Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars
You can't deny that Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars is silly. The dungeon crawler/dating sim hybrid has you wooing girls to conceive powerful children to fight evil. Games don't need to take themselves seriously, but Conception II doesn't have any endearing goofy charm; it comes off as an otaku fantasy rather than a fun RPG. Ignoring the risqué visuals and in-your-face sex talk, Conception II simply isn't entertaining. The dungeons are boring, the combat is repetitive, and the story and characters are ho-hum.
Your character is kind of a big deal. He attends an academy with the mission of training young people to fight the monsters in the world. He quickly earns the nickname "God's Gift." Everyone praises him. Girls flock to him. Guys want to be him. Players are constantly encouraged to build relationships with other females and "classmate" with them to produce new "star children." The game claims it's not "real sex," but that doesn't stop developer Chunsoft from treating it as such. Your tots refer to you as daddy, and the classmating scenes simulate an intimate encounter. Your partners arch their backs, and the silhouettes outlining their body parts don't leave much to the imagination. This can be awkward, going a step further than was necessary for the zany premise.
Growing your relationships with a few select girls produces high-potential kids with access to more job classes, but getting to know these women is awful. Unlike Persona, where you feel like you're helping someone through an important life struggle, these problems are laughably superficial. In one path, I had to help a teacher deal with her growing popularity as a pop star, and doctors not wanting her to visit kids at a hospital. In another, I had to convince a girl that she was fine just the way she is - small bust and all. Self-esteem is a universal struggle, but when the scenario revolves solely around chest size, it loses poignancy.
This isn't an isolated problem. At every possible junction, characters bring up cup size as the go-to conversation topic. Don't expect to tackle any mature problems; characters are all teenagers with raging hormones, which is exactly the problem. They don't have anything interesting to say about themselves or the situation at hand, so you're constantly just scrolling through a bunch of boring text. The jokes aren't clever and the characters rarely feel like people - just tools to keep a ridiculous plotline going.
When you're not trying to raise your relationship with one of the chosen women, you're dungeon crawling. I enjoyed the battle system at first, which has you moving the position of your party members to attack enemy weak points. You're paired with one of the romantic interests, and direct up to three groups of star children. You have different special abilities depending which cohort you bring with you, and you can arrange your children to focus on different aspects of combat. I had one group that was more focused on healing and defense, while I set others to focus on magic and strength attacks. I may not like the actual creation of the baby warriors, but I did enjoy unlocking new classes and composing new battle groups.
The novelty wears off quickly due to the drab, randomly generated dungeons. Not only are they visually unappealing, but the exploration is boring. Sure, you can find new items or take your chances on opening a chest that is either an enemy or great item, but it's a generic ride. Initially, I fought every enemy I found on each floor, but due to boredom, started bypassing some foes. Eventually, I was doing the bare minimum to progress. At least the boss battles test your wits and make you think more than the standard encounters. Unfortunately, the pacing for all of this is terrible. Dungeon crawling isn't broken up or supported with great scenes or plot twists, so hours of battle often mean nothing.
Conception II succeeds in making all the systems play off each other. Children can not only be used in dungeons, but outside of them as well to mend shops. You can even eventually unlock a daycare to drop off children who share in experience when they aren't in dungeons. The game gives you more than enough incentive to keep producing children and it does some pretty weird things to make that happen. I won't spoil much, but yes, tri-mating eventually becomes available.
Conception was a series I never thought we'd see localized in North America, and I was curious to see just how something that sounded so off-the-rails would stack up. I was better off wondering. I could forgive the plot if the game was actually exciting, but this is a dull dungeon crawler. Some of the most exciting RPGs work with relationship building, like Persona and Fire Emblem, but this just takes it in a bizarre direction. Merely giving players a chance to pair up isn't enough; the actual relationship building needs have genuine developments and substance, and Conception II hits all the wrong notes.
making babies, but is there any substance or fun to the journey?