While I dove as deeply as I could into the core cultural construction of Conception II: Legend of the Seven Stars in our last review log, I invariably got one of those nosebleeds that signifies some kind of embarrassment by breasts. Today, we're going to analyze the game's combat to see whether or not the title is worth slogging through.
The first mechanic you need to understand before we get deeper into the labyrinths that make up Conception II's dungeons is Classmating.
That's the act where you and one of the female disciples at the academy get all glowy and naked before holding hands to give birth to Star Children. These little tykes require Matryoshka dolls to materialize into fully grown half-pints which you then take into battle.
You can make up three teams of three Star Children in addition to your female companion who will follow you into battle. The Labyrinths are tied to specific vices like Lust and Gluttony, but the monsters within don't seem to reflect those titles all that well. Most of this plays out like you'd expect if you've had any experience with the Persona series of games. The over world is fixed and navigated by menu while the Labyrinths lay waiting for you to explore each floor and defeat each enemy in 3D.
You can see baddies in the dungeon, but many of the maps are constructed so that there's no way around enemies. You can't strike first either, so showing enemies on the map makes no sense whatsoever. Totally random battles would have probably been preferred given that you end up hoping to get around annoying low-level enemies and failing miserably every time.
In Conception II's favor, this does eliminate any need to grind your level or abilities up as defeating every monster in a dungeon will prove sufficient in preparing for a Labyrinth boss. Still, the moment to moment combat in this RPG leaves a lot to be desired.
In Shin Megami Tensei IV, for example, Atlus utilized a Press Turn system which forces you to make delicate choices in every combat scenario. The hope is that choosing the right attacks will let you blow past enemies in one move. The same can be said of Persona 4's combat system, although it's slightly modified and more based on team balance.
Conception II has two key systems in place. The first is a chain system where risky moves slow down enemies in order to guarantee more chances for your team to strike. All enemies can be attacked from head-on, left, right, or from behind, and choosing to attack from a zone where the enemy is about to strike increases your chain meter, but also leaves your party at risk.
The second system is based on the main character's Ether, which is why he can get it on with so many classmates at all. That ability builds up over time and doesn't seem to have that much of an effect anyway, but worse still is the way Conception II abandons many of the forward-thinking JRPG mechanics that it appears to ape so heavily.
Other Atlus RPGs and games like Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII have taken battle systems and twisted them as much as possible to improve on stale mechanics. Conception II seems content just to mock popular turn-based trends and call it a day.
I'm still winding my way through the game and as such, will hold off on outright scoring the title. It's not that this battle system is boring, but it's not innovative or entertaining in the way other modern RPGs are, it simply is. While the dating sim aspects of the game include copious amounts of dialog and cutscenes, combat feels like it's here just because it has to be.