Don’t worry, you are the father
“I’m God’s Gift and my children can fight monsters from the moment they are born.” That summation sounds like the title card for an episode of The Jeremy Kyle Show, but it is a pretty basic description for this strangely bizarre JRPG. You take several genres – visual novel, RPG, dating sim – shove them into a blender, and you end up with this overtly quirky game for the PS Vita. Created by ATLUS (you know, the same people behind the Persona and Shin Megami Tensei series) this game has such a bizarre concept behind it, yet it is backed by a too-safe combat system that may fail to grasp the player’s attention. Is it really so predictable, though, or is there a slight shimmer of hope from these so-called Seven Stars?
The plot itself sounds like your typical cliché anime or manga from someone wanting to write themselves into the plot. You play as God’s Gift (seriously, that is how you are described) who has been chosen to host a magnificent power inside of him. You attend a special school that teaches gifted teenagers to hone their powers, after all only teenagers can ever be this gifted in this type of genre, otherwise we wouldn’t have that cringe-worthy teen drama. You are expected to team up with various heroines in your school in order to created ‘Star Children’ – literal children who pop out of nowhere gifted with combined traits and skills passed down from their parents. Your mission is to search various labyrinths with your lady of choice and your army of youngsters to beat down different monsters that threaten what remains of humanity. The Player Character is as bland as you could expect a self-insert character to be, since he is supposed to be the vessel that you channel yourself through. It makes it a bit hard to connect with him at times, since right off the bat he is painted as the embodiment of male teen perfection. He pales in comparison to the protagonists in the Persona series, but he certainly isn’t the most flawed ‘character.’ The titular Seven Stars refer to the cast of seven heroines that you can potentially ‘classmate’ with – the term used when two students create a Star Child together. Here we have a whole host of typical anime girl clichés – the short tsundere, the too-friendly teacher, the perfectionist hard worker; the list could go on. While they have their unique appearances, their personalities are rather one-note, even when you get to know them more. Why would you want to get to know them more? Well, to fulfill the dating sim aspect for one, and because it connects to the combat system.
As previously stated, your Star Children are a combination of yourself and the lady friend you chose to classmate with. This will affect the skills, element, and even sometimes the class of your little youngling, so you’ll want to make sure you are using the right heroine for the right class. Not only that, but the stronger your relationship is with your chosen heroine, the stronger the resulting Star Child will be. Yes, this is basically selective breeding, but with adorable big-eyed children wearing massive hats and wielding swords. It practically screams ‘Japan.’ With your little fantasy family gathered, you trek through floors and floors of mazes to obliterate the monsters that lurk within. Though each dungeon has funky names that try to incite some kind of theme and intrigue, the levels themselves are rather bland. You would be forgiven for thinking they are all the same as each dungeon looks virtually identical with just a palette swap of colour. Each dungeon has a different variety of monsters to face with their own weaknesses, but as you get further into the game you can tell that even these monsters are being treated to a lick of paint every now and then to add some ‘variety.’ Combat is turn-based of course, with the added gimmick of being able to choose which angle you attack the enemy at. One side will be the monster’s weakness meaning that you can spam that side for maximum damage. The classes of your various characters will determine their speed, as well as the order in which you can attack. Inflicting some kind of ailment or status on the enemy can cause them to lose their turn, but otherwise the combat isn’t overtly complicated. Aim for the weakness and use magic skills on the monster’s weakness, and you will win most of your battles without any trouble.
The elephant in the room should be addressed though… the abundance of sexual innuendo and symbolism that is laced all through out the game. The plot itself is the main offender for this but it goes even deeper than that. The jokes and innuendo are thrown into your face almost every instance that you interact with any of the female students you can partner up with. Even the whole idea of the ‘classmating’ comes across as seemingly innocent at first, as when it is first introduced, all you need to do is hold hands to create a Star Child. As you progress in the game, and get to know the ladies a bit more, the ‘classmating’ sequence becomes a bit more suggestive but never anything sexually explicit is actually shown. The innocence of this whole scenario is further questioned when later on you are capable of classmating with up to two girls at once – essentially a threesome. The battle outfits for the heroines do verge at times at being racy, though some are a bit more tasteful than others. This major aspect of the game may not affect some people, though there may be some who feel uncomfortable with this level of sexual undertones. It really depends on your tolerance level but there are certainly other video games who take this to greater extremes, so in comparison this aspect is still vaguely tame.
In the end, Conception II isn’t ground-breaking with what it brings to the JRPG table. You will certainly find more polished turned-based games out there, but if you are looking for something in the same vein as the Persona and Shin Megami Tensei games that you can complete quickly, then Conception II could be an option to fill the time. With how extremely quirky and gimmicky it is, it is unlikely to see a follow-up game, so it may be best to just enjoy it for what it is- a simple JRPG with some new ideas, but nothing that will blow your mind. Just be careful not to annoy your various heroines, or they may end up going for full custody of your precious Star Children.