Gamers in the United States have been incredibly lucky as of late, thanks to developers and publishers bringing titles from Japan Westward. Conception: Ore no Kodomo o Undekure! for PSP didn’t make it over, but that hasn’t stopped Atlus from localizing its sequel. Vita RPG Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars has been drawing attention thanks to its unique characteristics, rather than gameplay mechanics.
As the name implies, there’s a big focus on “conceiving” children. Wait, don’t walk away — it actually has a serious story beneath the seemingly silly premise. Conception II brings players to the world of Aterra. For the past 20 years, the once peaceful landscape has been under assault from various monsters. These creatures spew forth from gigantic craters known as Dusk Circles, each of which has an accompanying labyrinth. According to scientific theories, being able to beat a specific monster deep within a labyrinth will kill its monster-creation capabilities. Unfortunately, no one has been able to penetrate the labyrinths.
That’s where the main character comes in, and as tradition would have it, he finds himself with a special symbol on his hand — the Star Brand — marking him as a Disciple. Disciples are 16 to 18 year old teenagers who possess powers necessary to fight monsters thanks to the Star God’s blessing. Luckily for you, you’re not just a Disciple but the one that has been fated to appear — or “God’s Gift.” This fantastic gift allows you to not only complete labyrinths, but also procure powerful Star Children with your peers. Yep, this is where Conception II’s namesake comes into play.
You see, there’s this thing called Classmating, and it’s performed between two high-ranking Disciples in order to create Star Children. Unlike the conceiving that you may or may not be familiar with, this is all taken care of in a very brief hand-holding cutscene, after which an adorable child or two will appear on screen. Their purpose is to aid players as they venture through labyrinths — rather than suckle at your funds and resources like their real-life counterparts. Players choose which of 30 classes to set their Children with and take advantages of their skills during battle. Beyond the kiddies, your party also includes one of seven female Disciples. If you befriend these women between labyrinth runs, their power levels will increase as well. It’s a bit like a stripped down dating sim in that regard.
Once you get past all the inherent strangeness of Classmating, the gameplay feels immediately familiar. Players navigate through levels from a third person perspective. Enemies are shown slowly meandering about, leaving you to either head straight into them or avoid confrontation. However, the monster representation on screen is not an accurate representation of what you’ll actually fight once in battle. Regardless, fights take place in typical RPG turn-based fashion, albeit with a few interesting tweaks.
Battles allow you to control yourself, another Disciple, and groups of Star Children. As expected, there are regular attacks, special skills, tactics to set, and an auto battle mode. Where Conception II changes things up is in how it handles multiple enemies in a fight. Your team circles around one monster by default, and can attack from the front, back, or sides. Part of this setup is to allow players to hit weak points, dealing extra damage in one turn. The game also communicates when and where a charged-up enemy strike will land, lending you time to get away from those spots. However, sometimes it’s best to remain in a dangerous situation.
Why would you want to stick right in the line of fire? The Chain Drive gauge will fill much more rapidly if you fight from dangerous areas. Increasing this gauge “chains” enemies, effectively slowing their onslaught. There are a handful of other in-depth gameplay aspects as well, such as Ether Density and Monster Symbols. Ether increases as you deal successful strikes and increases your power during the right, while Monster Symbols essentially display enemy and group weaknesses.
Of course, there are more aspects to the game beyond what’s been described, but most should be run of the mill for fans of the genre. Despite Conception II’s oddball name and premise, it shows itself to be a well-thought-out RPG. Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars will launch on the 3DS and Vita both digitally and physically on April 15th. Oh, and in case all this Classmating talk didn’t tip you off, it’s been slapped with the M for Mature rating.