Pokemon Conquest Gets an F- in History

By Chalkey Horenstein, Editor In Chief

Like many American gamers, I picked up a copy of Pokémon Conquest largely because of the Pokémon part, having little to no knowledge about the other half of the crossover, Nobunaga’s Ambition. Nor did I know anything about the titular character, Oda Nobunaga, who pursued conquest and unification of Japan in the Sengoku period. In order to feel somewhat informed about what I had just played, I looked up a few basic facts — and was both relieved and disappointed to find that the game itself was just as misinformed about Japanese history (and Pokémon history) as I was.

Based on the names, Pokémon Conquest is designed to seem based on the Sengoku period of Japan. Without going into a full blown history lesson, it was a time of a lot of war; and while many did not give up their kingdoms as easily as those in Pokémon Conquest do, loyalties were built over said wars and other politics, and eventually this would lead to the unification of Japan. Oba Nobunaga, the series’ antagonist, is known in both actual history and in Pokémon Conquest as someone who is a driving force for a while. 

Nobunaga does not succeed in conquering and unifying Japan in either case, though in the actual history he died from betrayal at the hand of Akechi Mitsuhide. Toyotomi Hideyoshi later rose to take his place, actually unified Japan, and then died, with Tokugawa Ieyasu eventually ruling. In the game, however, there is no betrayal; the final battle has Ieyasu, Mitsuhide and Hideyoshi all loyal to Nobunaga, and Nobunaga doesn’t die. Additionally, the fact that Ieyasu started as a prisoner of the Oda clan is not referenced at all. From what I’ve played of the side episodes so far and read online, neither the betrayal nor the inheritance of the nation take place at all; the player’s decision to let each nation rule itself seems to stand in the end, before anyone in Nobunaga’s clan gets any chance at ruling. 

In addition to real history, the game sort of botches Pokémon continuity as well. Several easter eggs reference “the other regions” that have Pokémon carried around in spheres — which not only anachronistically contradicts the feudal system setting of this time period, but also the fact that the terminology of “nations” and “regions” is inconsistent. In the other games, Kanto, Johto, Sinnoh, Hoenn, and Unova are “regions,” while the whole of the world in which the games take place is the “nation.” Conversely, the Ransei region of Pokémon Conquest has seventeen nations within it. Additionally, if we are to believe this is based on the Sengoku period of Japan, then the main player and Nobunaga are striving to take over all of Japan, while it is commonly believed that each other pokemon game’s region is a part of Japan. Oh, and there’s also the extremely obvious “what the hell is Mewtwo doing here” moment, where you realize that not only is Mewtwo allegedly one of a kind, but that somehow some unknown person in-game also managed to acquire the technology to bring him here.

Then there’s the stupidly obvious anachronism stew, like the existence of blimps, top hats, glasses, power plants, security cameras, and automated cranes. But we’re not even going to bother there.

But at least the game is true to the Nobunaga’s Ambition series, right? It still has that going for it, right? Well, sort of. Nobunaga’s actually a playable character right off the bat in the other series, which directly contradicts his role as an antagonist of this game. Not only that, but Nobunaga’s Ambition is a more complex game, with other necessities besides conquering land; players have to please the peasants to prevent riots, and sustain the economy to keep the obtained lands fruitful.

The game isn’t entirely off, though. All of the names are references to real people, and many of the warlords look at least somewhat similar to their real-life counterparts. Nobunaga, Tokugawa, and Uesugi Kenshin have very similar facial structures, and some carry the same outfits and family crests as their real-life counterparts (though occasionally a poke-ball replaces a notable other image). Date Masamune is probably my favorite here, because he is portrayed as a teenager in Pokémon Conquest and, in real life, is a good thirty years younger than Nobunaga, which puts him at approximately the right age for consistency there. Not only that, but his hair swoops over his right eye, making it unseen — which I choose to believe is a nod to the fact that he lost his right eye in childhood. Oichi, Nobunaga’s sister (a plot twist totally spoiled if you do know the history) is probably the biggest exception, looking nothing alike in terms of hair color, eyes, or body shape. She’s also extraordinarly whiny compared to her strong-willed real-life counter part.

Above all, the one thing Pokémon Conquest keeps consistent with previous Nobunaga’s Ambition is its own reputation for historical accuracy and intrigue. Games by the development team Koei in general are known for about 30-40% accuracy; the facts aren’t always correct, but the games give enough names to make it easy to look things up later, once you’ve gotten hooked. And much like other crossover games, the game gives you just enough of a taste of things you haven’t seen/tried yet to make you curious. It almost seems like, in many cases, the point of a crossover game is never to get things perfect, but just to attract interest using things you already enjoy as a branching off. 

So don’t get me wrong — none of this is a strike against the game. Pokémon Conquest is a stupidly addicting game if you’re into strategy games, and it’s actually a little more strategic than the average Pokémon combat system, despite each Pokémon only getting one move. But if you’re hoping to culture yourself or gain any sort of appreciation for the past, look elsewhere. Or, better yet, play the game, and just double check when you think you’re learning something. I’m sure the developers would still pat themselves on the back if they at least got you to look up what was right or wrong about the characters.

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