Atlus has been known for localizing some rather quirky games throughout their history and with the release of Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars, this continues to be the case. To put it into perspective almost instantly, you have the ability to produce magical children with the game's multiple heroines and then send them off into dungeons. Let's just say that the developer Spike Chunsoft never intended for this game to be taken entirely seriously. Part dungeon crawler and part dating sim/visual novel homage, Conception II has a lot of gameplay elements to work with as long as the player doesn't mind some fan service and trope use throughout.
Conception II takes place primarily in Fort City, located on an Earth-like world named Aterra. The city houses a special academy where people with "Star Energy" ether are gathered to defend against invading monsters. The main character controlled by the player in particular has so much of said energy that he's given the title "God's Gift", a phrase that's used more than once throughout the game in some quite amusing ways. Only people between the ages of 16-18 have use of their star energy and until that point in the game, there's been nobody with as much as the main character. Until now, nobody has been able to enter the Dusk Circles which the monsters originate from due to the lack of ether --- this is where the main character comes into play.
Of course, a one-man army wouldn't work, so the player needs to team up one of the several heroines that are available in the game. By performing a "classmating" ritual with said heroine, you create Star Children which accompany you both inside the Dusk Circles. This ties into the dating sim mechanics touched upon earlier, as the better you get along with the heroines the better the resulting star children will be, with the opposite effect occurring if you treat them badly and even closing off the ritual if things get too bad between you both. Surprisingly considering the story setup, the heroine's story paths are a lot more detailed and non-superficial than you'd initially be led to believe which was a welcome surprise.
That said, for those who don't care for lewdness in their games, this is probably one you'd want to stay away from. The classmating ritual is about as suggestive as a developer could get away with given the game's rating and the frequent double-entendre and blushing from the heroines.
Speaking of the Star Children, there's quite a number of facets about how they work. Each child belongs to a specific class, ranging from your typical healers, archers, knights and mages to some unique classes like the gunner. Picking the right party combination becomes important as certain combinations work better together and unlock skills exclusive to that combination. The children can also be sent off on their own once they level up enough and can be sent into dungeons to perform tasks for you or sent into the city to work and build up the town.
As far as the dungeon crawler aspects go, what's there is serviceable but doesn't aspire much higher than that. Similar to Atlus' Persona 3 and 4 games, you trek through various levels inside each dusk circle in an attempt to reach the bottom and exterminate the core fiend at its center. The dungeon designs are varied so there isn't much re-use between them, but the final few dungeons become a bit tedious with the amount of travelling you need to do.
Thankfully the developers made item chests plentiful throughout the dungeons so you generally don't need to enter and exit dungeons often unless you want to. Spike Chunsoft also included some playful anter between the characters in the form of text popups, auto-battling against weaker enemies and an option to auto-equip everyone which becomes useful when you have a full set of eleven party members.
The battle system in Conception II is turn-based with a grid-based system for movement, where enemies take up the center square and the party members can go in any of the four directions around the enemy. The player uses up a free action to move, while the enemy wastes a turn during so. The player and the heroine consist of one team alongside up to three teams of three Star Children. There are some options such as guarding and moves which affect the turn order, but in practice how the turns are specified are ambiguous at best. Regardless of this fault, the positioning mechanics still are put to good use in the battle system and is an interesting twist on the standard turn-based mechanics.
Once certain prerequisites are met, the Star Children can also combine to form a Mecunite, a form of a battle robot which has more power than the Star Children individually. The only issue with this system is that outside of the boss battles this form is essentially useless as you'll always have the battle won before they would be of use. This does change closer to the end of the game, but the mechanic itself feels a bit half-baked due to the earlier half.
Graphics-wise, Conception II looks surprisingly good on the Vita, even if it's a bit bright in terms of its color pallet. The dungeons and enemies are unique even with color-pallet swaps and the Star Children are varied class and design-wise. The character artwork in the dialogue sequences feels alive thanks to breathing animations, although the developer do often go a little over-the-top with the blushing and slight breast bouncing animations.
The music from composer Masato Kouda is exceptionally upbeat and when combined with the visuals fits quite well, even if it's a bit standard fare when listening to outside of the game. Atlus' English voice dub works alright, with the heroines in particular feeling a bit forced into the archetype roles they were meant to fill. It's probably intentional on the developer's part but some may find it off-putting.
Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars, in a few words, is an average game. Nothing in it is horrible by any stretch but there's nothing that makes it stand out from the crowd at first glance. If you like fan service or games that subvert said fan service you'll enjoy the game, but it's a toss-up if you're not hooked by that premise. Just don't expect it to be the god's gift of RPGs.
|Art style is varied enough that you don't feel like you've seen the same area and enemies twice.|
|Grid-based combat is a welcome change from the standard fare.|
|The heroine's back stories are more fleshed out than one would expect given the story's premise.|
|Some of the battle mechanics are underutilized for the majority of the game.|
|Some might find the breast jiggling and cliched heroine tropes offensive.|
|English voice overs feel a tad bit cliched.|