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Game Info:

Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars
Developed By: Spike Chunsoft
Published By: Atlus
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Available On: Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita
Genre: Role Playing Game
Number of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: M; Fantasy Violence, Language, Mild Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes
MSRP: $39.99
(Amazon affiliate link)

Thank you Atlus for sending us this game to review!

Dusk Circles have appeared around the world, launching monsters formed within into many populated areas, seriously threatening everyone.  Each Dusk Circle represents one of the seven deadly sins.  To combat this, the Star God, some time between a child's 16th and 18th birthday, will make a brand appear on their hand. This brand is a sign that the child has been chosen to combat the forces of evil, and has been granted special powers to do so.  They are called Disciples.  This brand, and their powers, disappears on their 19th birthday, so the government of Aterra has setup a special school where all children who have the brand are gathered and are trained to fight the monsters and save the world from this grave threat.  Female Disciples possess Star Energy, which is the main power for most magic, and males possess Ether, which can greatly amplify Star Energy, and is also a direct counter to Dusk Energy, which is what flows out of the Dusk Circles.  

In Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars, the protagonist, named by default Wake Archus, is a male Disciple who finds out quickly after having his skills and Ether levels tested that he is more than what he appears.  While most Elite Disciples (those who show higher promise than most) have an Ether count of around 50, Wake shows a reading of at least 1500 – the highest level ever measured in the 20 years since the Dusk Circle crisis began - before promptly causing the measurement device to crash.  As a result of this, he is seen to be a fulfillment of a promise the Star God made to the High Priest – and is heretofore referred to as God's Gift.  Since you can customize the main character's name, the voice acting often refers to you as such, or alternatively, G.G.

And the voice acting is strong with this one.  Seriously, there is a lot, and it's great.  While not every written line has a voice over, much of it is, and it's all done extremely well.  Where there is not voice acting, there often are emotion noises that convey the sense and character of the person speaking it.  Many characters follow some anime trope, especially the girls, but despite this I found them very likable.

And the game strongly encourages you to get very close to all seven of them.  You see, in order to fight against the monsters, and ultimately cleanse the Dusk Circles by defeating the Dusk Spawner, you need to raise lots of Star Children. Much of the game mechanics revolve around ways of making stronger and stronger Star Children.  They are born by a ritual that takes place in the Church where a male's Ether and a female's Star Energy combine inside a Star Womb Matryoshka doll.  This process brings about a Star Child in every case for God's Gift; others who practice this ritual also have a very small chance to produce a Star Child, but you travel with your heroines and children.

conception2
Highlights:

Strong Points: Decent story; very likeable characters; fantastic voice-overs; good graphics and music; interesting party composition options; many, many hours of gameplay
Weak Points: Dungeons get boring and very repetitive; quite a bit of grind (the bad kind...); enemies very repetitive with little variety
Moral Warnings: RPG Violence; blood in a few places; some language, including 'sh*t', 'a**hole', and h*ll; Lots of sexual themes and imagery, including: perverted priests, bouncing breasts, girls wearing extremely revealing clothing; accentuated crevices of nearly every kind; near-nudity and sexually charged situations in a few places; silhouetted girls in extremely sexual poses; “promiscuous” (though not technically) behavior towards your 'harem' of seven girls; many, many romantic or near romantic situations; a few moments of homoerotic tension

These children are not your physical descendents, but they are the Star God's children that you bring into the world.  Despite this, they do take on physical characteristics of their mother.  Each of them looks like a ten year old, and comes ready to fight.  Depending on the stats, levels, and mood of the mother, the Star Child's maximum level and available classes can change.  As a result, Star Children can become both disposable, and very valuable depending on their maximum level and skillsets.  Those with lower maximum levels, or are maxed out, are often made independent – where they can raise the level of the town the game takes place in, and raise the levels of various buildings and functions.  It does make for some interesting strategy, though it makes it harder to feel any sort of bond with your Star Children, despite enjoying their silly banter in dungeons.  Of course, if I let my ten year old child live on their own, I'd be in jail.

While the game makes it clear that the process of making Star Children, called 'classmating', is in no way sexual, the developers decided to unnecessarily saddle the process with sexual imagery.  The process itself is described as touching each other in some way (holding hands is enough), along with thinking deeply about each other.  The better they know each other, and the more they like each other, the more powerful the Star Child.  But during this process, they insert a scene with a pink silhouette of the girl (or girls in the case of tri-mating later on...) in ridiculously sexual poses.  As you progress in the story and in your relationships, these scenes get longer, with poses getting dramatically more sexual, and the song (with lyrics) eventually saying 'I want to make love to you'.  Thankfully you can skip this scene, but it adds overt sexual overtones to a mechanic that, while a little odd, did not need it.  Later on there is also 'classmanting', with two guys... which is less sexual in the silhouette scene, but the game sure does play up the obvious homoerotic angle in ensuing dialogue.

