By William Haderlie / August 16th, 2016
|Title||Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars|
|Genre||Japanese Role Playing Game|
|Age Rating||ESRB M for Mature|
Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars was originally released back in 2014 for the PS Vita and the Nintendo 3DS. Reception among the major gaming publications was rather mixed, however it did gain a rather strong fan following. One reason for this could have been the difference between Spike Chunsoft’s most recent game, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, and what their next title was. Danganronpa was very critically acclaimed, but was also much simpler to review and was an entirely different genre. The only thing that the two titles had in common was a small DLC quest that added the ability to fight Monokuma to gain an outfit part that looked like him. Instead, the game that Conception II resembles the most is actually Persona 3. That is not a bad thing, though. But if you are not ready for that, it can be a bit of a culture shock. Persona 3 gets a lot of love nowadays (justifiably, in my opinion), but it’s easy to forget that the game is quite the grind and is very long. So not the easiest game type to review.
It would be giving them too much of a benefit of the doubt to blame the poor reviews entirely on that. If you read the reviews themselves, a lot of the criticism comes down to the presence of Classmating. Instead of using summoned demons in your fights, the protagonist undergoes a ritual with the heroine of his choice and they conceive a Star Child (occasionally twins) with a specific class of your choice. You combine those Star Children into groups of 3 and the combination of their skills and stats forms what characteristic that party slot will have. So if you have 2 Swordis and 1 Cleric, it will be an attacking unit that can also occasionally throw out a heal.
While only a sexual act within their minds (they are only really holding hands for the most part), the scene is rather sexual and the result is what you would expect from mating. This obviously makes a large demographic of the gaming public uncomfortable, and definitely a significant portion of the gaming journalists. Many of them are possibly virgins, and so lack the frame of reference, but an even larger portion are sexually repressed, so the idea of two people having sex and making a baby disgusts them. Well, spoiler alert, your parents had sex to create you, and guess what? They had it many times in order to do so, more than likely they kept on having it afterwards as well. Nothing says unnatural like having sex and having babies, it’s much more natural to summon demons and fuse them together with cards, or to breed a dragon and a gelatinous blob together on a ranch.
So really, there is nothing wrong with the premise that they are breeding together and creating these children. Honestly I would have preferred them to be even more open about it, but the issue with doing so would be that you are then using these children to fight in deep dark dungeons right after they are born. So I don’t mind them using a bit of poetic license with that. But if you stopped there and just treated these 7 girls like they are just there to be breeding stock or stereotypes, you would be missing out on a lot of depth. There is definitely the dating sim aspect in the game, much like the Persona games. But they definitely have some fun playing the stereotypes against each other in this one.
They go out of their way to make each one of them a stereotype on the surface, but then when you think that you’ve gotten to know them, they totally subvert that expectation. It makes for a fun time in dating and getting to know these girls. It also adds most of the replay value for New Game+, to find out new things about these girls. Take for example my main girl for this game, Feene, by her looks you would assume that she is the popular cheerleader sort that is too good for everyone else. And yes, she is beautiful and powerful and immensely popular. But she actually doesn’t realize that she’s popular and finds it an extreme nuisance when it impinges upon her freedom. Most of all she thinks of her popularity as unjustified, she does not think she’s pretty and she doesn’t feel that she’s worthy of being loved by anyone.
Another good example is Serina. She’s a loli looking girl that is actually a year older than the Protagonist, making her tied for the oldest in your entire group. At first blush she is every bit the tsundere you would expect her to be. But quicker than even the others, you find out that she is actually extremely bad at being a tsundere, much more on the ‘dere’ end than the ‘tsun.’ She has to try so hard to be a bad ass because otherwise everyone would just walk all over her. She is actually so sweet and kind and tiny and cute that she would never get anyone to treat her like a grown woman otherwise. But her efforts in that direction are all very funny, and she provides a lot of the humor in the game. Her voice acting is also very spot on; her chuckles (supposedly evil) are particularly memorable. In general the voice acting (Japanese anyway, more on that later) is really good for this title. And each of the girls feels a lot more alive than you even typically get in most visual novels. And you will not mistake any of their voices for one another; all are extremely distinctive even in another language.
But I don’t want to just narrow it down to what they do with the female relationships. This game also did something remarkable with the males. Fairly shocking for a console release, there is also an element of boys love (yaoi) in this title. It’s almost entirely optional, although there are some required elements in the story with hints of it, but Classmanting is also a thing. This is where they use a separate vessel for the Star Womb and have two compatible males, whether that’s Alec or Clotz, Classmate together and produce a Star Child. Regardless of my own sexual preference I love to see that kind of diversity in my games. And to have that come to a console game from Japan is really nice to see. Not everyone who loves RPGs is a straight Caucasian male. And even if they were, opening up their eyes to a new experience and from a different point of view can be valuable. Of course this largely comes about because the pervy Chief Ruby has a bit of a thing for BL, but that’s not really any different from how pervy the High Priest is about regular Classmating. And eventually you will also be able to do Tri-mating, where the protagonist combines with two of his girls for an even more powerful Star Child.
The Star Children themselves prove to be the most interesting idea, and sometimes the most frustrating. There are 30 classes to choose from, some of them are rather simple like the Thief, and some are quite strange like the Bondsman. You start out with less than half of those classes available, and you can only choose a class for your child that you meet the minimum stat requirements for. You will be able to get better minimum stats for your children by bonding more with the mother, or with the use of Tri-mating. There are also special classes that you will need to unlock by gaining access to certain dungeons, or by looting (or stealing) key items from enemies. There is a lot of variety to be had just on that level. But then you also have to consider that you are combining these Star Children into groups of 3. A group of 3 acts as a single party member, after all. So you can choose to buff up a certain characteristic by combining the same class together into a group of three, and thereby also making the skills hit harder, or you can give them a more diverse array of skills and stats by combining 3 disparate elements. For much of the game you will just have to combine what you have available into ways that will work the best. But I found that by the end of the game it’s better to group weapon types but different classes together so you get the best of both worlds. A good example of a great late game group would be a Paladin, Lancer, and Bondsman together (all 3 use spears).
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