GAME NAME: Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars
DEVELOPER(S): Spike Chunsoft
PLATFORM(S): PlayStation Vita
RELEASE DATE(S): April 15, 2014
Peanut butter & jelly. Pork chops & applesauce. Dungeon crawling & teenage dating simulation. One of these things may not seem like the others, but developer Spike Chunsoft would disagree. Their new RPG Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars blends these two seemingly unblendable genres into an interesting experience that’s probably not for everyone.
You take on the role of a teenage boy who all the other characters call God’s Gift. So no pressure or anything. You are basically the chosen one at a boarding school for marked disciples that were selected to fight the monsters that have overrun the land. Your high level of magical ether gives you the privilege of making Star Children to come battle monsters with you. To create these Star Children you need to “classmate” with the most powerful girls in the academy (hence the game’s title). The better the relationship you have with these girls, the stronger the Star Child that is created. This is where the dating simulation comes in, though it’s not so much simulation as there’s almost always one obvious answer and two probably dumb ones. If you truly want to further the relationship to create stronger children, it’s not difficult at all to advance from the easy choices. Some more variety in the options would be welcome, where it wouldn’t be so clear what the result would be. There are a large number of gifts available to buy to give to the girls, so there is some non-obvious ways to screw something up, but the opportunities to give gifts are not nearly as plentiful.
Each of the girls has their own individual story to work through. They start off mostly annoying, but as you progress further you learn about their back stories and things are more tolerable. You get to help with school projects and self confidence issues and talk awkwardly about breasts. A lot. I don’t remember any of the girls I went to school with talking this much about their chests to guys, but who can blame them when the character animation has them jiggling (unrealistically) with every subtle movement. I know Japan loves their anime breast jiggle physics, but this seems a bit like overkill and made for some very uncomfortable moments while playing the game on public transportation. Especially an animated cut scene at the beach that was pretty much all close-up T&A shots.
Once your relationships have blossomed, you can go to the church for the classmating ceremony. Now classmating isn’t exactly sex. But it kind of is. I mean, there’s talk of touching, but there’s also talk of weirdness in kissing. There’s panting after it’s finished and embarrassment too. And the J-pop song that plays during the brief scene showing the ritual (as neon silhouettes no less) contains the lyrics “Just wanna make love.” So who knows what the hell is going on there. But it’s probably against the law in your state.
The more interesting part of the game for me was the dungeon crawling half. Unfortunately that interest didn’t last very long. Before you enter the dungeon you can select which of the female companions you want to take with you, along with three groups of three Star Children each. Since the Star Children can each be a member of a different class, you have a ton of variety available in combat. It’s too bad they couldn’t add some of that variety to the actual dungeons themselves. Every single one looks exactly the same, save for a different color scheme or background effect. The layouts are randomly generated and change every time you enter a labyrinth, so in theory there should be a lot of replayability. But the layout of every single floor of every single level follows the same pattern of square room followed by skinny hallway followed by square room. The only change to this pattern is when the hallway occasionally has a corner to turn or you have to choose from one or two extra doors leading to dead ends. The further you are in the game, the longer the dungeons are. While this is good at padding game playing time, it’s also good for padding sleeping time. Levels seem to go on forever and halfway through the game I found myself just running past monster fights just to get to the end as fast as I could, leveling up be damned. The combat is actually pretty decent, with positioning of your group around the monster being key. There’s magic to use, lots of weapons, and some Voltron-like combo robot thing. It’s hard to keep track of all the attack and spell options when you have up to 11 people in your party at once. I took advantage of the “Equip Best” option early and often so I wouldn’t have to worry about all that. Though the longer the dungeons got, the happier I was that they included an auto-play option for the battles.
The game switches back and forth between anime style 2D animations for the dating sim sections to 3D models for the combat. Things look pretty good all around and everything is very colorful. I also like some of the effects shown when the more powerful attacks are used. Monsters look pretty cool as well and it was fun to see the very wide variety of creatures you have to fight. The soundtrack is J-pop heavy and wasn’t really my bag. Except for that one battle song that sounds suspiciously like “Kickstart My Heart” at the beginning. Overall a decent package for looks and sound.
The concept for Conception II is definitely interesting, and I can see this is aimed at a certain segment of gamer. But even a niche title needs to hold the attention of it’s player. Unfortunately the lack of variety in the dungeons and the lack of real choices in the dating sim bog the game down and turn it into more of a chore than a fun RPG experience.