Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars is the latest turn-based RPG from Atlus, developed by Spike Chunsoft in Japan. The game has officially been released on the PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS last year in Japan. Atlus published the localization in the West and it received an official release here on 14th April, 2014. Europe will get it at a later date in May.
If you have played Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars demo – which was released quite a while ago on the PSN/Nintendo eShop – you can easily transfer your progress from the demo to the final game by selecting the appropriate option in the main menu before starting the game. In case you played the demo on the PS Vita, make sure that you don’t delete the demo, as it will also delete the game save, and you won’t be able to load your progress from the demo in the final game.
Keeping this in mind, lets start the review by outlining the story of Conception II. The story might be the weakest link in Conception II. It is fairly generic but manages to stay fresh through its wacky characters and dialogues. The story is set in a world called Attera and we control the main protagonist who is given the title of “God’s Gift”. Basically, he has a large amount of Ether, more than anyone in the game world, and he is given the task to clear the world of the Dusk Circles, which are the breeding ground for monsters.
The story of Conception II also relies heavily on Star Children and introduces “Classmating”, which is the process of making these Star Children. This might sound a bit silly and naughty but there is nothing obscene here. Star Children are an important part of the game because not only they are tied to the plot, they are also an integral part of the gameplay mechanics. These Star Children can help us with our battles in the Dusk Circles. They can also be used for a variety of purposes like increasing the level of the in-game locales or opening new ones.
Star Children are a big part of what makes Conception II unique from other turn-based RPGs. Star Children essentially serve as a form of party to help players during the combat. Since we can’t control the characters individually, we can only issues commands to them in the form of a team, and the team members follow these commands. The neat little thing here is that each Star Children has its own class, and they all distinguish from each other based on the class and gender. There are total of 18 classes available for Star Children and they can be used to form unique party combinations.
Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars also introduces a brand new concept to JRPGs. It is called “Classmating” and while this might sound dirty at first, the way it is represented in-game, it feels more like combining powers to create new entities than mating. It is just a silly way to add more appeal to the concept of creating Star Children, and it really works. It might offend some people if they start taking it seriously, but the point is to go with the flow, have a sense of humor. Just think of Classmating as an alternative to the social links of Persona, which allows us to build our relationship with other characters and in turn obtain more powerful Personas. They also add a dating sim element to the game.
Classmating requires bonding and having a relationship with one of the many female protagonists of the game. There are various ways to bond with them, like talking with them between various events, gifting them items, or taking them along in the game’s Labyrinth for exploration and battles. All of these end up increasing the bond between the characters, and a having a good bond is essential to producing powerful Star Children.
When it comes to exploration and combat, there isn’t really much to say here. We do have a good choice of exploring various places, but we don’t actually physically move between these places. These places are represented on the World Map in the form of a simple location, which we can select to visit at any time outside of a Labyrinth.
The combat can end up being repetitive and boring in the start but as the game progresses, battles start becoming fun as we are required to think strategically. It is essentially turn based but we have the freedom to hit the monsters from any of the four directions, corresponding to the dpad/stick. Attacking from the back of the monster deals more damage, but taking risks by being in front of the enemy’s attack can also lends us some neat bonus. This bonus comes in the form of a Chain Drive and Ether Density, which fills quickly if we take this risk and attack the monster from an exposed location. Increasing the Chain Drive can slow down the monster considerably, resulting in more hits from the player. Ether Density starts at zero and increases slowly with each hit that we make. Just like Chain Drive, it can increase faster if we take risk and attack monsters from exposed locations. It increases the battle speed of the player, and combined with the Chain Drive, results in an easier battle.
While Conception II might be a modestly budgeted release, it still looks pretty good, especially on the OLED screen of the Vita. The character art and 2D/3D models really helps bring clarity to the in-game graphics. The 3D models of character look decent, and are close to early PS3 JRPGs. The biggest disappointment is the generic and bland design of the Labyrinth, which is basically equivalent to the Dungeons from Persona series. We will be doing our majority of battles and exploration there so it doesn’t hurt to add more variety to them.
Conception II is also fairly simple JRPG to get into. The game’s mechanics and gameplay are neatly explained in tutorials, which helps us grab the concept much easier. Even in battles, we can fast forward through most of the animations, which helps a lot when we are grinding through the game. In case when we encounter monsters that are weaker than us, we can simply kill them without having to resort to battling them, and we do actually get the experience point. This really helps in maintaining the flow of the game since battling weak monsters can get tiring in most JRPGs. When it comes to the difficulty, the game isn’t necessarily difficult and is more fun than frustrating.
In conclusion, Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars is a neat little entry in the JRPG market, which – while not exactly revolutionary – manages to distance itself from other turn-based RPGs through the introduction of new gameplay mechanics like Star Children and Classmating. These mechanics might not necessarily be new but they are built on the preexisting concepts in a JRPG and are surprising fun for the most part.