Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars [Review]

Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars marries a dating simulator without romance to boring, lifeless dungeon crawling.

I was afraid that Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars would tack on a lazy, dull dungeon crawler onto its premise and hope for the best. The game’s lame, but hey, nudey anime girls. Well, the game did grow on me a bit over time with its neat ideas for RPG combat, although I definitely could have left most of its other concepts in the dust. It’s that pesky storyline about making babies and saving the world that I could have done without, oddly enough. Leave me with some things to hit and I’m happy, but once that pesky ‘everything else in the game’ shows up, I turn grumpy in a hurry. This game suffers a lot from the concepts that probably made a lot of people buy it in the first place, and might otherwise be fun without the cheap (and lousy) titillation and vile, dull storyline.

Now, the best part of the game is its turn-based combat. There’s a lot going on here, which you’ll immediately notice when the game gives you page after page of tutorials on how to play it. Everything from position in combat to Ether levels to chain attacks gets rambled on about in detail, and not a lick of it made any sense. The explanation on elemental weaknesses, something I thought I’d know instantly, took place over about seven pages and left me completely confused by the end of it. The issue is that the game forces these tutorials on you before you get any kind of chance to play around with whatever it’s explaining, so I had no idea what it was trying to tell me. I need to switch out star children to get this effect, but the element type of the group is decided by that, so I…Ugh. Do yourself a favor and close these explanations once they pop up, and reference back to them later after you’ve played for a while.

Anyway, combat is interesting once you’ve fiddled with it. Instead of the regular parties of most RPGs, the player characters act in groups. You can have up to four mini parties, with three of these parties composed by three of your star children and the fourth made up of the player character and whatever girl he happened to drag into the dungeon with him. If the girl is the mother of any of the children in the party, they get a little boost as well. Something to think about when you’re dragging your child soldiers to war with you, eh? Isn’t that a little messed up all on its own? Dragging a mother and her nine children to fight monsters in a dungeon? I’m kind of laughing because I didn’t think of that until now. This game keeps getting stranger. Anyway, party health is pooled so you don’t have to worry about individuals in the party – just the party itself.

Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars [Review]

When you enter combat, your party starts out in a position away from the monsters. You can then select one of four spots around the monster to attack it from. Attacking from the back increases your damage, and you’d be stupid not to send your heavy hitters back there. The damage bonus is noticeable, allowing strong characters to dole out a lot of pain in one swing. Enemies can only attack to the front or sides as well, so you might be wondering why anyone would attack from anywhere but the back. Well, at most, your main character and one group of kids can be in that back slot at once, so you have to spread your parties out into other places. If that seems like a drag, you should know that the game indicates where the enemy will be attacking next with a bright red mark. It’ll change directions and make sure it hits something if it’s only launching a minor attack, but any powerful ones will be stuck hitting that zone.

If that sounds like it’ll make things too easy, there is a bonus for attacking from where an enemy is about to hit. The game shows you the character’s turn order as you play, and attacking from a danger zone builds up the Chain meter. If you can land a few hits here before the enemy gets a turn, you’ll tangle it up with the chain bonus and move it back in the turn order. Attacking aggressively from danger means that the enemies don’t get a turn, so you can plow through some groups if you’re willing to take the risk, and also cancel out some downright powerful attacks. There’s nothing all that dangerous in the beginning, but if you’re fighting in later dungeons or ones set on hard mode, there are some attacks you’re never going to want to get hit by. It gives players something to think about while deciding where to attack from, keeping combat from turning into me hammering on the attack button.

What you fight and where you fight are a lot more dull than the combat, though. The game randomizes the dungeons you explore, so other than some wall and floor textures, don’t expect to see a whole lot of interesting things while you’re dungeon crawling. Each dungeon has its own wall designs, but the only thing you’ll ever see is that wall played out in random layouts.  The enemies all look like the same dragon head blobs on the map every time, and even when you enter combat, there are only a couple of different enemy models to fight. I was already fighting palette-swapped enemies by the end of the very first dungeon, so if you’re hoping to see anything interesting in the dungeons at all, you’re going to be disappointed.

Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars [Review]

Since the enemies are all roaming around the dungeons, you can come into contact with them at different angles to get combat bonuses or penalties. Attack something from behind and you get a few extra rounds, but get attacked from behind and the enemies go first. If you’re a high-enough level over the enemies, you kill them instantly and get the experience for the fight. I love systems like this, but the one in Conception II acts up every once in a while. The game seems to get confused if you or the enemy attacked from behind, so I often didn’t get my back attack bonus or even got back attacked when I clearly got the enemy from behind. It’s aggravating, but it works both ways, so there were times when I got a bonus round after I got nailed while running from an enemy. It’s annoying, but sometimes it works in your favor.

