Thanks to the likes of Atlus and NIS, the west is being exposed to some of the staples of Japanese gaming, with gems such as Persona 4, Demon Gaze, Hyper Dimension Neptunia and so on. Yet it feels like you are never quite prepared for each new one you play and that is also true in the case of Conception II.
Upon first playing Conception II feels like it may be the more run of the mill stories, with characters who actually have more clothing than bare skin, yet it only takes a few minutes to work out that Conception II is just as…Well, different as all those other titles. The sort of game that tests your own embarrassment levels.
At its base level Conception II is another dungeon crawler JRPG, where you are tasked with saving the world, using a mixture of dungeon crawling, turn based battles and relationship building. It also has the idea of summoning star children, which are essentially this game’s version of Pokemon, or Personas. Additional party members with special abilities that help you in battle.
It is the way that you summon and create these Star Children that can make you feel a little awkward. You control the hero of the game, who is given the title of God’s Gift, which supposedly does wonders for the player’s ego, because what is better than being God’s Gift right? You are given this title as it turns out your character has an abnormally high ‘Ether Count’ which means he is 100% guaranteed to produce Star Children if he Classmates with an S-Rank female.
Sorry let’s back-track a second. When adolescents reach a certain age, they may find themselves given a mark, for which means they have to leave home and go to an island, where they become disciples and battle monsters. When they arrive they are graded and given ranks, with the best ranked among them having to take part in a ritual called Classmating, where they attempt to create Star Childen. Hence the title Conception.
You as the God’s Gift are the first of your kind and can enter areas known as Dark Circles to battle monsters on their own territory, whereas before monsters could only be battle once they had escaped one of these circles. Of course if you try to go alone, you’d be destroyed pretty quickly, so being able to conceive Star Children to aid you in battle is a must.
Anyway, the better the rank, the higher success rate of producing a Star Child and the better the Star Child will be, therefore you cannot possibly allow a C-Rank to Classmate with a S-Rank. Luckily though, you are God’s Gift, so you can Classmate with pretty much whomever you like.
That should be simple enough right? Wrong! You still need to build relationships with the female characters, because if you classmate with them and they are not in the right mood, then the quality of the Star Child produced may not be as good as if you were classmating with someone who was more willing.
So a few issues really. The innuendo alone is off the charts in Conception II and really feels like it is aimed at the young teenage boy rather than anyone else. It’s depiction of women is really walking a line also, as it treats many of them as pure objects, that are used as a tool and for you to have your way with, yet there are others that are very strong willed and almost dominant, really playing to a young boys fantasies.
The idea of forcing what are essentially still children to an island to battle monsters and produce children doesn’t really sit comfortably at times and really is awkward to play when other people are around. Yet play you will, because behind a pretty bland story with imagery and dialog that feel better placed in a adolescent males wet dream, is a well balanced game with some pretty solid mechanics behind it.
It doesn’t do anything new as such and the gameplay as you go through dungeons and enter battles shares many similarities with Persona, but that isn’t a bad thing. Dungeons are randomly generated which means you are forever feeling your way around, which in turn means you feel like you are always discovering something new.
Battles are turn based, but there are some nice little touches that do keep things fresh. You have the usual HP and MP and you level up as you go to unlock new abilities. You can edit your party, assign tactics move abilities around, assign new skills, that sort of thing. Then there are potential special moves that can be used, by combining you and your female partner to unleash a much stronger attack.
How you attack enemies has an effect too, you basically get to attack from one of four sides, some of which will trigger a weak point on the enemy, again dealing more damage. This is where a risk vs reward mechanic comes in, as there will be ‘Caution’ areas which are areas the monster is about to attack itself, but if you attack from these areas you can build up your chain faster, but also leave yourself exposed to an attack.
The further you go into the game, the more tactical battle will become and whilst early on these will last a few seconds to a couple of minutes, they soon become much more drawn out affairs, where you really need to consider what you are doing. However, the game does a fantastic job of building you up to these making sure you are ready.
Overall Conception II is a hard one to score. It really should be dismissed a game that should be avoided, due to the nature of the story, the way it is told and how characters are depicted. It is a game you feel you should only play when there is no other soul around to catch you, Yet when you do get going, it is very hard to put down and you will want to see it through to its conclusion, purely because of the games core mechanics.