The Battle: A Review Of Conception 2: Children Of The Seven Stars
There’s good to be had, but a better word for Conception II: Children of The Seven Stars is schizophrenic.
The central tenet of Conception II is to befriend female classmates and–through a faux-religious ceremony called “classmating”–create Star Children that you form battle teams with. With your teams, you’ll fight through dungeon after dungeon (after dungeon after dungeon) in order to rid the world of the demonic monsters who’ve made it their home.
Forming these relationships with your classmates is an interesting exercise not terribly dissimilar from reality. I mean this as a compliment; I don’t feel like many games capture what dealing with vastly different personalities is like, but this one sure does. Unfortunately, Conception II feels like it exists solely for these relationship aspects, and everything else feels tacked-on.
Creating these relationships in order to create the Star Children is the main driving force in the game. However, the sole purpose of these Star Children is to form the multitude of teams you need to go into battle. It’s a weird conceit, made even weirder by the fact this battle system is problematic from top to bottom. As a matter of fact, I can’t think of a single reason that the fighting elements are even here.
For starters, this game features dungeons, leveling, classes, mana, weapons, and armor like most well-intentioned role-playing games do, but it’s all presented with an interface that I can only describe as obtuse. There are so many tutorial bits that explain so many details to so many levels of interaction… all driven by an inelegant and somewhat confusing menu system.
Take the central idea of the game: make crazy battle babies that will charge into battle with you. Once you find a partner to make-a-da-babies with, the game tells you that pairing these babies with their mother will yield surprising results in battle. In short, I personally didn’t feel like there were tremendous advantages to following this creed. The “extras” you inherit certainly aren’t exclusionary, meaning there’s nothing keeping the other battle baby mommies out of the action, except for their rampant jealousy.
So, you’ve got the whole “make battle babies” thing happening, and when you get enough battle babies, you can have up to three groups of them with you in battle. At this point, the game is always wanting you to “balance” your baby groups, but every time you do so (and, even if you have the game automatically balance your teams), you’re likely putting a new baby in. Especially early in the game, that baby isn’t leveled the way the other babies are, and as such, gets absolutely smoked in combat. One shot kill.
You literally send in that baby to die.
Now… you’re informed in your introductory hours of tutorials about monsters’ weak points, which effectively means you’ll attack monsters from their back sides. Attacking in a certain way (read: not the weak points) will increase what’s called a “Chain Gauge,” which once full, of course, will allow you to unleash a devastating attack. But attacking the weak points will still inflict more damage on a per-turn basis, which is the most important thing when you’re trying to protect the new, lower-level battle babies.
By the time you’ve leveled up your battle babies to a point where you can experience the power of the “Chain Gauge,” you’ll still discover that you the best way to protect your babies and your preserve your healing resources is to attack from the weak side.
I’m coyly trying to tell you that it always feels like you’re attacking from the weak side.
Alternatively, you could have the game “auto play” your battles, but all this method does is blow through all your mana/magic points, and makes you feel less engaged than you ordinarily do. You’re left spending most of the game ensuring your survival and the survival of your battle babies, but again, the best way to do that is to play safe. This unending cycle seemingly ensures you won’t see many of the rich nuances the game promises it has to offer.
Somewhere down the line, though, you’ll have fully-leveled battle babies, who you can retire to the civilian life (gain “independence” the game calls it). This helps by providing better quests and shopping options, but again… to what end!? The frustrating cycle just repeats.
Later in the game, these elements all balance a little better, but you’re going to invest quite a few hours first. Quite. A. Few.
If these elements cantered around the battle system feel so half-baked, why are they even here?! What possible purpose does all this tedium serve? They seemingly conspire against themselves to disincentivize deeper levels of gameplay, and it often leaves you barely scratching the surface of everything the game says it has to offer.
Playing through all these issues makes this feel like you’re playing an iOS clone of Persona 4. Approaching enemies from behind gives you an advantage, the dungeons are randomized… even the battle music has lyrics. It was ballsy when Persona 4 did it, but here, it feels like a cheap copy.
These battle elements shouldn’t be here. At all. Conception II should have just embraced what it was closer to doing right…