Sunday, March 22, 2015

Game Review: Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars

Dungeon Crawler RPG/Dating Sim; 3DS/Vita (Reviewed 3DS); Spike Chunsoft; 2014
Sorry once again for no update last week, but right now I am DONE with classes, so that means a bit more free time to do stuff like writing these reviews. YAY! That and complaining to Nintendo of America about the lack of a standard size New 3DS in the states. Seriously, every OTHER region is getting it except for us, what gives, and my 3DS is having trouble charging, what am I going to do when it dies completely on me! Anyway, on to the review of this week, which is interestingly enough the game that I went over the Demo way back when I had absolutely no money. It's time to review Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars.

She isn't talking about sex... but it's damn close.
In a world blessed by a being known as the Star God, monsters created from Dusk terrorizes the people. Answering their prayers, the Star God bestowed his power on to several young people (teenagers) so that they can fight the enemies of humanity. These children are known as Disciples, and are gathered to Fort City to train and fight against those born from Dusk using their magic powers as well as small homoculi creatures known as Star Children. Wake is one such Disciple, but when it is discovered that not only does he have the power to enter the labyrinths where these creatures spawn but also the ability to create Star Children with a 100% conception rate with S rank female Disciples, he is task with forging his bonds, creating Star Children, and ultimately ridding the world of these Dusk creatures once and for all.

The overall story is perhaps one of the weakest parts of this game. What I just described to you is explained in the first few minutes of the game, and remains the basic plot for over 90% of it without any real revelations or twists that change the dynamic of the story. It doesn't help that most of the story is told in lengthy blocks after every main dungeon. What also doesn't help the plot is the attempts at giving the characters a "Normal School life" while the fate of the world and the fact that any of the cast can be sent to battle and never come back are hanging over them. I mean, how can we have plots about a choir concert and meeting up with the photography club happen when people are literally being sent to war and DYING. It doesn't matter that the world is in peril, all that matters is who are you going to ask to the Star Conception Festival that's coming up... No I am not kidding. Overall, the story is dull, boring, and conflicts with itself, which for an RPG is kind of a death knell.

Over 20 classes, but not much difference between them.
Conception II is a Randomly generated Dungeon Crawler crossed with a Dating Sim, kind of like Persona 3 & 4 except with a larger focus on the Dating Sim element. Your time with this game is largely going to be broken up into two segments: In town talking to the girls, and in the dungeon killing stuff. While in town you can meet up with up to 3 girls and watch an event for each of them. These events either progress that girl's storyline or is just a random vignette which you can give them a gift. During these scenes you will often be given response options that can improve or diminish that girl's mood (standard Dating Sim fare really); however, the girl's mood doesn't effect the outcome of which ending you get, but rather effect the results of one of the main mechanics of the game: Star Children.

See, as you talk to the girls you gain "Bond Points" which can be spent to create a Star Child with one of the girls (which is a process that makes Ar Tonelico seem tame). A Star Child will inherit the Stat balance from their mother, and depending on the Mother's Level and Mood will determine the child's starting stats as well as his/her max level. Also while creating a Star Child you will also determine it's class, with some classes locked due to Stat, item, or plot requirements. These Star Children will come into battle with you in teams of 3 and a maximum of 3 teams accompanying into dungeons.

The Dungeons themselves are not that interesting, it's your basic Random Generated Dungeon with a very simple generation format. Basically it's different shaped rooms that are always connected to one another by hallways; however, it is the battle system that is somewhat interesting and is perhaps the main draw beside the Dating Sim aspect. Like I said, your Star Children form 3 groups of 3, while Wake is accompanied by one of the heroines to form his team. Each team operates as one unit in battle with their HP and MP being combined for easier management. The Battle system is built on the standard Turn Cost system you've seen in other RPGs, where each action sets the team back on the turn order gauge a different amount. However, here they've added flanking to the mix, as you not only select which enemy you wish to target, but also from which direction do you want to attack from. Each enemy has at least one side that they are weak to attacks from, and attack from that direction will deal more damage; however, enemies also have attacks that strike against different sides of them, or even multiple sides, and when fighting more than one enemy you can also be flanked. On the surface the battle system seems really interesting... however....

