I’m dropping out.
I did not finish this game. I can't take a game that so obviously doesn’t take itself seriously and analyze it for anything worthy of your time and attention. I’ve been to a Japanese high school before, so the kind of lecherous suggestions that fuel Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars are unsettling to say the least.
I traveled to Japan and saw school girls everywhere I looked, but just like high school at home in America, gender and the roles people play in our lives are never how they really seem. The kind, gentle, forgiving, and ever hospitable attitude I was met with overseas makes Conception II look like a joke, especially given that I acted like a total fucking jackass while I was there, at least at the beginning. It took a while before I understood the culture, but the real horror is that Conception II let me relive the first half of my trip in a fake and utterly insulting way.
Never mind that Spike Chunsoft has dishonorably ripped off Persona’s gameplay mechanics in a way that actually undermines the forward-thinking and inventive new takes on stale JRPG building blocks. Never mind that there are probably thousands of hours to the game’s numerous dungeons and dating-sim relationship-building interactions. Underlying everything that went into Conception II is an undercurrent of torrid sexuality that leaves me feeling numb, just like the comments of my peers when I returned home from Japan.
“You must have gotten laid over there,” one classmate said. It sounds like a line from Conception II, but this was uttered to me by a male student in my high school. “No,” I shook my head incredulously, “it’s not like that." Conception II is a lot like that other kid, with all the stupidity of a twelve year-old admiring his first Playboy centerfold and making up countless unreal acts to do to the poor woman trapped in those sticky pages.
At first glance, Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars seems like another tasteless, fan service-laden role-playing game complete with unnecessarily bouncing breasts and a storyline wherein you, the player, are the sole male figure capable of saving life as we know it. At second glance, it's exactly that.
Players take on the role of Wake who arrives at The Academy where he investigates the dark energies that have plagued mankind in an effort to defeat the monsters once and for all. What the game doesn’t tell you is that you might be awakening some misogynistic monsters within yourself if you truly believe that mating with every female Disciple will really “save” the unlikable world within. Conception II abandons the character building and genuinely touching yet relatable dramas that endear players to Persona.
You’ll go around school talking to various characters, shopping for potions and weapons, and taking Monster Hunter-like quests into dungeons for weapon and currency rewards. It’s almost too standard, and you’ll be more than bored by the progression and lack of character development. Here's a sampling of some typical encounters with your female cohort:
Oh, I fell over! Now your hand is on my breast! Get off pervert… actually it’s OK. No big deal. Wanna hang out later?
Oh, I guess we’re going to be having lots of kids now. I hope that’s OK with you and I hope you’ll help me through the process. I’m really nervous, but let’s do it right away!
Bitch, I know nothing about making babies! Now get off me, I’m trying to study and your breasts are smothering me to death. Whenever the female characters talk in the game, they’re shaken like a martini and their breasts are left to jiggle this way and that way. It goes beyond Dragon’s Crown’s heaving sorceress by feeling cheap and thrown together in a huff, almost as if the only way Conception II was ever going to sell to a male audience was if it pounded a new libido into your head like a tent stake at an all-boys camp where the girls wait just across the lake. Girls?! I hear they have boobs!
Sadly enough, combat won’t change your mind either. After making babies, you can take three teams of three Star Children into battle with you. They’ll earn bonuses to their power and abilities if you’re paired up with their mother, which removes all purpose behind Classmating with more than just one of the female disciples. As they level up, they’ll actually plateau at level 5 where the game encourages you to release them into the world. This can open up new locations, but I don’t know why anyone would do this with their child, and your female partner doesn’t seem to care.
Why bother having the child at all? Why not make all the female disciples interesting, multidimensional characters with arcs that take them away from stereotypically impotent ideals of love and sexuality and into new realms of development in order to endear them to the player? Or perhaps just to be interesting? Conception II never bothers to answer those questions, but it does feature a mildly intriguing mystery to unfold surrounding a corporation with close ties to the school.
Once again, I haven’t finished the game. I honestly can’t bring myself to finish it, as much as I may want to out of professional courtesy to Atlus, Spike Chunsoft, and any of you who might actually enjoy the title. I would love to look beyond the surface and see something beautiful, but every time I pick up my PlayStation Vita to play, I’m afraid I’ll hate the game even more. There is without a doubt hours and hours of content for hardcore JRPG fans, but this is the kind of product you probably already know you’ll love (or hate).
Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars is an exceedingly difficult game for a westerner to review, especially given the fact that it tailors itself so heavily to the Eastern mentality and the desperate need for new babies and new families to put down roots in Japan’s biggest cities.
There is some love to be found in the game’s music, in its awkwardly juvenile humor, and in the way it teases players into questioning its content, but you might be better off ignoring the title altogether in favor of bite-sized experiences on your handheld gaming device of choice. If your measure of a game’s quality is in its length, you won’t be disappointed by this 50-hour epic, but I couldn’t bring myself to dedicate that much time to it.
For all its desire to encourage males to get down to procreating, Conception II does a terrible job of teaching someone what it means to be in a relationship where you need to help another person, learn from them, and possibly even lose them. If Conception II’s Star Children stayed dead and didn’t automatically revive at the end of a battle, would it make the title any more compelling? I can’t say for sure, but it certainly made me feel like an undeveloped teenager balking at the suggestion that all I did in Japan was get busy.
Code provided by publisher. Based on PS Vita version. Also available on Nintendo 3DS.