So, the world is ending because demons are coming out of cocoons that fall from the sky and they’re killing everyone and that’s mega bad. Like, super mega bad.
Some schools were made to train folks to slay demons, like military academies, but then they found out that only people with a certain kind of power can actually do any real damage and help against the threat, which is just, the worst. Compound that by the fact that when you mature you lose all your powers and, well, mankind is proper hosed.
Oh but wait! If you have a crazy high concentration of Star Power, a gift of magic from this really bright star that I guess we worship, then you can totally have magic babies with girls that also have high Star Power and then your magic babies, or dare I say Star Babies can form a small army and help you kill the ever loving crap out of the demons!
And guess whose just the guy with the high concentration of star power to do it (no pun intended)? That’s right, it’s you!!!!!!
I’m just going to go ahead and say that college student porn plot aside, Conception 2 is surprisingly a very deep and emotional game. Actually, perhaps it’s because of the sophomoric plot that this game really shines.
You play as a nameless main character who I dubbed Swordy MacStabbem’ in my head but something like Ahz in the game because I like Myth Inc. Swordy comes from a town that was devastated by the demons and won’t stop until he’s eradicated every last one of them. The interesting thing about Swordy is that he isn’t the typical harem anime main character; he couldn’t care less that he’s gettin’ jiggy with seven of the academy’s best. He doesn’t seem to have any real feelings on it one way or the other aside from viewing it as a means to an end.
Now, some reviewers that want to down play the “Class-Mating” mechanic (the actual term) say it’s little more than just holding hands. If that’s what you want to believe then cool, whatever makes your sensibilities more comfortable with the plot. I just know that there’s an awful lot of slow jams and interpretive dance for hand holding. Don’t go into this getting your creepy hopes up that this is an eroge in your pocket, because there’s no flat out nudity, rather Sailor Moon style sparkles and suggestive movements from the girl of your choosing.
Your main character has a typical anime best friend (who quickly puts himself into the more than a trope category as you learn he’s actually like, way intelligent, wants to become a scientist, and is driven to do whatever he needs to help you to accomplish your task as “God’s Gift”) who is of course straight up like “GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS BOOBS GIRLS BOOBS BOOBS GIRLS BOOBS!!!” for the first few hours and can’t wrap his head around why you aren’t more excited about the opportunity ahead of you.
The main character puts it bluntly, sayings words to the effect of “I don’t care about the method, I don’t see it the way you do. All I see is a way to eradicate these demons from this world…and I’ll kill every last one of them no matter what.”
Now, don’t be fooled by the depth, this is still a harem anime game, so expect to see plenty of this:
And a good deal of this:
And of course no harem anime would be complete without the “OH CRAP YOU’RE FALLING LET ME CATCH YOU OH NO I ACCIDENTALLY GRABBED YOUR JUST THIS IS JUST A BIG MISUNDERSTANDING!!!” scene:
Even so, in spite of the jokes that the game makes because it has to, it really is a deep RPG worth your time.
“Because it has to?”
Yup. Looking at games like this and shows like Michiko to Hatchin and Kill Me, Baby, I’m seeing a growing trend of anime that is forced to pretend to be the same harem/moe junk that is the only thing that sells in Japan now in order to trick the viewer/player into getting caught up and invested enough to learn something. Case in point, Michiko to Hatchin disguises itself as a series about a sexy mamacita out to shoot stuff, dance on stuff, and wear the sluttiest outfits she can find just because she can.’
And then you get three episodes in and it evolves into a story about motherhood, sacrifice, child abuse, growing up, and making the choice to walk away from a destructive relationship because your child is worth more than your foolish crush.
Yeah, mind = blown, and it’s a shame that anime and games now can’t just be about something important from jump, but if you have to play an act to make someone educate themselves or experience raw emotion, well, I’m all for it.
Over the course of the game you’ll deal with mortality, self worth, doubt, contemplating suicide, coping with the death of people you care about, and questioning the morality of using children for war, even if that’s the “only option”. You’ll deal with the aftermath of natural disasters, homelessness, shame, loss and everything in between.
Your main character begins with relatively shallow relationships with the girls around him, each seeming to represent a trope and then evolving into living, breathing people with real struggles beyond their archetypes, and over the course of the story begin to question his almost automaton views on war. You’ll be made more comfortable about the whole classmating thing as he genuinely cares about each individual and is willing to break anyone who views them as objects or looks down on them, and as much as you thrill at the intense battles against the creatures from the abyss, that quiet moment of introspection as your hero stares off at the setting sun and recounts how he knows in his heart that the killing won’t ever bring back his home, but that he’s got to do it anyways, well…
Beyond the giggles and fan service is a real story that’s genuinely worth experiencing. And, it really tends to mirror a nicer version of the struggles of nations and remote villages at the mercy of rebels and terrorists that kind of have to breed their children for battle. So, despite being a sci-fi game that knows how to crack jokes to make those that don’t want to think about their actions in a game feel comfortable, it’s almost a science fiction version of the struggles in Africa or medieval Scandinavia and such.