Taken from the Vita version, because I couldn't find a 3DS screenshot.
The game has it's problems... It has a LOT of problems, especially with it's battle system. Basically, it's not well balanced, and there is several mechanics within the game that goes against the game's OTHER mechanics. For example, one of the mechanics in battles is the Chain Drive gauge, which increases every time you attack an enemy, and when it reaches certain points in the gauge it will "Chain" the enemy and knock them back on the Turn Order gauge and all subsequent damage received will add a multiplier to the EXP and Money earned from battle until that enemy's next turn. Cool right? Well, remember the flanking system? If you attack an enemy from its weak side the Chain Drive gauge will barely budge, actively incentivizing you to NOT attack the enemy from its weak side. You can also "Chain" multiple enemies by filling the Chain Drive gauge more; however, moving and attacking costs SO much on the Turn Order gauge that by the time you chain the second target the first target gets unchained, draining the Chain gauge and netting you no EXP bonus for your troubles. Speaking of moving and attack, just doing THAT costs so much time that the enemy FREQUENTLY will attack twice, everytime you have to switch targets, and that isn't even taking into account using skills. If you use a skill chances are you will have to wait twice as long to act as just attacking, meaning you'd likely will be better off JUST attacking. This not only limits your options in battle immensely, but since most Star Child classes are different base on what skills they learn, you just eliminated one of the primary differences between classes. And finally in regards to the battle system, the enemy AI is SO simplistic that it will do NOTHING but spam one type of attack solely based on your character position and sometimes this is completely game breaking. Late game there was this one boss that had an attack that hit all spaces around him, and so when all my teams where in the spaces around him he would use that attack... nonstop. In fact, that attack had LESS Turn Cost then my healing magic or even using items. I got wiped out because I spent my turns trying to heal and then he got FOUR turns in a row, and used that attack ALL FOUR TIMES! All this made the battle system both boring and unfair.

But that isn't the only part of the game that's boring, the Dating Sim is also very boring. First of all, several of the girls you can date have very little of interest to them. Of the seven girls, only TWO of them I actually liked: Serina, who was a typical Tsundere but was at least very entertaining, and Torri who was the required Oddball of any harem who I found adorable. Of the rest, three of them where only okay; Fuuko, Chloe, and Ellie, and the remaining two are just completely dull and uninteresting, Narika and Feene. However, what really kills the Dating Sim part is that for one, none of the storylines are all that engaging. They almost all follow a predictable path from beginning to end, with the exception of Torri's storyline, which has absolutely NO direction what so ever. And two, there is no required time management. Every time you return to town you can select up to 3 girls to hang out with, and after that you will either need to go to a dungeon or go to your room and rest to hang out with 3 more girls. However, there is NO LIMIT to how often you can do this, because "Time" only moves forward when you clear a story dungeon, meaning there is no pressure to figure out which girls to talk to when like in Persona where you have limited amount of days, or in Sakura Wars when you have a limited amount of time per free time event. You can literally, view every girls event up to the story checkpoint before even setting foot into one of the dungeons.

Ultimately, Conception II makes one Major blunder that dooms any video game. It is boring. The first few hours are interesting as you see each of the different gameplay mechanics for the first time and are introduced to the world. But after that you begin to see just how shallow everything is, and then it just keeps going... and going... and going without anything of interest happening. It's the problem that Project X Zone had, but at least Project X Zone was entertaining to look at and you can get pumped by seeing your favorite characters do their most devastating attacks, and it was half as long. You don't get this with Conception II, if it had more going on with it's plot or characters or it's battle system was more finely tuned to not devolve into just smacking the enemy as many times as necessary it could have been a fun game. But as is, it's not recommended. On the plus side, doing that first look at the demo netted me a free digital copy of Etrian Odyssey IV.

Until Next Time.

-CRES, and this is one of the TAMER sequences.

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