- Consistent Value
- Awkward Underage Romance
When the world is under siege by endless hordes of monsters, you can bet that our heroes will do the deed that needs to be done – perform simulated intercourse and send their children after them. Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars is the bizarre JRPG from developer Spike Chunsoft, and published by ATLUS in the US. What Conception II has in tongue-in-cheek premise and fair execution, it loses in substance, and an ability to keep an interesting experience going for it’s respectable length.
The player arrives in a seemingly random town and comes to the rescue of an incompetent guy and a confused girl, both of which are headed towards the same cliche anime school. Told in two dimensional cutscenes fitted with actually unsettling movement to the characters (ie a slight swaying, very exaggerated breathing, and aggressive, totally superfluous breast physics), the characters discover that the player is indeed God’s Gift, aka the one destined by the Star God to defeat and seal the game’s antagonist’s dusk energy.
The first few hours of the game, it makes sure to beat that dead horse as sternly as possible. Each line of dialogue, in between creepy sexual comments targeted towards the female cast members, who all fit obvious anime stereotypes, the game bombards you with facts about the world in a totally unorganized manner not much different than Uncle’s “One More Thing” stuck in a seemingly endless loop of tiresome information. The game likes to comment on how important each phrase apparently is, but it is a good hour and a half before you actually get to act on these half baked tutorials, much after every advance tactic has been spewed forth. It’s a lot like taking a chess newbie, teaching him the background and all advance tactics of chess via cue cards and quick one liners, and then throwing him into the game.
While none of the mechanics are difficult to master, I spent a good enough deal of time going back and refreshing my memory on a handful of the game’s less intuitive mechanics. The delivery of all of the game’s backstory and game mechanics felt sloppy enough to complain about and, in fact, seems to be a running theme in recent JRPGs. The whole genre could use an overhaul in the tutorial process.
A good nickname for Conception II would be “Persona Wannabe”. While it’s a JRPG, the main goal of the game feels more like social bonding between characters at the school. Meeting with female characters increases your bond level which allows you to become stronger as a team and also to create Star Children, the game’s focal mechanic. Since the only playable characters are female, though, it makes meeting up with the other characters a drag and worth skipping. Each meetup feels like a cheesy anime scene completely unrelated to anything happening in the world, such as a ghost floating about, or a discussion on breast size. It comes across more like a sleazy dating simulation.
Star children are the goal of Conception II‘s world and the focal point of the story. Sort of like a mix between traditional Final Fantasy job classes and Pokemon. Performing the “Classmating” ritual at the game’s church, aka baring witness to a metaphor for underage sex, a small chibi individual is produced. Creating three of these children allows you to build a team which you can mix and match with any of the minions you’ve spawned doing the implied devil deed. Creating a team of clerics that can heal massive amounts of health, or a mix and matched team of swordsman and magicians can make powerful combo attacks. The type of star children that can be created vary with each female partner, so mixing and matching becomes fun. Each star child comes with individual stats and equipment that can be tailored via the in game shop. And while each team is comprised of three different star children, they fight as one in battle. This psuedo-innovative mechanic is easily the game’s best aspect.
Gameplay is Conception II‘s weakest draw. It’s simplistic, and it felt like it began to drag after just 10 hours of play. Monsters are encountered in Labrynths, all of which seem to have no noticeable changes in style between them other than layout colors and the creatures that dwell within them. Battles take place on a sort of odd circular battle plain, in which the player can maneuver around enemy units to hit them in weak spots, such as their back or sides. Likewise players can use this mechanic to enter chain combos on enemies charging their attacks. The issue lies with how little it actually turns out you can do with these mechanics.
Battles become a chore one after the other. It does ease this by adding the great ability to automatically defeat units that are significantly weaker than you without initiating combat, as well as the ability to make battles autoplay. The latter I tried for a while, but eventually got tired of the tactics options, because as expected they lack any sort of nuance, and my units either wasted their magic points on enemies that didn’t warrant it, or focused on physical attacks that wouldn’t finish the job and resulted in more damage than I wanted. The battles generally lack any tasking challenge beyond moving units into enemy weak spots and out of the way of their attack range. Kill one enemy and move onto the next. On the rare occasion that Conception II actually requires a strategy from the player, however, it becomes a bit more refreshing and joyful. The issue is that these encounters seem to be very few and far between.
Graphical quality ends up in that area between respectably colorful dialogue cutscenes, interspersed with the occasional break into a full on “anime” style, and the sort of muddy character and world design that you see regularly in a game that focuses more on battle scenes than environments and even character models. Stoic faces on the 3D rendered characters are met equally as awkwardly as odd facial expressions in the stationary dialogue cutscenes. Extra time was put into the 3D character models during those aforementioned dating simulation scenes, which I think is much more indicative of where Conception II‘s priorities lie. On the other hand, the music in the game is hardly notable, with spikes of being intrusively annoying, especially during dialogue.
Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars hits a wall when it is taken into consideration how much you have at your disposal to do and how quickly the game shoves in your face these things resulting in an overwhelmed, burnt out you. Frankly, Conception II doesn’t have what it takes to keep players interested for its 30+ hour run time. While it does bring out the occasional hint of great design, for instance in its unique battle style or star children system, it is totally mediocre to annoying in every other aspect of it’s design. I walk out of the experience with lukewarm feelings, and a brain full of memories of underage sexuality, mixed with the curiosity of seeing the kind of folks this style of game is designed for, because it definitely isn’t the hardcore JRPG crowd by any means.