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Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars (3DS eShop) Review

Review for Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars on 3DS eShop - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars is one of the few full-priced games available for both PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS. It was developed by Spike Chunsoft and is the second game in the series, following Conception: Ore no Kodomo o Undekure! on the PlayStation Portable, a similar game that was only released in Japan. This time, however, Atlus stepped in to release the game in both North America and Europe, although it has to be mentioned that it's a digital-only release on both platforms in the latter region. Its story also isn't connected to the first instalment, making it easy to get into without worrying about having missed anything. Is there anything that shouldn't be missed in this game, though? Read on to find out…

It's not all that uncommon for many niche Japanese games to be written off simply because of some racy content, regardless of whether there is a genuinely good game behind it all or not. In the case of Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars, there is a very good game behind it all indeed. Despite the very unusual concept of making additional party members in form of Star Children with females, there's only a moderate amount of fan-service in the game and it never takes centre stage of the experience, either. With a premise like this, the developers could have easily made a bunch of attractive, boring girls and called it a day.

Thankfully, that's not the case for the seven female heroines that the player can interact with. On top of being very likeable characters, most of them have good backstories and the events with them over the course of the game are simply entertaining to follow, making building relationships with all of them well worth the effort. It's also a very welcome change of pace between the exploring of labyrinths, the locations the other big part of the adventure takes place in.

Screenshot for Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars on 3DS eShop - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The overall story of the game is about teenagers that find a brand on their hand one day, one that grants them special powers to fight against monsters that come out of seven Dusk Circles across the planet. These chosen people are called Disciples and are trained at the Star Academy to defend the world. The protagonist - that can be given any name - is special, in that he has an extraordinary amount of Ether compared to other male Disciples, allowing him to actually enter the feared Dusk Labyrinths and fight the opposing monsters. Additionally, he can reliably create powerful Star Children - up to nine of which can be taken along into labyrinths - with female Disciples that possess a large amount of Star Energy in a ritual called Classmating. This ritual involves the characters touching each other and then forming the Star Child via a special matryoshka doll. Once it is born, the player can select its name and class. The available classes are based on the stats of the Star Child, which in turn are dependent on the selected mother.

The idea certainly sounds strange, but it works really well and creates a satisfying mix of dungeon-crawling, team-building and dating simulation. Star Children have to be grouped together in trios and can have different classes and elemental affinities, resulting in team decisions that could be compared to a franchise like Pokémon. The labyrinths that have to be conquered consist of multiple, randomly generated floors, where the goal is to find the portal to the next floor while picking up treasure, evading traps and fending off any monsters on the way.

Screenshot for Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars on 3DS eShop - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The party consists of the protagonist alongside one accompanying heroine and three trios of Star Children, for a total of four controlled units on the battlefield. Battles are initiated by coming into contact with monsters and are strictly turn-based. They, however, offer a few mechanics that add an extra bit of strategy. Positioning is important, as enemies can be weak to being attacked from either one or even multiple directions. While regular attacks naturally always hit what's in front of a unit, many skills can hit from different angles, such as attacking an enemy from behind despite standing in front of it or hitting multiple weak points at once. Using these skills wisely is crucial to gain the upper hand, as it's not possible for more than one group to stand in front of a weak point simultaneously, with the exception of the main characters that can stand alongside one group of Star Children.

While all conventional stats such as Attack or Magic Defence do what they usually do, Speed is actually influenced by the current Ether level on the battlefield. Having more Ether speeds up the party and this can be achieved by performing powerful attacks, killing foes, or using a special skill with the main character that uses Bond Power, something that's acquired from viewing events with the various heroines.

Two more extra mechanics are the Chain Gauge and Mecunite. Each attack on any enemy fills part of the Chain Gauge, although the amount depends on the direction of the attack. Filling it to a specific point will chain the currently targeted enemy or boss and significantly slow it down, allowing the group to deal massive damage with no retaliation for a short period of time. Mecunite enables a group of three Star Children to transform into a powerful Mech and benefit from greatly increased stats and a variety of skills that depend on their classes and elemental affinity. This mechanic is very useful during tough battles, but it does require a decent amount of precious Bond Power.

