Platform: Windows, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita
Release Date: April 15, 2014 (Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita), August 16, 2016 (Windows)
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Genre: Role-Playing, Visual Novel
Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars is a Japanese role-playing game, developed by Spike Chunsoft, released in April of 2014 for PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS. The Vita version was later ported to Windows via Steam and released on August 16, 2016. It is not connected to the previous game in the series beyond gameplay mechanics and can be jumped into without any prior knowledge.
The story of Conception II manages to be very concise during gameplay, whilst sounding incredibly convoluted outside of that context, so keep that in mind during this section. Human society is under constant duress as a result of monster attacks. These creatures emerge from areas of the world called Dusk Circles, mysterious dungeon formations that secret dark energy. Prior to the start of the game's events, humans have been unable to venture into these areas, as they simply didn't have the ability to survive within them.
Livin' On A Prayer
Humanity is not without its defenses, however. You see, the world is protected by the blessing of the Star God, which imbues select members of the world's youth with star energy. Teenagers who possess the mark of the Star God on their hand, a side effect of the blessing, are forcibly gathered at academies located near the Dusk Circles in order to contain the problem. Here we venture firmly into the territory in which Conception comes into its own. With this holy energy, a pair of male and female students are able to undergo a ritual which has a chance to produce Star Children, a chibi race of fighters capable of providing a great boost to mankind's defensive. That process is called Classmating.
Yes, the name of the core gameplay facilitating mechanic is a ridiculous pun, and the game continues to embody a similar level of silliness from here on out. Still, let's take a step back for a moment and take a look at the character who will make the largest impact in the game's story. Our hero is a young man named Wake Archus, who has only just arrived at such a school, just in time to thwart the attack of a creature which had escaped the defensive boundaries, rescuing two of his future friends in the process. Soon thereafter, by way of the routine testing, Wake is discovered to be God's Gift, a student with an immense amount Star Energy, making him capable of not only consistently producing offspring but exploring what had been previously unknown territory, the innards of the Dusk Circles.
Exploration takes cues from games with similar structures, primarily the latter Persona titles, which become a clear inspiration as we progress. We control our protagonist leading one of several other students chosen by the player, and Wake's Star Children as they heroically stride through each floor, encountering both enemies and items placed in various locations. Along the way, you'll be treated to some cutesy dialogue featuring the children talking about their parents, and encouraging their father. Touching one of those roaming enemies will initiate combat.
Born To Be My Baby
These battles will immediately feel familiar to experienced genre fans. The turn-based system features all of the staples of the genre, attacks, magic, fleeing & defending. It attempts to differentiate itself from contemporaries by introducing a mechanic by which party members move around enemies on a grid. Enemies are locked in place, and have four fixed points of movement around them, allowing for parties to get the drop on them and abuse their weaknesses. We are allocated four units for our purposes. One made up of Wake and his chosen heroine, and three separate groups consisting of three Star Children each. Wake's group is given the ability to move over the squares that already contain Children, meaning they can coexist with them on a single square and hit those weak areas especially hard.
Separate to dungeon exploration is the heart of the game, which resembles a visual novel in structure. Wake's movements take the form of a list where the player chooses a location or character to visit, allowing him to interact with his fellow students and further his bond with them. Only those formed with the heroines can be truly increased, and they're used as indicators of the strength and level potential of which the mother's Star Children are capable. As many as thirty-seven different classes are available, with some being more easily attained based on the chosen lady, leading to a staggering variety of possible party combinations.
I'll Be There For You
These characters and your interactions with them are the most interesting part of Conception. An effort is made to see that all of them stand out in the admittedly limited context of the game. Each is uniquely designed, and well differentiated in terms of personality, and it's genuinely entertaining to hear what they have to say as their relationships progress. Your interactions with each are limited at certain points of the game, but these are gradually lifted as we continue to explore the Dusk Circles.
It's not always a great experience. One of the more annoying traits is the lack of any form of time constraint on interactions, and honestly, the developers really should've included some. Whilst it isn't advised, you could forego interacting with the female students until the game's conclusion and still manage to finish out every characters relationship arc without having to go so far as to step into a dungeon. This lessens potential attachment to characters that you might've chosen to spend time with of your own accord.
Bed Of Roses
I found the dungeoneering gameplay to be lacking, as it was simply not engaging enough to keep me invested. The game contains no additional difficulty settings, and as it sits, is on the easy side with minimal grinding necessary to see it to the finish. Beyond the initial play, I doubt the relationships would provide much in the way of value for subsequent plays, as they really don't contain any branching paths, meaning you'd be experiencing a very similar story, regardless of your dialogue choices. Perhaps the lack of a limiter is a blessing in disguise, as the game really doesn't have any replay value to speak of. It provides you with a save point after the final battle so that you can choose a different girl and experience their ending without forcing you to replay an entire section of the game to do so, an appreciated gesture for my money.
Conception II is far from perfect, and its thorns cut deep by the time the credits roll, but it does provide some charm in its own ludicrousness. Aesthetically the game is very easy on the eyes, and its game has plenty of fun with the concept's inherent quirkiness. It comes mildly recommended for fans of visual novels and folks who enjoy relationship values as a game mechanic, but the gameplay may not hold the interest of veteran role-playing fans for long. Have a nice day.
Time Spent: 60 hours.
Further Playing: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (PlayStation 2, PS Vita), Fire Emblem: Awakening (Nintendo 3DS)
Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars
A Review of Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars, a Japanese role-playing video game by Spike Chunsoft and Atlus for Nintendo 3DS and...
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