But even before the first classmating scene in the intro, there are hints, some more subtle than others, that sexual tension and related humor will be present throughout.  Even before the first fifteen minutes is up, there have already been upskirt jokes, perverted priests, and a “smokin' hot tomater!”, referring to the busty lab chief Ruby.  Included are associated breast physics.  And her response is “You're an honest young lad.  I like that.  I might have a nice reward for you later.”  It is quickly clear that she likes to tease the boys.

Despite the obvious sexual overtones, they did do a fantastic job with character interaction in general.  In the visual novel/storyline scenes, characters talk, their bodies move, and there are a lot of small details that make the characters feel alive.  And with the top notch localization job, it can be very entertaining to watch at times.

conception 2
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 80%
Gameplay - 14/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 56%
Violence - 6/10
Language - 6/10
Sexual Content - 1/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

The visual novel/storyline sequences were by far my favorite part of Conception II, despite the many appropriateness problems contained within.  It is so well polished, and the characters are all so likeable and fun to talk with and listen to, that this was the main draw, for me.  But because of the content, I felt very conflicted at times playing it.  If my wife did not offer to allow me to review this game, she probably would have given me dirty looks had I spent my own money on it...

And I would have deserved them.  By design, you are encouraged to flirt with seven different high school girls, each at various levels of 'development', simultaneously.  In a way, it's a form of sanctioned two-timing – except it's really seven-timing.  While a few of the girls are appropriately non-sexual, and your character is always a gentleman, it's still obvious that romance is an undertone with most of them.  Near the end of three of the girls' storylines, you get to see them naked – though at least some of it is left to your imagination in each case, which doesn't really make it much better.  On the other hand, there is an ending for each girl if you choose them, and at least two of them feature you getting married, which is a pretty nice.  Now the harem ending on the other hand... (it's cute up until the last line, where they all agree to have your children!)

While the visual novel aspect is well polished, the dungeon crawling is far less so.  Each girl has to transform into their battle suit, with a few of them being completely ridiculous outfits.  While some are actually kinda cool (girl carrying a minigun, anyone?) one in particular is basically wearing a leather bondage outfit only fit for the most risque of bedrooms.  The environment you travel together is a bunch of boring randomly generated combination of rooms and hallways in a fashion that is quickly rather predictable.  The monsters are visible and can be avoided if you wish, though not always, as some will block the exits.  Dungeons are between five and twenty-five levels deep.  Shorter dungeons aren't so bad, but the deep ones get really boring in a hurry.

And the battle system, while not terrible, doesn't do enough to keep grinding from getting monotonous.  In theory, it should be great.  Your party is made up of you and a chosen heroine, and three groups of three Star Children, which, like you and your girl, act as a unit.  Each Star Child has skills of their own, and combinations can enable team skills which are often very powerful.  In battle, you can position your teams to attack enemies either at their weak points, or make direct attacks, which can raise a chain gauge, which once activated, can allow you to get in extra attacks on an enemy.  In practice it works, but the repetitiveness of the battles, with little enemy variety, and the same with the dungeons, makes that aspect of the game rather boring.  It also doesn't help that the first half of the game is dead easy – but near the end, the challenge ramps up significantly, which requires you to learn battle tactics, where they really didn't matter too much up to that point.

The graphics are quite good outside of dungeons, and passably good inside. Dungeons and battle do have decent stereoscopic 3D effects, which helps some.  But based on screenshots I have seen, the PS Vita version looks much better.  While the bottom screen is used, it is also a wasted opportunity – the dungeon map, for example, would have been a great use for the bottom screen; instead, it overlays the top screen like it would have on the PS Vita.  On the other hand, the music is really decent, with some very catchy tunes.  Even the ones with the dorky lyrics can be a fun listen.

Conception 2: Children of the Seven Stars is a really quirky game with a bit too much over the top sexuality to recommend to even our most adventurous readers. There is a good visual novel combined with a decent (but not great) dungeon crawler that makes a very long and somewhat entertaining package.  Being the completionist that I am, I clocked in over 150 hours.  Most people could easily beat it in half of that – but again, should you?  I would say that the primary target audience, men, probably should not.  With softcore porn-like imagery, and sexual humor, it's probably best to pass.  

 

About the Author

Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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