No Pokéballs allowed! Pokémon Conquest is feudal Japan with an Eevee twist. Set to prance its way onto the Nintendo DS in just over a week on June 18th, it was exciting to try out a game I'll be able to play at length shortly. I'm a big fan of TRPGs and of Pokémon, so combining the two together was incredibly fun.
A tactical RPG with the framework of the strengths and weaknesses of the Pokémon universe, players must perform a variety of tasks such as keeping flags away from enemies or holding them for a certain number of turns. Attacks can push their targets to a lower level if pokémon are sitting on an edge, so placement of your allies versus their foes is very important. Friendly fire is possible, and is not advantageous as in some TRPGs in building up experience.
Several pokémon moves require players to be in the correct position, an extra spot away or facing in the correct direction. Attacks performed from the side or back of the opposing pokémon do more damage and are more likely to land than a full frontal assault. Each pokémon has a special Warrior ability which can only be used once per encounter. These moves include everything from boosting stats temporarily, increased movement, healing, etc. Some pokémon also have innate start of turn abilities which will trigger automatically, such as a self-buff or a boost to pokémon around them -- Pichu is a great example of this, and will make a fine addition to most parties despite its initial low HP and power.
Each general may adopt a single pokémon. Relationships are important in the game, and all generals have three compatibility levels with their pokémon: bronze, the lowest, is capped around 30% loyalty; silver, the next best, is capped at around 50% loyalty. Each general has a "perfect match" pokémon that, if found, can be raised to 100% loyalty. Higher loyalty levels improve pokémon in a variety of ways, including increased strength and hit points. Increasing loyalty also upgrades the pokémons' warrior abilities: for example, my eevee moved from having a move +4 ability to have a move +6/attack x2 ability upon increasing its loyalty.
If the enemy is too strong, players hang back and train in the arenas. These are great places to improve loyalty and, perhaps more importantly, catch wild pokemon to potentially find the perfect match for your teammates. Having their one ideal pokemon with them allows your team's pokémon AND human leaders to evolve, a never-before-seen feature that sounds a little goofy but has been weaved into the universe in a seamless manner.
There is a limit to the number of turns players have in each encounter, so performing not only well but in a timely manner is important. And remember, this is ultimately a Pokémon game, so don't send your poor grass allies against a field of fire-wielding pokémaniacs.