So, the game is broken up into two parts: Dungeon Exploration and A-Life. In the dungeon exploration segments, you’ll go to various dungeons named after the “seven deadly sins” and fight your way to the boss of the realm.
You’ll be able to take with you into the dungeon one of the seven S-Rank female soldiers from your academy, and up to nine of your children. If you bring children in with their mother the children will perform better in battle and you can build up Family Points that will make the siblings bond closer to the two of you and one another. This will make the children do things like learn team attacks or protect one another from enemy attacks.
I should take a quick moment to note here that the Star Children are described as beings made of pure energy that have a fusion of your combat traits and their mother’s. I’m assuming this distinction was made to make the whole Job Class system and Release System not seem weird, but more on that later.
Enemies appear on the map so you can choose to avoid battles if you want to. If you’re high enough level, the protagonist will just kill the enemies without engaging them, which is nice and makes power leveling new kids easier. In combat, you take your eleven person team (split into four units with you and your partner making up one and three groups three making up the rest) and strategically position yourself on the battlefield. You can maneuver your squads to enemy weak points to deal extra damage and have a higher critical hit rate, or you can go for a high risk high reward frontal attack that will yield chain points that will allow you to stun your enemy and go into a lengthy combo to try and finish things off quickly.
You’ll be able to make use of new moves that you learn both as you level up and grow closer as a family, utilizing MP for ordinary specials and Bond Points for over the top moves that come from the main character himself. And, as you grow closer you’ll unlock team attacks as well.
Strategically pick to either spread out your team amongst the numerous job classes in the game, or double or triple up a unit with more of the same time to unlock mastery level versions of ordinary skills. Conception really leaves it up to you to forge the game experience you truly desire when it comes to combat.
The game allows you to save anywhere, which every freaking portable game needs to do, and will give you a big bold warning before you get into a boss fight.
The game likes to throw random difficulty spikes at you, but by and large if you train properly it won’t be too hard.
The A-Life (artificial life) side of things sees you going about your school life and getting to know the girls (and your rival and other characters) that you’ll be spending your day to day time with. An extremely lovely thing about this game and an exceedingly welcome departure from other A-Life styled games like Persona and the entire Atelier series is that you can take as much freaking time as you want to do whatever you want. You can spend as much time as you want to getting to know the girls or hanging out with friends, although you will need to progress in the story at some point for your friendships to reach the next level. Likewise, you can spend as much time as you want training in dungeons and doing sidequests.
The town that you live in, a military college city really, expands by you “releasing” your star children. Basically unless you have an extremely rare Genius Level child that can grow as much as you can (up to level 99), your kids will bottom out at a level near the one you and your chosen mate are at when they’re conceived. Once that child reaches their potential, it’s time to let em’ loose on the city to make lives on their own. They go on to become productive members of society I guess, since that’s how your town levels up and gets bigger and more better.
This A-Life time will help you do things like help one of the girls overcome her shyness and sense of inadequacy, help another one to feel like more than the worthless screw up in her perfect big sister’s shadow, and even become close friends with a guy that you’re pretty convinced is a heartless jerk at the beginning of the story.
You don’t *have to* make better relationships if you don’t want to. You *can* just mate with the girls, get powerful kids and run through the dungeons. And, like anyone would feel in that situation, you also aren’t going to get the best out of the other soldiers and you’ll have a heck of a hard time unlocking more powerful job classes and such. So, ya know, treating your fellow warrior as more than an object is probably a good thing to do. What’s more, it’s the only way that Swordy (I guess his name is Wake if you don’t give him one) is going to realize how sociopathic he’s becoming and strive to be a better person.
Hit or miss. There’s times that it’s repetitive and makes you want to play on mute for a while, and there’s times when it’s haunting, hardcore, or just plain perfect. By and large I guess I liked it, but I found more songs stuck in my head because they were annoying than because they were catchy. For example, even though the first random battle song clearly wants to be the idol/glam rock version of Persona, it just felt very…forced and jarring to me.
When you go to new dungeons the songs are different on the floors and battles for a while, and then they aren’t, and then they are again. I’m…not entirely certain what is the governing factor.
On the Vita the game is freaking gorgeous and has lots of pretty colors. On the 3DS…not so much. Like, it’s really jaggy and washed out and it just wasn’t very nice to look at. The audio quality is nowhere near as good either. If you have the option, I’d definitely recommend getting this on Sony’s orphan handheld instead. I mean, the game is worth playing regardless, but if you can you may as well have steak instead of hamburger, am I right?
I’m only half way through the game so I can’t really say, but there’s eight different endings, a ton of sidequests, a bunch of extra dungeons, plus you can fight Monokuma if you want to, and I despise that bear with every fiber of my being, so, that’s cool.
The final verdict
Is this game worth getting? If you’re capable of looking past the fan service, or if you’re capable of playing a game that makes you want to feel something beyond jokes and said fan service, then yes. Very yes. If you don’t mind having to spend a fair amount of time leveling up your party and experimenting until you find just the right team, then very very yes. An lastly, if you want to try something new and original with an innovative combat engine, then absolutely.
Otherwise, maybe not so much.
Conception 2 is available for the PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS handheld game systems, and you can score a copy for $40 retail.