Last year when I was watching the Conception anime, there were two things that stuck out to me. First was that it was surprising how many times it subverted my expectations with its humor. The other was what exactly is the game since the anime relies more on the story than combat? Conception’s structure made me think that the fighting and exploring wasn’t that big of a thing. With Conception Plus: Maidens of the Twelve Stars being the first time people outside of Japan have been able to play the first game in the series, I along with many of you, can finally answer that last question. Let me tell you, I was very wrong on letting the anime lure me into a false sense of what the game actually is.
Conception Plus: Maidens of the Twelve Stars, for those of you unaware of the series, is an isekai where you and your childhood friend Mahiru travel to a fantasy world after she tells you she’s pregnant. That ends up not being the case, but in the new world of Granvania, you need to bond with the Star Maidens (13 in total) in order to create Star Children to purge the world of monsters called Impurities and save it. Simple, right? The game itself is a split between a dating sim as you get to know all the girls in order to create more powerful kids and eventually see their endings and grinding, grinding, and more grinding. In the dungeons, that is!
The anime was mostly story with a little bit of combat intertwined in, but the opposite is true of the game. Of the 40 hours I spent playing Conception Plus, I’d reckon 35 of those were spent in dungeons trying to push through the monotonous and boring combat. Fighting against enemies is simplistic as you have four spots you can move around an enemy where one or two will be weak points. You find that spot, hit the enemy until it’s done, and rinse and repeat for hours upon hours. It would’ve helped if there were strategies to implement, but there really isn’t outside of moving your groups of kids out of the way of damage.
Even with the game having a multitude of skills that differ amongst the numerous different classes that the Star Children can utilize, you’re probably not going to use any skills unless you are in a boss fight. The regular enemies don’t require much effort outside of hammering the attack button over and over. There’s no variety from the first fight you encounter in the very beginning to the final boss. It’s the same fights over, over, over, and over again. Although, if you are very into grinding in JRPGs, maybe this is the perfect game for you.
There’s of course, the possibility that you’re not going to play this game in the same way that I did where I dumped numerous hours over the course of two weeks in order to beat the game. Coming to this game and playing a dungeon floor or maybe just an hour a day would probably alleviate the heavy weight of the grind. Or, if you need a new podcast game where you zone out and focus on something else, this is the perfect game for that.
The dungeons themselves are split into being based on each of the four seasons, which give them a different visual motif depending on what season you’re fighting through. However, even with the dungeons being randomly generated, their layout is the same. You’ll go through square room after square room, run through hallways that will sometimes have treasure chests or other goodies, and fight many of the same kinds of enemies except they might have a different color. You’ll also notice that the hit detection on initiating battles can be finicky, as sometimes you’ll just need to touch an enemy directly or they will be five feet away and still cause a battle to start.
Some of these problems could have been alleviated with difficulty options or being able to customize your experience with the gameplay. However, that doesn’t exist. It’s unfortunate given that this is a remake of the PSP game, and you’d hope that’s the kind of thing that would be added to make the gameplay more customizable. This can be frustrating since the experience you gain from beating enemies feels very minimal. Even beating the game doesn’t open up any new difficulties and only gives you two options on where you’d want to start playing again—one where you play through everything again with limited items that carry over and another that puts you right before the final boss, which you’d probably want if you’re interested in seeing the at least 13 different endings that correspond to each girl.
The story itself is incredibly generic. Unless this is the first game you’ve ever played, there’s nothing here that will be new, exciting, or even an attempt to do something different within its genres. It’s a story that really doesn’t say anything. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. You’re the chosen one who’s primarily objective is to save the world through the power of bonds. Even the moments you have with each girl aren’t that great as most of the girls can be reduced down to singular and generic tropes. It also doesn’t help that if you want to be more powerful in dungeons, you’re probably going to stick to a few of the girls and basically forget the rest of them.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises is that the humor that was in the anime is not found here. Maybe that’s partially because this isn’t a new experience for me, but the writing as a whole just fell flat. That can also be extended to the game’s idea of “sexy”. Considering you have to do “classmating” with the girls to create Star Children, which involves a silhouette of the girl or girls you chose appearing to be in provocative states of stimulation all the while very cheesy saxophone music plays, it ends up being a tame version of what you’d expect. I’m not saying the game needs to fully show you getting down to business because it’s not that kind of game. However, if you’re going to flirt with that kind of style, embrace it. Make it clever, interesting, or at least not a repeated gag that gets old after the first time.
After everything I’ve said thus far, there are some positives to glean from this game. For a PSP remake, it looks much better than how it originally looked. All of the models have gotten an upgrade and don’t look too out of place on a console or PC. It’s not going to blow you away graphically of course, but it’s not terrible. There’s some nice quality of life options such as the ability to equip your team with all of your best items, so you don’t have to manually choose for 13 different characters. You can also trade in items at the shop for a discount instead of having to buy items at full price. Perhaps the coolest moment is that your Star Children can turn into a mech! Because, sure, why not? Mechs are cool, after all!
With how long this game is and how much of a grind it is to get to the end and through the dungeons you need to make the final one appear, there are so many better things you can do with your time than play this game. Heck, go watch the anime if you’re remotely curious about the idea behind this game. Even if the game offers you the opportunity to connect with many girls, the only connection you’ll end up receiving is a lot of dull combat, a generic story, and wondering what else you could be doing instead.
+ Good grahpical upgrades from the original PSP game
+ Decent quality of life options to help with having 13 characters to equip
+ Kids can become mechs
– Combat is very dull and a major grind
– Story is very generic and includes nothing that surprises
– No difficulty or gameplay customization options
– Game is too long for how little story there is
– Doesn’t understand or know how to be a “sexy” game
Are you coming to this game with the experience of watching the anime first? Do you think you could survive in a world like this? Let us know down in the comments below!
Jared Clemons is a writer and podcaster for Seasonal Anime Checkup where he can be found always wanting to talk about Love Live! Sunshine!! or whatever else he’s into at the moment. He can be found on Twitter @ragbag.
Do you love writing? Do you love anime? If you have an idea for a features story, pitch it to Crunchyroll Features!
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