Screenshot for Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars on 3DS eShop - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Even though the gameplay mechanics are very solid, going through the labyrinths can become repetitive after a while. Luckily, the breaks between chapters are a great change of pace, where it's possible to interact with the seven heroines and improve the protagonist's relationships with them. While getting to know them is entertaining on its own, it's also a part of creating Star Children, as the relationships affect their overall strength and growth. It also works in a way that promotes strengthening the bonds with the girls and occasionally replacing Star Children in the party. This is because they are assigned a maximum level at birth that increases as the game progress, so they will eventually stop becoming stronger. While that may sound tedious, it's actually not very time consuming to bring new groups up to a level where they can hold their own.

This aspect also ties into another feature of the game, where Star Children can become independent and help out in the Fort City, increasing the level of the city, creating new useful facilities, and expanding existing ones, such as the item store. These additional facilities include a training camp and a gift shop that sells various gifts and wearable accessories that can be given to the heroines. In addition to that, completing various quests for the laboratory can also result in new equipment being added to the shop.

Screenshot for Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars on 3DS eShop- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

The unique concept of creating additional party members with female companions is definitely strange at first, but it all works quite well and offers a significant amount of depth. The battle system is strictly turn-based, but also incorporates positioning on top of the usual elemental strengths and weaknesses to make things more strategic. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of variety in labyrinths, which can make extended trips feel tedious at times. This is mostly alleviated by the change of pace between chapters, though, where it's possible to further strengthen the bonds between the main character and the seven heroines.

Graphics

The game features great artwork that's used during most scenes in the game, although it has to be said that the character models during the dating segments are also well done and very detailed. The visuals don't fare as well in labyrinths and battles, however, which is particularly noticeable when seeing the close-up camera angles during special moves and the sequences before boss fights. While the labyrinths do consist of different floor and wall designs depending on the theme, they still end up looking quite bland.

Sound

The soundtrack is very good and certainly fits the tone of the game, consisting of more than just a few songs with vocals in them. Each girl also has her own theme and they do a great job at representing the individual characters. The English voice acting ranges from great to somewhat questionable, but it still manages to leave a good impression overall.

Value

The game takes roughly 30 hours to beat and offers a New Game+ that retains levels, money and even equipment, which is a very convenient option for finding any missed events and obtaining alternative endings. In addition to traditional quests that require killing specific monsters or finding certain items in labyrinths, there are a lot of optional events with each of the seven heroines that could be labelled as somewhat unconventional side-quests.

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

About this score
Rated 8 out of 10

Overall, Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars is a satisfying blend of dungeon-crawling, turn-based combat and dating simulation. The concept may intimidate some RPG fans but there's no overload of fan-service and the seven heroines that can be interacted with are all likeable characters, some of which also have genuinely good backstories. While the game's quality can't quite match popular JRPG franchises such as Tales of or Fire Emblem, it makes up for that with its uniqueness, making it a worthy addition to both the PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS libraries and a great choice for those who would like to play something a little out of the ordinary.

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11.07.2014

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Developer

Spike

Publisher

Atlus

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Okay, I admit, this intrigued me, so I decided to try the 3DS demo. Hmm, well, to start with I almost turned it off straight away, since - like a lot of Atlus games - it starts off SO slowly, plus the concept is...weird, to say the least. At one point it was almost cringeworthy whilst 'making' the first child Smilie

However, sticking with it until the dungeon and fun battle system, was something I was very pleased to have done as it turned out to extremely enjoyable!

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Staff Member

Haha, it gets even crazier later on, Adam. Smilie I didn't want to spoil any of that, because it certainly caught me off guard.

I think the dating sim aspects may have actually been more enjoyable for me, because I can get good battle systems in a lot of other JRPGs too and I haven't really played many games with these dating elements. It actually reminded me of Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love on the Wii, although that game is far more in-depth with its dating mechanics and had a more serious tone to it, too, while Conception II is more light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek in comparison.

Cubed3 Reviewer/Feature Writer | Twitter | Backloggery

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