A true gaming UFO, Conception II had seduced me by its attractive character design. 40 hours and a western release later, it’s time for a frank verdict.
In Conception II, a deep-rooted evil force sends to the world armies of monsters via seven «labyrinths of sin», threatening mankind’s future. Only a few chosen ones called 聖徒 (roughly «sacred children», kinda rings a bell) have to power to seal them. And that’s actually one dude (you) and seven girls. This ultra-generic and highly cliché setting being an excuse to throw you in the progression system of this game that consists in dating and make children (!).
Therefore, you have to choose a girlfriend. Well actually you don’t have to, because you can have several at the same time. The first phase consists in dating your classmates to raise your friend level. Those mini-events are rather well done : the girls look pretty cute and funny, character modeling and animation are very nice. Even if only a limited part of the dialogs is dubbed, the little conversations you have with your mates are really enjoyable as the Japanese voice actresses delivered their best. In particular, Rorona’s voice actress Mai Kadowaki does a wonderful job as Toori who is adorable. Unfortunately for you guys, you won’t be able to experience that since Atlus USA scrapped the Japanese voices. Sadly, there are not that many of those events, or least not enough to last 40h without regularly repeating the same ones. While talking you’ll often be prompted to choose between several answers, but as far as I noticed the impact on the gameplay is nil. After that you go directly to the church, not for the marriage, but to give birth to your children directly (!). No need to panic though, everything’s done by a simple hand contact between the main protagonist and his partner (!). Your kid get immediately off his egg (!!!) and you now just have to assign him some job (Lancer, Gunner, Healer, etc.) before going down the mazes with him. Because in clear violation of International Labour laws, you’ll have your kids do most of the fighting against the demonic creatures standing on your way.
That’s where everything begins to collapse : the battle system allows you to attack the enemy from 4 sides, a bit like Atelier Ayesha but in far less complex or interesting. Unlike Atelier where you have to master a variety of alchemy items and skills, in Conception II you just have to spam your most powerful attack to progress. Buffs and debuffs exist but in 40h I haven’t seen a single moment where they could be important. In the same way, the specialty of the children hardly matter in general. There’s Also a «chain» system to push back the enemy in the timeline, but it’s far from efficient (at least it gives you extra exp. points). Adding to an already tiresome battle system, the game has some stupid difficulty spikes, especially at the end when the sixth boss of the last dungeon flattened my team while I had met little resistance so far. Seriously, being robbed of the ending trophies after hours of boring fights is unacceptable.
Only one half of Conception II is decent : the dating is cool, the dating artworks are cool, the dating music is cool, but combat is really terrible in every aspect. I have a feeling that the fundamental problem about this game is that it’s too long. Shorter, the poor battle system would have been less annoying and you wouldn’t have had to repeat the same dating events which would have allowed the player the enjoy the character design more serenely (despite some awful kitsch here and there).