Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars is such a weird game that I’m struggling to find the right words to give it the right amount of justice; whether that justice is good or bad, is up to you. Let me elaborate. Just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, this game’s weirdness is in the eye of the beholder.
I’ve never heard of the Conception series, let alone played the first game, so I entered this unique experience with zero expectations and no clue on what to expect – boy oh boy was I surprised. The world in which the game exists is affected by evil lairs called Dusk Circles that mysteriously appeared two decades prior to the events of the game. To combat the vicious monsters that come from within circles, the Star God (a deity within the game) grants certain teenagers with Star Energy. This power becomes available after the teenager turns 16 and sees a brand on their hand, but quickly dissipates after turning 18. While both males and female have access to Star Energy, only the males are able to produce Ether. This Ether is what is needed to create Star Children. What are Star Children you ask? Well, when a male “classmates” with a female, there’s a chance that their combined Ether and Star Energy will produce offspring, or Star Children. But more on that later.
On to the story
You play Wake Archus (you can edit his name), a teenage boy who receives his brand the same day he witnesses his sister’s death at the hands of the dusk monsters. He, like other teenagers with a brand, is immediately sent to Fort City, a training ground for disciples (the branded teens) where most of the game will take place. It is here where Wake learns that he’s different to other male disciples – his Ether count is exponentially higher than any other male disciple since the appearance of the dusk circles. For this reason, the Church believes him to be their “saviour” who will destroy the circles and bring peace back to the world. He is quickly named God’s Gift, and that name pretty much sticks throughout the game. Up until Wake arrives in Fort City, the disciples were unable to enter the dusk circles and defeat the dusk spawners inside. With his high Ether count, he is able to enter the circles along with another female disciple and their Star Children. There are seven women that he is able to bond (and classmate) with: Fuuko, Ellie, Narika, Feene, Sarina, Chloe and Torri. Spending time with each woman increases the bond between the two, which in turn improves the power of their Star Children.
The main elements
If you’ve played any turn-based JRPG before, then you can pretty much expect to see the usual: party members, shops (weapons, armor, item, etc.), status effects, stats, elements (which is terrible I might add) experience levels, overly powerful basic enemies, bosses at the end of the dungeon, etc. The things you might not expect is the dating sim aspect of the game and the classmating system. During your time in Fort City, and while you’re not fighting in the dusk circle dungeons, you’ll be loafing around the city. This often involves accepting assignments at the lab or guild, buying supplies at the shop, resting in your dorm room, visiting the church for some classmating or visiting the academy. The academy is where you’ll hang out with the witches (an in-game nickname for the seven girls you party with) or your two friends, Alec and Chlotz. Spending quality time with a girl not only improves the bond the two of you share, but also starts off a little mini-story. Each girl has their own personal problems which they’d like to overcome, but their stories, while occasionally funny and entertaining, are quite shallow and silly. For example, Fuuko’s story revolves around her joining a swimming team and having to deal with a ghost who haunts the swimming pool. Chloe’s story revolves around her career as a popstar and Narika’s story revolves around her stage fright. There are some interesting stories, like Serina’s and Torri’s, but they’re not strong enough to carry the weight of the others.
Now for the classmating.
While you might think “sex” it’s not exactly that, though the game leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination. At first a male and female disciple are needed to conceive a Star Child, but later on you’re given access to “classmanting” (with another male) and “trimating” (with two females). The former is only available when trying to classmant online (I have yet to find a match online…), so don’t expect to see any form of man-on-man action. The Star Children are born when the disciples touch each other, and the combined Ether and Star Energy take form in a matryoshka doll (those Russian dolls that have a smaller doll on the inside). Before I carry on, the actual classmating scene includes a very suggestive scene that includes a very exposed – though not quite naked – female. Oh, and the jingle: “Whoooooooooohowoooowowoooowhooooowooo, touch my hearrrrrrrrrrrrrt!” Once the child is ” born”, you can select it’s role (like swordsman, berserker, cleric, magician or thief) and add him/her into a team of three. You’re allowed to bring three teams of three into a dungeon. Even though you’ll technically be 11 party members (2 parents and 9 kids) you’ll really just act like four party members.
Even though you’re given access to so many different types of Star Children, chopping and changing the members is really a bit of a mission and it’s not easy to find a trio that works well – it’s just a lot of guess work. You’ll most likely pick the strongest roles and keep using the strongest attacks, so there’s really no need to strategise. Just grind like a bugger and top-up on potions and you’ll do fine. It’s quite a let down as it has the capacity to be something quite big, but fails to meet your expectations. On the topic of grinding, it is this game’s biggest downfall. I’ve never had to grind so often for so little before in any JRPG I’ve ever played. First of all, you have to level up Wake and the girls, but you can only level one girl up at a time (as you can only take one with you into the dungeon). Then, you need to level up the Star Children, but here’s the kicker, they all have level caps. At first the level caps will be low, but it’ll grow as your bonds improve. However, this means you’ll constantly be training and retraining newer Star Children. This forces you to re-enter weaker dungeons, grind until the kids are strong enough to fight in tougher dungeons, then rinse and repeat the process once they reach their level cap. It’s incredibly time consuming and super boring.
The dungeons themselves aren’t particularly entertaining either, and the enemies within aren’t particularly memorable. Come to think of it, other than the bosses I can’t remember the name of a single enemy, and the only reason why I remembered the names of the bosses is because they’re named after the demons of the seven deadly sins. The dungeons themselves are randomly generated and follow the same basic recipe: enter, run around till you find the portal, use the portal to access the next level, so on and so forth until you reach the bottom. Nothing particularly revolutionary. One saving grace is that you’re able to instantly kill an enemy if you’re strong enough. “Insta-kill” enemies will appear in blue, normal enemies in purple, rare enemies in yellow and tough enemies in red. The strength of the enemies vary and is sometimes a little lopsided. Sometimes the purple enemies are more troublesome than red, and sometimes the red enemies are tougher to kill than the actual boss. To add insult to injury, the amount of experience and glow (the in-game currency) you acquire from these tougher enemies is disappointingly low, once again forcing you to grind, grind, grind.
While I don’t regret playing Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars, I know I won’t pick it up after this review. Your enjoyment of the game will completely depend on how you perceive some of the themes in the game. Giving Wake the moniker of God’s Gift constantly reminds me of the saying, “Do you think you’re God’s gift to women?” And in many respects the game makes it look like he is.
You’re not going to find award winning material in this game, but it does have some funny moments in it. There’s enough dialogue and grinding to take up hours of your time, if you have the time to begin with. The main story is slightly predictable, and while the mini-stories are entertaining, they’re not thought provoking. This is very much a “if you don’t like it, don’t play it” kind of game.