Look, I’m not going to make excuses or apologize for some of these game concepts these days. Senran Kagura is exactly what it looks like on the cover. Valkyrie Drive what just what you thought it was. And Conception PLUS: Maidens of The Twelve Stars, the prequel to 2013’s localization of Conception II, is…well, the name pretty much gives it away, huh?
When they’re sucked into a mysterious portal, Itsuki Yuge and his friend Mahiru discover that they’re “God’s Gifts” – chosen ones destined to save the fantasy world of Granvania from corrupted monsters called Impurities. If they don’t do something, Granvania’s going to be swallowed whole, and what’s more they won’t be able to get home. That means that they’re going to have to get to work cleaning the place up by going dungeon-crawling. Here’s the thing: Impurities are nasty creatures and not just anyone can defeat them. Yuge can do it, but he’s only one man. He’s going to need help. He’s going to need…Star Children.
Where do Star Children come from, though? You should probably ask your parents about that one. In this game, they’re Yuge’s offspring, created through a ritual called “Classmating” that he engages in with the 12 Star Maidens of the zodiac. Wow, it didn’t sound nearly that insane until I started writing it down. Anyway, Conception tries very, very hard to make the whole thing seem as innocent as possible, involving matryoshka nesting dolls and so on, except it totally doesn’t and it’s pretty much exactly what you think it is. Conception is exactly that kind of game, if you hadn’t already guessed.
In gameplay terms, this means you’ll split your time between dating sim segments and dungeon-crawling. During the dating sim bits you’ll chat up your favorite Star Maidens and boost your relationship with them. You’ll then make some Star Children through that entirely-harmless ritual, selecting classes for the kids based on the stats they inherit from their mother, and take 12 at a time into the dungeon. Once there, you’ll run around seeking treasure, fighting monsters in a standard turn-based battle system and clearing out bosses. Most of the fun of Conception lies in working out which maidens will create Star Children with the stats you want to create your ideal fighting force, which, again, didn’t sound quite so crazy until I thought about it too hard.
Instead of thinking about what this all means, why don’t we talk about pretty pictures instead? Conception PLUS looks great and runs about as smooth as silk. That’s probably because it’s an older game being handed the comparatively immense power of the PS4, but still, there’s not much to complain about in the visual department. If anything, the only issue I have is with the sameness of the dungeons, which tend to look and feel similar throughout the game. Most of the gameplay variety here lies in experimenting with the Classmating system and the resulting parties of Star Children, not the dungeons or even necessarily the combat.
If you find yourself getting a kick out of the system, and don’t think too hard about the implications of what’s actually going on, Conception PLUS: Maidens of The Twelve Stars is an enjoyable mix of dating sim and strategic battling that looks and plays great. Messing around with giant teams of mages, clerics, berserkers and more is a min-maxer’s dream, and there’s a surprising level of depth afforded by the game’s unique concept. As for those other dreams, well…if the idea of literally reproducing your own best army sounds like a good time then Conception PLUS is truth in advertising. Enjoy!