Conception 2: Children of the Seven Stars belongs in a very special category of games. Those games that actually live up to the hype generated prior to their release are few, but Conception 2 delivers. Though it is indeed a bizarre hybrid of a game, it’s a great one. Were it not for a couple rough patches, it would be perfect.
Conception 2: Children of the Seven Stars is a JRPG that comes to us from Spike Chunsoft. If you don’t recognize that shop as the glorious company that brought forth 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors, its sequel, and Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, then you may have missed out on three spectacular character-driven visual novels that were almost universally acclaimed.
Where this latest localization differs is in its gameplay. Keeping many of the visual novel traditions, Conception 2 mixes together elements of Pokémon, Persona, and other traditional JRPG elements to make an all-around excellent experience. With its jazzy, catchy soundtrack, one might even mistake it for a Persona title.
Conception 2 tells the story of Wake Archus (or your name here) who awakens to the brand of the Star God on his hand in a world overrun by monsters. Since only teens aged between 16 and 18 can be blessed with the ability to fight them with this Star Power, these individuals are trained at a special institution built right on top of the oldest nest of monsters.
Wake is swiftly separated from the pack of other hopefuls with an “ether power” over 1500 and given the title of God’s Gift. He is then tasked with the creation of Star Children with other highly-ranked Disciples, as his “conception rate” is far higher (100%) than any other Disciple ever and with his high Ether is able to fight inside the “Dusk Circles,” sterilizing them and ceasing their creation of monsters.
While this might sound trope-y to the max, the characters and narrative are extremely well-developed. This is critical, as a large portion of the game deals with raising the affection and mood of the S-ranked Disciples in your party so that you can make powerful Star Children with them – a process called “Classmating.” Each character has their own little set of problems and quirks to deal with, and reading through the many conversations never gets dull, especially thanks to the above-average dubbing. This is fortunate, as there is no option to switch between English and Japanese voice overs.
Where Conception II excels above other JRPGs with dating sim gameplay is the complete and utter disregard for the absolute passage of time. This means to say that the story will never progress unless certain actions are taken. This means that, should you screw up with a heroine’s mood, you may simply keep talking to them “day” after “day” without wasting any time. In games like Persona 3, the player is bound to the calendar year and a strict time limit. Miss that one social link, and high-powered Personas are forever locked away during the endgame; not so with Conception 2.
This is makes life easier because similar to Persona the strength of the main character’s bond with the other heroines determines the strength of created Star Children. Conception 2 uses a 4-member party system, but one “member” is made up of the main character and a partner, followed by three squads of three Star Children each.
Star Children can be created as a number of different jobs, from Swordis to Gunslingers, Magicians, and everything in between, including Minstrels, Merchants, and Berserkers. Each child also has an elemental affinity for attack and defense. Not every heroine can create every job or every element, so keeping everyone happy is key to a balanced party. The extent to which customization is possible is pretty endless. With over 15 classes (try the Lancer), skill combinations, and seven different heroines Conception 2 makes levelling every heroine meaningful and rewarding.
This also leads to one of Conception 2’s few failings, however, and that is an incredible deluge of information. There are pages and pages of in-game tutorials explaining the systems behind creating Star Children, building relationships, the elemental system, skills, and combat. It can be somewhat overwhelming.
And it doesn’t need to be. Combat is fairly self-explanatory, taking place in a 3D arena. What makes the combat great are the special Chain and Ether gauges, multi-directional fighting, and the strong element system. With so many options to consider, the numerous fights don’t get too repetitive.
Overall the dungeons are entertaining. The aforementioned party customization helps, as new skills and combinations are discovered with exploding lights and colorful effects, and sometimes with special animated sequences. While it may take a backseat to the enjoyability of progressing through each character’s story, training up a fresh batch of Star Children never stops being fun.
Although, this brings up the last failing of Conception 2: it’s very easy. Rarely will the player be challenged in battles, and most end with one full turn. It’s a blessing due to the sheer number of fights possible in a dungeon, but when even the boss fights lack in difficulty it takes a small bit of joy away from developing that perfect group of fighters and wizards.
This feeling fades quickly, however, as there are numerous dungeons to explore. All of them are randomly generated, and though tending towards the easy side new dungeons are always somewhat difficult at first even with the proper preparation. It keeps the game fresh and prevents combat from feeling too much like an add-on to the superior dating-sim aspect of the game.
Conception 2 never stopped being fun and enjoyable. With hours and hours of interactive conversations, tons of customization options for the Star Children, and a slew of other features centered around the appeal of the characters, this game is one for the books. Combat, though complex and enjoyable, is fueled by a superb dating-sim gameplay and excellent characters. Throw in a party creation system that rivals the Pokémon and Persona franchises, Conception 2 isn’t a game to pass up on and might surprise newcomers to the genre.
[+Developed characters] [+Good mix of 3D and 2D graphics] [+Complex battle system] [+Good story] [+Good mix of dating-sim/JRPG elements] [-Battles too easy] [-Huge quantity of information needed to fully experience the combat system]