Life outside the dungeons isn’t much less dull or frustrating. Expect the game to talk to you a whole lot about stuff you’re probably not going to care about. I have huge problems with games that start tossing terminology at me right from the start, and this one is terrible for it. Page after page of expository dialogue on things like ‘God’s Gift’, ‘Star Children’, ‘Dusk Holes’, and tons of other crap are thrown in your face from the beginning, making the game seem really complex and deep when all it’s talking about is the main character, party members, and dungeons. You’re going into nameless pits and fighting the things that live there. Adding a bunch of weird, fancy terms to it doesn’t suddenly make that more interesting. I understand that this is the game’s story and is what makes it unique, but it feels like it’s just trying to cover up that there isn’t much of interest here. That or it was written by softcore porn scriptwriters.

What it is trying to pull people in with is the women you can…classmate…with (that’s a term that was either invented in a porn or someone in porn wish they invented). You get the same basic group of girls that’s in every anime that centers around a man hanging around with a handful of women who all like him despite the fact that he has the personality of a strip club mop and about the same level of charm. Huge cans shy girl, no boobs angry girl, mid-sized rack cheerful girl, and all the other archetypes make their appearances here. You have seen this before, and probably better written; but hey, we’re here to make babies, not get to know people.

This being a bit of a dating simulator, you need to get to know these people, though, and it’s just as mysterious as to why they learn to hate you as to why they learn to like you. Outside of the dungeons, you live in this compound that lets you shop, talk to NPCs, revisit old dungeons, or classmate with girls from someone else’s game (Because why not). You are also given three chances to talk to the women in your game. There are more than three women, though, so it seems like you might have to be specific with who you try to romance, but you can just go to your dorm and let time pass to get three more chances. It kind of makes the whole ‘three chance’ thing pointless.

Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars [Review]

Anyway, using one of your chances means going into a scene with the girl where she’ll usually talk about some completely inane crap or go through a scene where nothing of any importance happens. Maybe you’ll talk to the redhead teacher about her classes today, or maybe the shy girl will talk about how she hates public speaking. You must endure these things if you wish to move on to more complex scenarios where you have to guess whether you should wait for a girl to get out of a meeting or if you should heat up her cup of noodles or not. Which of these will make the girl like you more? Who knows? I drove the teacher into an insane rage by heating up her noodles, and I don’t think the nerdy girl could have wanted the D more after I waited for her to finish a meeting. The only way to find out is to guess, because all of their personalities are so flat and the questions are so bizarre that it’s hard to tell what anyone would want. How am I supposed to know she didn’t want the noodles heated up yet? Hopefully you saved in advance.

They don’t have to like you that much to want to classmate, though. You get better results if they do, but it’s impossible to know what they want without a lot of patience so I stopped bothering. Anyway, to classmate, you have to build up BP, which you do by communicating with girls. Hitting on any one of them will work, which is also kind of really weird when I think about it. Why can I classmate more with the shy one after I holler at her friends all day long? I’d think that would make her mad. Anyway, you build up some BP, head to the church (weirder), pick out some toy doll (better ones can be found to make for better children), and then get ready for some neon-colored outlines doing naughty stuff. You only ever see stuff like the girl arcing back, nipple-less breasts jiggling in the purple light, and then the game hatches your kid out of a doll. If you came here for nudey anime girls, I’m afraid you will be left wanting, dear friend. You won’t see anything much hotter than a late night sex hotline commercial here.

Maybe this is kind of embarrassing for some, or shamelessly exploiting female stereotypes, but I don’t think you buy a game called Conception II while worrying about how it portrays women. One does not go into an exotic dancing establishment and then get frustrated when a woman with stretch lines and track marks sticks her lady parts in your face. Even knowing that, these sections seem stupid and pointless, focusing on building up random relationships with lifeless, cardboard women so you can see half of a featureless boob. It’s a colossal waste of time on a romantic or sexual level, leaving the player with no inclination to do it beyond bolstering their party of star children.

So, unless you’re a die-hard fan of the combat system, there’s just not a lot going on in Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars. The game’s storyline is awful, the classmating system requires a ton of boring busywork with very little reason to want to do it, and the dungeons and monsters you fight get boring in a hurry. I really like the battle system, but it would need to be in a much more interesting game for me to be able to stomach playing through the entire thing.

The sound sucks too.

Joel Couture
Joel Couture
Joel Couture

MASH Veteran

A horror-obsessed gamer, Joel is still spending his days looking for something to scare himself as much as Fatal Frame. Even so, he has ridiculous action games and obscure gems to keep him happy in the meantime. A self-proclaimed aficionado of terrible retro games, he's always looking for a rotten game he hasn't played yet, and may be willing to exchange information for candy.

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