When it comes to weird and wacky ideas the Japanese have everyone beat. Case in point is Conception 2: Children of the Seven Stars, a Vita game were you procreate with teenage girls and enlist their offspring in your battle against dungeon dwelling monsters. Screw safe sex I say! Why waste money on contraception when the fate of the world depends on amassing an infantile army?
The game’s protagonist is a teen boy named Wake, who attends an academy where students are trained in combating the malevolent entities that spawn out of Dusk Circles. As Wake carries the brand of the Star God he has been bestowed with copious amounts of ether allowing him to “class-mate” with similarly gifted girls. When a daddy and mommy love each other very much they “touch” each other in church and create a Star Child that emerges from a Russian Matryoshka Doll. Did you think that Storks deliver Star Children to this world? That would just be plain silly.
At its core Conception is part dating-sim and part JRPG. Whilst at the academy Wake can interact with the title’s seven heroines, who range from the shy class president (who has massive jugs) to an aspiring pop idol (who is actually Wake’s teacher.) To produce powerful Star Children Wake ideally needs to have a strong relationship with the girl in question (so whacking her for talking too much and then blaming the bruises on falling down the stairs won’t yield good results.) In order to increase Wake’s bond with a girl he needs to pick the best of three answers during the dating-sim segments. If all else fails you can also improve the mood by presenting your target with a gift, because when it comes to dating flaunting cash is the best way to get laid.
Conception’s JRPG elements are reminiscent to the Persona series (if you are going to rip-off someone you might as well plagiarise from the best.) In order to destroy a Dusk Circle Wake needs to venture through randomly generated labyrinths, traversing each floor until he eventually reaches the level’s guardian. Combat is strictly a turn based affair and triggered whenever our hero bumps into one of the enemies patrolling the mazes. To triumph players are encouraged to exploit elemental weaknesses and chain attacks, which will delay when an opponent can execute a command. Before striking a foe you are also given the option of positioning yourself in front, behind or on the flanks of a monster. The direction from which you strike determines how much damage you inflict given that most enemies are vulnerable to attacks from a specific side.
One thing that I like about Conception 2 (aside from amassing a harem of cute waifus) is that you get a plethora of options in customizing your party. The squad you take into battle is made up of four small teams. The first team is Wake and a heroine of your choice, whilst the other teams are comprised of three Star Children. At birth you get to choose what class your child should be (thief, magician, paladin etc.) This all means that depending on your play style you can tinker with your party formation to create well rounded groups, that have a wide range of abilities, or you can specialise in certain areas. I for example had a team of spell casters, another who dealt physical damage and a final team who support the party.
My rating for Conception 2 is a four out of five. It’s a good JRPG that misses out on being great due to some poor design decisions. I enjoyed the dating-sim segments for example, as they were often funny and helped to flesh out the characters. Unfortunately there are only a finite number of events you can have with each girl, so after a while you end up repeating the same cut scenes over and over. Unlike Persona, were a ticking countdown limits how often you can interact with characters, you can easily max out all of the girls’ relationships in a single play through. There isn’t enough story content to compensate for this more generous dating system, resulting in the repetitive cut scenes. After a while I began to tire of flirting with the gals. Our relationship had gone stale. Maybe we should start seeing different people?
In a similar vein the JRPG portions sound good on paper, but are less stimulating in practice. Dungeon exploration becomes a bore, as all the levels look very similar. Combat wise the plethora of tactical options are wasted as the game is seldom challenging. The only difficulty I encountered was when I first met a boss that dealt area effect attacks. Once I noticed that the city stores sold potions, that heal all your characters simultaneously, that particular obstacle was easily overcome. Despite its drawbacks I still stand by my score as the game has given me many hours of entertainment. Raising virtual kids is much more fun (and less messy) than real fatherhood any day.