with Ralts became Kirlia, which was particularly problematic because that additional square of space had allowed it to stay safely out of striking distance from heavyweight enemies that can defeat it in one or two hits.

Finally, the movement and ranged attacks are more interesting and believable. I’m not saying the main game series should implement a grid into its turn-based system. Personally, I despise RPGs that do that because I usually find it to be an annoyance rather something that actually deepens the gameplay and strategy and subsequently, my experience. Thundershock, Vine Whip and Headbutt all have different areas of effect that more closely mirror where the range of the attack would fall.

I think what intrigues me most about Conquest is how it effectively adapts the series to a very similar yet new style of gameplay. The dialogue and story are as silly and flimsy as always but I’ve never played Pokemon games for that to begin with (and I really fear for the people who do). It’s all about a horrendously deep system that you can either scratch the surface on or really push and exploit to your benefit. Of course, Conquest doesn’t seem to have anything as nitty-gritty, time-consuming or soul-sucking as training for EVs/IVs, etc., but I’m really all right with that. If you like SRPGs and have been a long-time fan of the series, I recommend picking it up.

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