POCKET KINGDOM | Players: 1- ~| Release: 2004 | Developer: SEGA

Oh go on then..own it

After the debacles that were Sonic-N and Virtua Tennis, it was about time SEGA redeemed themselves and showed the world that they haven't totally lost their touch yet. They came up with Pocket Kingdom, a MMORPG. Or as SEGA likes to call it: 'The world's 1st massively multiplayer online mobile game'. Pocket kingdom's gameplay revolves around building up an army, searching 'the world' and attacking everything and everyone you come across to steal their 'loot'.

It's a simple idea, but thankfully SEGA did a good job making it more interesting than it sounds.
You start with basicly nothing. You have no army, just a little cash to buy some units and some basic weaponry. The way you supply your units is quite unusual. Instead of buying some equipment from a standard selection of blades, swords, bows etc. you have to create weaponry yourself. This is both a good and a bad thing. By selecting different molds (Blade, Sword, Staff, Armor etc) ore (Copper, Chrome, Silver etc.) and -if you got them- any special items (such as jewels) you can create loads of different equipment. A novel feature, but the downside of it is that -should a unit of your party get killed- its weapon is gone as well.

It's quite annoying having to rebuilt weapons every time, especially because of the high chance of failure when you create new ones; when you've selected the items you want to combine, a screen shows the chances of success, but the actual chances of failure are actually far higher, leaving you empty handed a lot of times. (The items you used will automaticly be destroyed as well).

As far as units go, you haven't got much choice, just two units (A soldier and a Noble) are selectable. Thankfully, this amount gets bigger and bigger during the game, untill you've got quite an impressive amount of units ranging from archers to dragons. After you've build up an army of up to four units you're ready to 'own the world'. You travel from area to area, searching for NPC bases/castles to attack. When your units have found a location, it's possible to send your army straight into battle to 'loot' the place.

Each battle is seen from the side, with your army on the left and the CPU army on the right.
After a bit of (usually terrible) war-talk the battle starts. It's these battles that I was disappointed by the most. They're totally uninteractive and don't require a single key press to complete; everything is done by the units themselves. Damn.

Apart from being quite boring because you have no influence on the fight, this system can also be very annoying when you see your units being slaughtered to death, because they walk around aimlessly, refusing to deliver a single blow. One of the earlier fights has you fighting against a couple of knife-throwing thiefs, in which your units will keeping walking straight into the barrage of knives. Pretty damn infuriating to see, I can tell you.

My luxury base.
Not too shabby, eh?
An overview of your
army. Select units and

The further you progress in the game, the more options, units, maps and equipment becomes available. The total selection of foes is quite impressive, featuring undeads, harpies, trolls, gargoyles, golems and many, many others. Which enemies you fight depends on the map and is unknown untill you enter the actual battle. However, by letting your units 'scout' an area you'll get vital information like the total strenght of the defense, giving you at least some idea of what you can expect. By searching the maps, you'll also occasionaly find a quest. Completing quests will earn you even more special items.

Because you aren't the only party in the 'world' out to loot, you should beware of enemy armies attacking your base. If you leave your base undefended, the enemy will come around and 'loot' money and items from you! Because you can build up and 'own' up to 8 different armies, it's best to have a good one defending your base later on; you don't want that super-rare weapon nicked while you're out in battle, now do you?

The game gets pretty tough quite early on (the second castle is WAY too hard), making it necessary to 'upgrade' your units. Your soldiers can become warriors, your nobles can become priests etc. This is done by using emblems. Emblems can be created in the lab by combining several items, which are different for each class.

The problem with this 'ranking up' feature is that the items needed to create an emblem aren't listed anywhere in the manual (they can, thankfully be found at fansites, like this one). A bit of 'mixing about' with items, trying to find the right formula would've been fun, but when there's over 30 different emblems, each using three different items (four if you count the 'rank up' mold, which must be used by default) it really ain't.

An axe is the face isn't a
nice way to greet people
This dragon looked menacing
,but got 'owned' big time.

If you got successful in the single player game, you might want to 'test your might' against other players. Sadly, there's no Bluetooth option (which would've been quite nice, wouldn't it?), but by creating an N-GAGE Arena account and logging onto the Pocket Kingdom server (you'll need a GPRS account) you'll be able take on thousands of other P.K. players. To make it all a little more interesting, you can exchange items with other users, enter contests and 'pimp' your base. (god I hate to say that). The multiplayer mode is a great addition and another feather in SEGA's online gaming pioneering cap.

I'd like to conclude this review with a couple of other points of note. First, the music. I was pretty unimpressed (to say the least) with both Sonic-N and Virtua Tennis their music, but I'm happy to say SEGA got it right this time. P.K.'s tracks sound exactly like the tunes used in the Shining Force games, which -I'll think you agree- were pretty damn good. There isn't too much variation but it's decent enough selection overall.

There's also a couple of things I didn't like in P.K. , which keep it from being a classic (and receiving a 90%+ score). One of the most annoying things in P.K. is the slow interface. Because P.K. is all about looting, you're left with a whole slew of items every time you invade an area or win a fight. To make some more money it's best to sell most of these items, most of them are useless, anyway. Now, why should this selling take ages? You can only sell items one at a time, which means you'll have to press the '5' button over and over again to get rid of all your lutes and harps. Quite annoying, really. Another example of the slow overall pace are the loading screens, which happen just a little too often for my liking.

Finally, why did they have to ruin all the speech and text with 'popular' talk? Phrases like 'I'll do you like I did your mum' , 'Pimping ain't easy, but it's necessary' and 'This one is for my homies' are just plain terrible and really should remain in those crappy 'pimping/gangsta/whatever E.A. games, where they belong. A sad sign of the times, I'm afraid.

Anyway, apart from these niggles, I liked Pocket Kingdom, so if you got an N-GAGE it's a worthy purchase, even if you don't plan to get online with it.

Alex Kidd's Mt. Kave?!?
The 'lab'; use it to combine
and create important items.


 Not overly impressive but not too bad, really.

Decent enough BGM but a lack of good SFX.

A good single player mode and an even better multiplayer mode.
A little samey in places. The slow pace slightly ruins the game's flow.
Bad shopping system. Terrible 'popular' talk.

Loads of enemies, bases, quests and other stuff, all to be found.

Graphics 7
Sound 7
Gameplay 8
Value 8
Overall 78



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