By: Matthew Striplen
I have never played a game like Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars, nor do I think another game could come close to what has been created here. Conception II made me experience a range of emotions I never thought possible from a video game. Unfortunately, most of my feelings ranged along the lines of shock and confusion, not to mention my soul felt a little dirtier with each session. Everything, from the premise, its cultural implications, and the nonchalance with which the insane story unfolds left me bewildered. There’s a ton of baggage to unpack here, so let’s start getting our hands dirty.
The controls are pretty basic. As a RPG, Conception II doesn’t require complex controls. The more unusual aspects come in the very welcome form of shortcuts. These streamline gameplay by sometimes removing the need to access the menu screen. As anyone who’s familiar with RPG menus, they can take a while to navigate. The implications made by these shortcuts are more interesting than the shortcuts themselves, but I’ll get into that a bit later.
Oh boy, now we’re getting towards the juicy stuff. The graphics are high quality anime style. The characters in cut scenes look like a great deal of care was put into each one. Although they are mostly stationary, the faces and poses change frequently, which is a very welcome feature. Also, characters are never totally still. They are animated in such a way that they sway, which is surprisingly effective in making the characters feel more real.
There are a few cut scenes, however, that are gratuitous. The “Classmating” ritual, which can be seen above, is… revealing, despite the lack of concrete evidence that the ritual is actually sexual in nature. Also, each character gets a short transformation cut scene before going into battle. The protagonist looks pretty awesome, but the heroines are blatantly objectified to the point of hilarity. Expect to see underboob, panty shots and more. Why? Well, why the hell not?
Sound design is fairly unobtrusive. The English voice acting is quite good, and the music serves its purpose well. No complaints here.
Conception II is extremely text heavy, which primarily comes in the form of cut scenes. A massive percentage of the game is pure cut scene or other form of dialogue, most of which deals with sex. Since sex pervades the entire experience, I’ll be spending quite a bit of time discussing how it is used (or abused, as the case may be).
It’s hard to talk about Conception II without mentioning its predecessor. The game, while never released outside Japan, caught my eye because of its title: Conception: Please Give Birth to my Child! What?? Anyway, the basic premise of Conception II is that several portals, called Dusk Circles or Labyrinths, are bringing monsters into the world. You have been chosen by the Star God to be the God’s Gift, meaning you are more powerful than any male fighter before you.
To help fight these monsters, the protagonist can create Star Children with a female in the Classmating ritual I mentioned earlier. In order to create stronger Children, the heroine must have a strong bond with the player. Conception II employs dating simulation to achieve this end.
While dating simulation is definitely a more obscure genre, it’s not unheard of, especially in Japan. I wouldn’t have an issue with this if the interactions weren’t incredibly awkward and superficial. Each conversation with heroines follows a script that may or may not allow the player to interact. The non-interactive ones are especially bad because it defeats the purpose of playing a game.
Even when the player gets to make choices, there are only a few options to choose from, most of which are merely different ways of saying the same thing. Even if you choose a sentence that looks reasonable, there’s no guarantee she will respond well. For example, I told a girl that she was peaceful, and she became so angry and insulted that she ended the conversation early and my bond with her decreased an entire level.
As you may have figured out by now, everything in Conception II is about sex. All female characters are objectified, and nearly all male characters are shameless perverts. Mattero, the elderly high priest of the Star God, is particularly notorious for lusting after anything with boobs. The girls even complain to the protagonist about his forwardness. I can tell these exchanges are supposed to be funny, but they end up just being gross. Your character’s best friend, Chlotz, scarcely speaks of anything unrelated to girls. In fact, so much time is spent chasing girls or listening to people drool over the newest girl that the real RPG elements just feel like an excuse to include the former.
The action segments follow fairly standard RPG conventions. All characters, including Star Children, can be leveled up. A wide range of weapons and armor can be purchased or found in Labyrinths. The Labyrinths themselves are remarkably homogeneous and repetitive. The most unique facet, however, is the battle sequence.
Although battles are fought in a turn-based system, they rely heavily on spatial awareness. Players can take one of four positions around a single enemy, each with their own pros and cons like being able to deal or receive extra damage. If another enemy is present on the battlefield, they will attempt to attack you from outside your reach, rendering you helpless until you defeat the targeted enemy. Other original aspects are introduced in battles but quickly become repetitive.
Several shortcuts I mentioned earlier, like fast forward or auto battle, serve to lessen the amount of real time spent in combat. Why would anyone want to avoid actually playing the game? Similar skipping functions are also available in the dating simulation segments. It’s as if the developers knew certain portions of the game were tedious and gave the players a way to expedite them.
Let me recap what we’ve covered so far. Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars is a game where you woo a harem of schoolgirls into the conspicuously sexual Classmating ritual, and the resulting Star Children are immediately thrust into a demonic war zone. The awkward dating simulation made me feel genuinely uncomfortable as its inclusion hints at possible ugly truths about the developers themselves. If you’re looking for a quality dating simulation or RPG title, I would advise looking elsewhere.