Conception PLUS: Maidens of the Twelve Stars (PlayStation 4) Review

By Sandy Wilson 29.02.2020

Review for Conception PLUS: Maidens of the Twelve Stars  on PlayStation 4

This game is a remake of the original Conception title, officially Conception: Please Give Birth to My Child!, or Conception: Ore no Kodomo o Undekure!, which was released in Japan only, for the Sony PSP in 2012. Developer Spike Chunsoft decided that now it's the time to bring back the franchise, with a fully featured and reworked remake for the PS4. While the series always did pretty well for such an obscure idea, its presence in the west was restricted to the sequel only, so this is the debut of Conception "Part 1" in the west!

Well, baby-making RPG action isn't exactly what sounds like a recipe for a great game, but seriously, this is a fun title. Featuring a unique world specially designed to get as many youthanisms into the dialogue as possible, at its heart this is a dating simulator, with a well thought turn-based battle system, and a nice helping of dungeons to explore. It's a little Persona mixed with a large helping of harem anime (don't ask). Featuring a colourful cast and a vivid colour palette, it's visually appealing, and does a fantastic job of differentiating the various characters with which the player can interact.

The story draws a similar line to the Isekai genre, with the two lead characters being zapped into another world. This realm is governed by the Star God, who designates God's Gifts (the main characters) and Star Maidens, whose job is to keep Star Power under control by defeating the Gods of Chaos in a labyrinthine dungeon near the academy city. As a premise, it does its job well, and the plot was actually quite an absorbing one when the dialogue wasn't too expository.

The game relies on a mix of visual novel type segments, dungeon hopping, and JRPG-style turn-based battling. First a look on the visual novel side of proceedings. The game biggest system at hand focuses in relationship building between the God's Gifts and the Star Maidens, and this is key to every other system in the game, as it provides the backstories of each maiden, allows the player to build up better parties for dungeon crawling, and provides comedy relief with some of the most bizarre conversations that all boil down to: "Isn't that why we should make babies?"

Screenshot for Conception PLUS: Maidens of the Twelve Stars  on PlayStation 4

The dialogue is presented both voiced and unvoiced, depending on the scenario, and the voice acting is nothing to sniff at with the English voice actors turning in a hammy, but balanced performance, with some highs, and only a couple of lows, like, for example, with Mana. The scenario also depicts if the character will be in 3D or 2D, and the 2D artwork is gorgeous and partially animated, providing some life to the characters, and more context for the conversation. The 3D part is also fantastic, with very smooth animations, lots of expressive movement, and the... ability to make all the girls be in swimsuits - literally the whole time that they are in 3D, apparently a feature of the remastering.

The dialogues themselves are, as mentioned before, pretty funny, with a lot of puns, and the plethora of characters have endearing qualities that makes it fun to see how they'll react. The choices are presented as three levels of options: good, neutral and bad, with good giving a boost to the relationship points. The developers have implemented a save point before a dialogue choice button during these events, which if re-loaded after a save, will have the last tried option marked yellow. These sections are surprisingly well thought through, with ample developer safeguards for the player.

The reason you need to build relationships with the maidens, is in order to 'classmate' with them. The ritual of classmating is defined in-game as being totally different from sex yet the scene shows what is obviously meant to be naked characters in compromising positions but they are ethereal and in space - a connection to the Star god maybe? This ritual is used to create Star Children, who are born with special abilities, and with set job classes. Yes, job classes. These Star Children are key to the progress as one must build teams of three star children, and add them to the party with a limit of three teams per full party. Each star child has one skill, or multiple skills, which are relevant to the class they belong, and these can be designated by the player upon their conception and are typical JRPG roles such as magician, fighter, monk, etc. The group of Star Children provides a variety of their skill for the player to use which is important as the main character learns skills very slowly.

Screenshot for Conception PLUS: Maidens of the Twelve Stars  on PlayStation 4

As players progress their relationships, more classes and stronger children can be created, and there is an increased likelihood of twins. It is also possible to forgo the relationship bonus of classmating, and try "trimating," which creates more star children. This involves having a strong relationship with two of the maidens to be most successful. So yes, basically the game has thinly veiled sexual intercourse rituals between the main character and his harem - this is getting hard to describe in a meaningful way, but believe that it comes together into a fun mechanic.

Luckily, the point of all of the relationship building and classmating is to go and dungeon-dive in one of the game's four dungeons. While 'four' doesn't sound like much, it was great to hear that each dungeon splits into three branches, each with a main boss at the end, meaning the player has to traverse 12 dungeons which is no small feat! They are all themed on seasons, with the first dungeon being spring, as it has the weakest of the impurities to fight. Yes, impurities, there is a lot of use of the word impurities and pure among other terms, which get fairly creepy connotations as the story goes on.

The dungeon design makes it clear that this was originally a portable game from a legacy system, but the visual overhaul and music are usually great, with some nice texture work, paired with some quality animations. There are branching paths and lots of treasures to find, which when opened cause the Star Children to dance with glee, which did draw forth a couple of smiles, and each dungeon is about climbing down floors toward the end of the dungeon which is done via portals. If the player is defeated by an enemy, they are simply tossed back into the game's map screen, which is used to go to the shop, meet with maidens, manage the party, and rest, which is a nice and not too punishing way to give the player more chances. In fact, most of the traversal and systems in the game are simple, and also full of safeguards.

Screenshot for Conception PLUS: Maidens of the Twelve Stars  on PlayStation 4

Battling though can be very fun and fast paced. To begin with, it looks like fighting can only be with one enemy at a time, but very quickly the genius of the system for multi enemy battles becomes evident. First of all, enemies are visible in the dungeon as in Persona so avoiding fights is possible - however, here's why the combat is actually a great reason to not run past enemies: each fight opens with the party facing off against one enemy. The player will command the main character and each of the groups of Star Children, with each group of three being one controllable unit, meaning battles are essentially four character fights.

In each turn you can pick an option for battle, then pick a direction to attack from, with each enemy having a weak spot which can be attacked for extra damage. This sounds simple at first, but each enemy has an attack advantage in the direction of its weak spot, meaning players have to prepare to tank attacks if they intend to attack the weak point every turn, adding an element of strategic placement to battles. It was terribly satisfying to chain battles and clear rooms of the dungeons - literal hours melted away while grinding experience points.

It's hard to fault this game for anything. It had an idea, it sticks to it and it does it with a bit of flair, and is very confident with its implementation. What it does do badly is the occasional repetitive musical track, and one weird instance of a voice actor's voice becoming incredibly muffled, but just for one line, plus the overly quick traversal controls. It definitely surpassed anything this reviewer could have expected.

Screenshot for Conception PLUS: Maidens of the Twelve Stars  on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Honestly the biggest surprise in a long time. Such a crazy and un-family friendly concept pulled into an extremely fun game package with loads of laugh-out-loud moments, sharp visuals, and endearing characters. Definitely not one for the living room, but if you have a modicum of interest in what you've read here, then it's definitely a recommendation. A unique adventure that oozes with charm and always has a tongue in its cheek that's only let down by virtue of it being a remake that still shows its portable routes.

Developer

Spike Chunsoft

Publisher

Spike Chunsoft

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   

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