Let me preface this review by saying I’ve always felt that if you’re looking to be offended by something, you more than likely will succeed in doing so. This relates to the Sony Vita game/Nintendo 3DS (I played Vita), Conception II, in that I’ve read many reviews decrying the “smutty dating sim” portions of the game dragging down the JRPG portions of the game and that if only the scandalous sim relationship portions of the game were removed, it would be an otherwise enjoyable RPG.
I’m here to say that’s entirely not true.
Conception II is not an RPG hampered by a dating sim, nor is it a dating sim hampered by an RPG, it’s a game that aims to be both at once, and each is inextricably linked to the other.
The premise in Conception II is that you, the main character, are “God’s Gift” (really, that’s what the game calls you) a young man with so much “Star Energy” that he can “Classmate” with any Disciple (young females also imbued with Star Energy) and create “Star Children” via Matryoshka, yep, those little russian nesting dolls. What the ceremony to create these Star Children actually entails is left up to the imagination as the only scenes we are shown of the ceremony are fanservice-y mini movies of the heroines’ glowing bodies. Racy? Perhaps, but the scenes are as detailed as a magical girl’s transformation sequence, so nothing too lewd is shown on screen. After the ritual the girls are shown panting, out of breath and flushed, and all talk OF the ritual are such blatent sexual references to call them “metaphors” or “innuendo” would be generous. However for all the wink-wink, nudge-nudge, the game remains self aware the entire time of how ridiculous it is and never takes itself too seriously. It’s not trying to slip anything past anyone, the title of the game means what it says. This is a game about making babies.
Your object is to woo all 7 of the game’s heroines in order to raise your compatibility with them, and in turn raise the level of the Star Children you can create. You get to do this via a traditional dating sim setup of a string of main events, a slew of optional side scenes, and through giving gifts to the lady of your choice. However the game never rewards you for playing the letch as giving a smutty gift (lingerie, a book of male photo pinups, etc…), choosing a lewd answer, or in one of the games few touch screen interactions, touching a no-no zone instead of holding her hand or patting her head as she’s asked, will always reward you with a loss of affection with the girl and generally her being appalled by your actions.
The girls themselves are par for the course of an anime-styled dating sim, you have your yandere, tsundere, etcdere and for the most part the girls never rise abouve their class mold, but that doesn’t mean their storylines aren’t enjoyable. Getting to know each girl reveals some surprising stories, from a ghost story to a nearly Nice Boat ending, they run the gamut. None of them were groundbreaking for me, but a couple were entertaining enough that I didn’t regret my time spent on them.
Being that getting to know the ladies is the main goal in the game the overreaching story isn’t the best ever told in a JRPG, but it’s not the worst either. It does it’s duty and gives you a reason to keep exploring the dungeons that pop up across the world map.
Speaking of dungeons there is a whole other side to Conception II that I haven’t touched upon, that being the JRPG aspects of the game. When the game is in JPRG mode, it’s fairly solid. Combat takes place in randomly generated dungeons, which could have used more variety in aesthetics, but again, serve their purpose. When you choose to enter into one of these dungeons, called “Dusk Circles” within the game, you can choose one heroine from the 7 girl line up and then 9 Star Children set in teams of 3. This is where your wooing pays off as the power of the Star Children you create depends on you affection with their mother. Each mother is suited to different builds, some girls are more inclined magically, while others will spawn a better tank, so choosing which girl to produce which class Star Child with is a fun little challenge on it’s own, given that there are 30 different classes to experiment with.
Also making up teams of children gives you freedom to experiment with many different builds. Do you want to make a team of all Thieves and raise your stealing proficiency, or perhaps you want to go with all Clerics for extra healing, maybe you want each team to be balanced with a Tank, Heals and DPS per team. In this regard the game gives you a lot of room to customize, and making new Star Children with higher stats to replace the old ones as your affection with their mother rises is something you will find yourself doing often.
As you’ll be raising our affection with the mothers throughout the game you’ll also be raising the level cap on your Star Children fairly routinely, meaning the children you spawn are spawn at best and fodder at worst, you’ll be swapping them out for newer, more powerful units in no time, so getting attached to your kids/units isn’t something that generally happens in this game.
The actual battle system I found to be a unique spin on the age old turn based combat mechanics with two major systems in play, the weakness and Chain systems. You can choose to strike your foe from one of 4 directions (front, back, or either side) and each enemy will have a weak side from which to attack, kindly pointed out to you by a nice big red arrow. Striking the enemy from it’s weak point will do more damage but will not help increase the Chain Gauge. The Chain Gauge gradually fills as you attack the enemy, however hitting from your vulnerable areas, in other words areas where the enemy will be able to hit YOU harder, will cause the Gauge to increase dramatically. When the Chain Gauge is full Chain State is initiated and that enemy’s attacks are slowed allowing your characters to act faster and get in many more hits while the enemy is helpless.
There is also an Ether density gauge to factor in, you gain Ether for defeating enemies, which allows your team to move faster, and lose Ether when harmed by enemies, allowing them to move faster. There are skills and items both sides can use to manipulate the Ether level as well, so there’s always more than one thing to keep an eye on while amidst a battle.
However, for as good as the battle system is, and as fun as it I found it when it was working, 90% of the game was so easy that using the system to it’s full advantage was simply not needed. It’s difficulty was depressing to me, as in this day and age of gaming I’m quite used to being able to select my difficulty level, and were I able to, I would have most certainly chosen to play this game on Hard in order to actually take advantage of the fabulously strategic battles that could have come from this system. Instead I found myself auto battling though most of the random enemy encounters and coming out relatively unscathed.
There are some other smaller disappointments that over the hours of play add up to become a grind as well, side quests are fetch quests with little to no valuable reward, save for the ones required to upgrade your Heroine’s gear, and even then the goals are quite vague. Usually the game will guide you to the dungeon and level you need to find the item or monster on, but because of the random nature of the dungeons, it doesn’t always mean that item or monster will spawn on that particular run, requiring multiple runs of the same dungeon, the same floor, and the same monsters over and over again. If the dungeons were more varied in aesthetics or the enemies more varied instead of massive amounts of recolors perhaps the drag would be a little less, but when you’re killing the same palette swapped enemies at hour 40 that you were at hour 1, it does tend to grate a bit.
Despite it’s flaws I had fun with the game, there is a lot of content there for those who don’t mind repetition in dungeon crawlers, and those interested in trying out a dating sim or a JRPG could do worse than to start here, as it would be a fine introduction to the mechanics for either. If you’re looking for the next great JRPG, this certainly isn’t it, if you’re looking for a deeply romantic dating sim, you’re not going to find that here either. What you will find is a fairly decent game that combines both into something unique that you won’t find anywhere else. If you’re looking to be offended that a game called “Conception II” has the audacity to be about making babies through magic touching and high school level boob jokes, well, I’m pretty sure you’ll find that here as well, though I would argue there are probably much better ways to spend your time than on playing a game that offends you.
(my actual end game team)
-There is boob bounce. On static portraits. It’s as silly as it sounds.
-There is no JPN language track, which was never a problem for me, save for Feene. She shares Agnes from Bravely Default’s VA, and she uses the same intonation. If I never have to hear that voice again I will be so happy.
-Google the paid DLC before you buy it as IMO it brings less to the table than it advertises