Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars Review (Vita)
Conception II is a dungeon crawler which incorporates randomized dungeons, a grind, an odd idea for “summoning” party members, personal interaction with potential mates, and more innuendo than a man named Richard Head investigating a series of rooster fights in the skyscraper section of Spear City. The Conception moniker comes from the game’s system for summoning extra dungeon help. Players team up with the game’s heroines to create Star Children by utilizing magical energy and softcore psychic pornography. From this ritual – and all of the blushing, heavy panting, and teenage awkwardness which occurs during it – adorable RPG classes are born.
Conception II’s plot is fairly simple, laughably geared towards 13 year old boys who do not understand normal relationships, and highly detrimental to its female characters. The game opens up as the protagonist walks onto the island he’s been transferred to for being a special power child and immediately saves two other special power children – one becomes his best bud and the other the default love interest. From there the three characters are rushed to initiation where, without surprise; the protagonist is special among specials by carrying an extremely high ether count. Since this ability conceivably grants him a 100% rate to father Star Children, he and the default love interest are immediately pressured into the act of Classmating; or the psychic sex ritual described last paragraph. This sets up the rest of the game quite nicely. Scenes are often rushed and the purpose of the rest of the cast is to make the protagonist look good as he destroys enemy spawning grounds called Dusk Circles.
The sheer amount of psychological stroking the game does for the player is staggering. The protagonist has the nickname God’s Gift and his focus is to make Star Children with beautiful teenage girls to save the world. The female heroines in the game mostly access their powers through the main character. Star Children and their usefulness are entirely decided upon by the main player. The entire game is meant to service the mental member of the player, who is constantly reminded of this fact. The hardest part about getting through Conception II is wading through the immature bullshit. An example occurs when two female characters are left alone with each other. After some cheerful banter the two decide to become friends. In itself this scene is cute and harmless, until one of the characters states they have to do their best for God’s Gift and the other girl blindly agrees. This type of hero worship pervades the game. Players must understand this is a male adolescent fantasy given visual form. Do not expect anything else.
Having said this, there are still some cute and charming scenes in the game, and the good translation and great graphical presentation certainly help in this regard. The dungeon graphics are well done, and the portraits stand out with high resolution and “breathing” animations make the portraits appear less static and more alive. When interacting with the female characters the game switches to a first person view and the characters to 3D models. These models are not bad and feature a wide range of expressions. Sadly, the amount of animation budget spent on breasts jiggling is staggering and omnipresent. The music is catchy and poppy, but the lyrics which can be understood are terrible and service the protagonist even more. The game keeps track of which scenes and cutscenes are unlocked, which is a neat feature. Cutscenes are viewable while static scenes have stills the player can look it. However, players may feel a sense of déjà vu as much of the game’s art and music direction seems to evoke a certain Atlus dungeon crawler.
Conception II’s attempts to balance its two foci of dungeon diving and social interaction by incorporating the social interaction functions into the summoning ritual described above. However, Conception II fails to balance these foci in the best way possible. The game appears to place a limit on interacting with the female characters, but this interaction is reset every time the player rests or comes back out of a dungeon. There is no real way to fail at interacting with the female characters, and once their mood is improved players can make stronger Star Children. More importantly, players will be able to see all of the events the game offers without having to resort to save states or multiple playthroughs. It can be argued such action cheapens the relationship values in the game, but honestly; the relationships are already cheapened by the game’s attitude. As a result, players have a wonderful anti-frustration feature which will allow them to see more of the game should they desire.
The Star Children’s initial function is to be taken into dungeons with the protagonist and one of the heroines. The kids make up the bulk of the game’s combat classes, and the Star Children’s stats and level cap is determined by the stats of the heroine used in the Star Child’s creation. There are a lot of classes to choose from as the game progresses. Items can also be utilized to increase the stats of the Star Children or unlock new classes. The result is players will consistently make new Star Children to replace previous versions whose levels cap off quickly. Once Star Children reach their maximum level, they can be freed to boost the town’s level and thus open up more features for the player. This is arguably the most fun found in the game. The character designs for the kids and their classes are plenty adorable, and using maxed out kids to raise the city’s level and thus open up new things to do is a good way to remove character clutter.
Dungeon crawling in Conception II hits a dull routine early in the game. However, there are a lot of great features Conception II implements. Players can permanently speed up battles with a fast-forward button. The game has a simple yet effective auto-battle. The best feature is akin to Nintendo’s Earthbound, wherein enemies are one hit KO’d if they do not present any challenge for the player. The best part about instantly defeating enemies is players still earn the experience. Taking fifteen minutes to run through a few weak dungeons to level up the tagalong heroine and any newly created Star Children becomes a great way to prep for later dungeons.
Actual combat is quick. Players position party members around an enemy in from the flank, front or rear. Each enemy has a different weak zone, and attacking an enemy’s weakness deals more damage. Attacking from another point does not do as much damage, but rather fills up the Chain Gauge which awards extra experience and other bonuses. On the other hand, few battles will be of any challenge for the player and using the game’s auto-battle feature throughout an entire dungeon is a valid strategy. Conception II is an easy game for a dungeon crawler.
Conception II is easily summed up by being the best example of a mediocre game. The dungeon grinding is made passable by the game’s quick combat and ability to bypass easy fights, and utilizing the Star Children to unlock features is a neat idea. Perhaps if Conception II added some challenge to combat and handled the plot and characters less like side attractions and more like plot and characters, the game could have been an above average title.