The Breasts: Another Review Of Conception 2: Children Of The Seven Stars
It could be said that I didn’t much care for The Battle elements of Conception II. But there’s a whole other half to the game: the relationship simulation. Should you slog through the game just to see the character archs play out?
That depends on whether or not you want to see another visual novel afraid to take any real risks.
Extraordinarily strong characters are difficult to come by; not every game has a personality as strong as Dragon Age’s Morrigan, for instance. But it’s not too much to ask for a few interesting characters every now and again. Here, it’s not Conception II’s characters themselves that are interesting; it’s their interactions specifically.
For starters, these characters seem to be straight out of someone’s wet dreams, nothing else. Conception II is a harem game; a game with boobs. Loads of alabaster boobs. Unnecessarily heaving, bodacious sweater puppies appear in nearly every scene, jiggling around with reckless abandon. And as much as the game pretends to hang on gaining the affection of the women, there isn’t really a fail state; I found it impossible to do irreparable damage to a relationship. So if you can always succeed in pursuing the relationships, that ceases to be a “game” element, and the characters then feel like they are just there for fantasy.
Conception II offers several of these characters, and also plenty of opportunity to talk to them and get to know them. While you can pair and “classmate” with many of them to produce Star Children (again, regardless of their temperament, as the game presents it as a sort of “duty” to fulfill), each character’s affinity for you can grow or waver. They all have quirks, though, and that’s what is intriguing.
Some are playful, some are nervous, but there’s one character in particular who is hard to figure out. It’s an intensely interesting character, and even though “winning her over” is slightly problematic as a transactional romance, as a gameplay element it’s nonetheless more rewarding than other instances.
But here’s also where my biggest problem comes into play. If the whole premise is to court fellow students and make babies, why isn’t there any interaction with the babies? Why are the Star Children only treated like soldiers in a tedious battle? I’m willing to admit that I may be hypersensitive to that because I have children of my own (actual children, who are hilarious and intelligent, and frankly no good with healing and swordplay), but your “kids” in the game are merely troops.
Boobs are boobs–loads of people have them, and they can be celebrated or not, but creating dispensable offspring for purposes of war is what should offend.
When it comes down to it, am I really offended by it? No, because I know that this is not a simulation. It’s an odd choice for a game, yes, but it’s more of a look into the oddities that Japanese audiences are treated to, and I frankly love when a game is this transparent in its origins. There are certainly questions of tropes, and unequal representation of women, but it’s a fascinating look at a sliver of that world, and it brings dozens of cultural questions to mind.
And either you’re into analyzing those kinds of questions, or you’re not. I am into it. Into it enough that–despite my issues with the game–I really enjoyed playing; the personalities were that interesting to me.
Everything that’s specifically wrong with this game–the concept of the Star Children, the battles, the horrible interfaces–goes back to my thoughts about Loren The Amazon Princess: just…. make an explicit game about sex already.
As I said before, the characters in Conception II feel as if they just exist for fantasy. Clothed, boring fantasy. If the game had taken any real risks and careened the relationships straight into lascivious territory, it not only would have been infinitely more interesting, but I think all the conversations about sexism could be radically altered.
For example, there’s no shortage of anger about how Quiet is being portrayed in the next Metal Gear Solid entry (Kojima isn’t helping matters, but that’s a whole other ball of wax). If that character was instead placed in a dating simulator, with the expressed goal of courting her, there would be no misinterpretation; there would be no question as to why that character exists.
Similarly, if the ripped males in Gears of War were used in a game that only offered romance options, their hyper-sexualization would have its merit. Any game, any character… if they were placed in a game purely for the purpose of sex, the intent is clear. If it’s marketed as such, and someone plays the game knowing this, and someone is still offended, it would seem that person has actively sought out something to find offensive.
Conception II’s Star Children are where the relationship and combat elements of the game are married, and their use in every instance is problematic, not to mention a little creepy. Instead of being pawns of war, they could have served as special rewards for navigating the tricky waters of a relationship; they could have been used differently and had a much greater impact than the jiggly knockers did. Instead, the impossibility of failure and the ubiquity of the Star Children made the central tenet of the game feel worthless.
Devoid of the Persona 4 ripoff garbage, bereft of the needless tedium and complexity that the entire role-playing scenario brings, and perhaps with the addition of some more lecherous interactions, Conception II could have been an excellent visual novel and relationship simulator. But that’s a lot of “buts,” and the scope feels like it was just too large. It was interesting to see how the game treated personality, in particular, but it’s a shame that this particular strength was lynched in favor of character representation taken straight out of a mid-90’s Cinemax movie.