Atlus is one of those wonderful video game companies that allows the West to see into the minds eye of Japanese developers. Were it not for them we would be missing out on some wonderful JRPG’s, their most famous being the Persona series. Conception II: Children Of The Seven Stars is another JRPG that follows some of the same formula as Persona, except this game has lots of sexual innuendos, bouncy boobs and scantily clad teens. So if you’re highly offended at any of that or think that sexualizing women is extremely wrong, this is definitely not the game for you. However, if you have a good sense of humor and see that it’s just there to make an interesting in-game mechanic viable, then please play on.
The game mechanics that developer Spike Chunso has borrowed from the Persona series integrate very well with Conception II‘s concept. You play as a teenager and have to develop “bonds” with the heroines in this game to create powerful Star Children, which is a main focal point of the Persona series, minus the children. Labyrinth levels are very similar in both games and are tailored to the theme of the labyrinth. In Conception II the Lust Labyrinth is covered in hearts, while the Gluttony one has chomping mouths everywhere. This game is much more tongue in cheek though, and doesn’t have the dark ominous qualities that Persona likes to burden us with.
The story is unique, but not very complicated to follow.Twenty years before you receive your Star Brand, which is bequeathed to you by the Star God, eight Dusk Circles appear in this world. Seven of the Dusk Circles correspond with the Seven Deadly Sins, and are named for that sin. The first Dusk Circle you must conquer is the Lust Circle or Labyrinth, with the eighth Dusk Circle being the most powerful, and the Academy that you are summoned to is built around it to defend against the monsters should the Circle become active. Think of these Dusk Circles as inactive volcanoes that are triggered by the amount of Dusk in the area, Dusk referring to darkness or evil. The Academy is your hub world in the game: you will live, train, bond here and so on. Upon your arrival there you meet some fellow Star Branded classmates and travel to the lab where you are tested for your abilities. In the lab you find out the S-Rank Elites have a high volume of Star Power built up in them, they are mostly female but some males also get this honor. You find out that you are not an S Rank Elite, but once they test you for Ether count, you find out that you carry the most Ether than any Academy student in the past 20 years. This grants you the title “God’s Gift” seeing as the Star God has gifted you to this world to fight the Dusk Monsters.
Ether is what allows people to use their Star Power, and before you came to the Academy the Elites weren’t able to actually enter the Circles and fight off the monsters due to the lack of Ether in the Circles. You produce so much Ether now that you and one other person can finally enter the Circles and fight the terror at the source. Ether, in this world, would be light and we all now that light conquers darkness. The headmaster of the Academy finds you and tells you of the great opportunity you now have and seeing as your Ether levels are so high, you are allowed to “classmate” with female S Ranks to produce Star Children. These Star Children follow you into the Circles and help you battle the slew of monsters that come your way. You can also make the Star Children “independent” and they will leave you and level up the Academy. The children are very important in this game, so you must “classmate” as much as you can so you can defeat the monsters and level up the Academy. See, I told you the story wasn’t that difficult to follow.
In order to “Classmate” as much as possible you must earn bond points. These points can be earned by chatting them up while at the Academy. You have three chances to talk with the ladies that refresh every new day so you can’t just keep talking to them over and over, you have to wait a day so as to not be a stalker. You do have the option to “rest” in your Dorm Room, which advances time, but not story so that you can talk to the girls more. Once you get your “Bond” meter full you can travel to the Church and decide which girl you want to “Classmate” with. Every time you talk to the girls you learn more about your potential “Classmates” and activate little sub quests that you can do to help show the girls just how into them you are, which ultimately helps you decide which one to take to the end of the year Star Ball. Only Atlus could bring us monsters, procreating and a nice end of the year ball to enjoy on our handhelds.
The controls and battle systems are very intuitive and very easy to grasp. When you are navigating a dungeon you use the left control stick to move forwards, back, left and right and the right stick controls the camera. The face buttons bring up your inventory so you can decide if you want to use a skill to heal or a potion and they also allow you to equip new weapons or armor you’ve found. When you come upon an enemy slithering through the circle you can chose to avoid them or attack, I suggest attack so that you can level up your characters faster and faster. Once in battle you are subject to the usual JRPG turn based attack structure, however this isn’t as bad as usual turn based battles. If you are lucky you only have to fight one monster, but I’ve been blessed with as many as three in one battle. The monster that you are focusing on has some tells to help you defeat them, they are encircled with a green circle that gives you hints on how to fight them.
You can also move your characters to surround the monster and as so a directional arrow will appear above the monster. If that arrow is red that means you will be attacking a weak point, so you always want to find that red arrow to win battles quickly. That circle will also warn you of an incoming attack and if the monster is going to attack at a certain angle the circle will flash “Caution” so that you can position yourself out of the way of danger. You can choose to just attack, but if you scroll to the right before you decide what to use in battle you can choose “Skills,” which allows you to pick a special attack for you and your partner, or for your children to use. These attacks deal more damage and make battling much easier for the JRPG noob. Unfortunately these battles get very repetitive, and after a long amount of play time you may find yourself going ho-hum until you get to the Circle’s boss. The bosses aren’t very difficult either, I used the red arrow and watched the cautions on the circle and beat the first boss without taking any damage at all.
The graphics are pretty crisp seeing as this is a handheld adventure, however, wandering through the Dusk Circles can get a bit repetitive with the visuals as you trudge on through hallway after hallway until you finally get to the floor that you need to fight the boss. The cut-scenes though are where they make their magic, the animated battles and costumes changes pop off your screen and look fantastic. The bonding with your partner scenes are also very well done, they’re first person and you have to look right into the girls eyes as you awkwardly try to get her to like you more.
Overall the game holds up very well on the handheld and makes one wish they’d make a third for next gen consoles. The developers also put in a unique trait that I’ve really not seen since the Dead or Alive games: boob physics. The boobs physics are very subtle and I didn’t notice them at first but when the ladies first start talking their breasts bounce up and down a little. This game has absolutely no qualms about what it is and that makes it so unique. The sounds and voice overs match all the visuals too, the lines are delivered with no cheese, and that makes you laugh all the more at some of the innuendos and inappropriate remarks. The music also fits that of any anime style, loud poppy and distinctly Japanese, but it’s great and will have you tapping your foot as you play.
Replayibilty is a major factor now in most gamer’s decision to buy a game, that nagging thought of “will this sixty or forty bucks be well spent?” Sadly Conception II really isn’t in the running to be played over and over again seeing as it takes about 40 hours to complete. However, it takes 40 hours to complete, and with the price of the game being $39.99, that costs gamers a dollar an hour for a great and unique experience. That’s a pretty good deal to me seeing as it costs ten dollars at a theater to see a two hour movie. That’s five dollars an hour there and you don’t even get to keep the movie or resell it. This game is worth the price of admission though, especially if you want to experience something you never have and may possibly never will again.
With Bravely Default tearing up the charts and Square Enix rethinking their business model with standard JRPG’s, Conception II may be another dark horse on the shelf. The graphics are crisp and a joy to the eye, the music wafts to your ears with ease, and the concept is so unique that you just have to play it. It’s like trying not to look at a car wreck, you don’t want to, but you just must: Conception II is that must game. Where else can you play a sequel to a game that was commissioned by the Japanese government to help raise birth rates in Japan? Only Atlus could bring us this gem, and you need to get on this mating train.