Conception Plus: Maidens of the 12 Stars (PlayStation 4)

Developer Spike Chunsoft see their dungeon crawler cross dating sim Conception revitalised with the release of Conception Plus, thanks to Numbskull games. The game sees the original Conception title on the PSP finally making its way to the west after the second instalment landed on PSVita back in 2014. Has it been worth the wait? Lets find out

The story of Conception opens up with you being summoned to the roof of the high school by your childhood friend/adoptive sister, only to be informed that she is both pregnant and a virgin, Before you can even begin to start to process this information, the sky shatters and the two of you get drawn into a portal to another world and given the title of “Gods gift” a hero with the job of saving this new world with the aid of the 12 star maidens.

The story itself uses a visual novel style that most JRPG fans will likely be familiar with if they’ve played more than a handful of games from the genre, truth be told for games like this it’s the tried and true formula. I found the first 20 minutes or so of the game saw faster pacing in its storytelling than most games of this ilk, thanks to the world set up and the fact that the hero’s arrival was expected. This isn’t to say you wont run into some twists later down the line, however the opening makes up for the bulk of the games actual main story.

Conception runs smoothly on the PlayStation 4, with fast load times and smooth battles, however remember this is a game from PsP back in 2012. While the game boasts updated graphics, I cant help but feel it would have found a better home on the PSVita a few years ago. It’s by no means ugly to look at, its simply that I would expect it on a hand held device over a modern home console as it lacks some of the more finer details that would be seen in more modern releases. Its easy to look down on this title a little due to this, that been said like most remasters there will be a number of fans out there thankful to simply be able to play an instalment that would otherwise be much more difficult.

Alot of the games dialog boasts some degree of voice acting, something that is always welcome in titles with visual novel elements, as the use of tone and expression of emotion make conversing with the girls less of a chore. BGM and sound effects see more limitation overall with less than a hand full of unique tracks that quickly become the norm, before almost totally fading into the background unnoticed.

There are two main components to this titles gameplay as you may have picked up from the opening line, with the dating sim being the one taking up the most time (at least in my case). It’s a simple system that sees you using your time outside a dungeon to bond with the girls. As mentioned there are 12 star maidens in Conception who will be the ones to help gods gift save the word from the impurity’s. This is done by classmating with the star maidens to birth star children who accompany you into the labyrinth and slay the impurity gods. Classmating is not the same as sex, it in-fact a sacred ritual to birth pure warriors – something the game states maybe once before doing its best to make everything sound like sex or an innuendo. Honestly while this has some undertones and foreshadowing for story and some character development after a while, I became a whole lot less interested in the majority of the scenes regarding the affection system – even more so when things began to repeat or when choosing an option that seemed obvious and been way off the mark.

To be clear I’m not against the system choice here, after all it provides the character development and some fun moments as well as helping you progress due to higher level caps and classes, however its just incredibly long winded and repetitive at times. Despite it being simple I somehow spent a whole night with the game outside of the dungeon, days of the year ticked by quickly as I attempted to strengthen my team with new classes and the higher level caps. While in theory you could in fact skip a good chunk of this thanks to how little a challenge the title actually is, I’ve played enough of titles like this (including Conception II) to know that this kind of thing is tied to secrets or endings.

This moves me on to the games second core element that is the dungeon crawling aspects. In order to cleanse the labyrinth of impurity’s you must make your way through the dungeons created to house them and defeat each of the impurity gods. The star labyrinth itself is comprised of 4 entry points symbolising one of the 4 seasons, with each of these entry points being made up of 5 floors. These are then followed up with 5 corresponding floors and each of those branch into one of three star signs for a total of 20 zones and 100 floors! Little of this matters at the start however, as you will be limited to what exactly you can explore as the game guides you at first. Initially the damage you receive in the games turn based battle system can see big chunks of your HP vanish, especially when hit by some skills, but this quickly becomes much less of a worry as you gain a few levels.

Eventually you begin almost steamrolling everything, that is until you hit a wall on the proceeding floors. You’re then forced back outside to make new babies that hatch out at level 1, so you have to backtrack on yourself to bring them back up to standard before attempting higher floors. this is as stated above linked to your bond with the maidens meaning if you neglected it you will be doing this more often honestly its a long cycle that depending on your overall play style can add varying degrees of hours onto the games total run time as even the level cap you can acquire is caped by your progress in the dungeons and the maximum affinity you can acquire with the heroines.

Conceptions battle system opts for a turn based mechanic that can be rather fun as you form up to 4 party’s to slay the foes inside the labyrinths, with each party acting as a individual unit and composition of said party’s altering strengths and weaknesses making for a range of possible play styles. My personal preference is the ability to mechunite a team of star children into a battle robot for high cost high reward damage output, thanks to the huge increase in stats of the given unit. Besides this combat has an undertone of strategy elements thanks to the instanced battles being set up on a grid system that rely on positioning to help chain lock foes for continuous damage etc. I easily found this one of the most enjoyable parts of Conception Plus, that after a little practice becomes almost intuitive and enjoyable.

Overall I have to say Conception Plus is aimed at a niche, which is funny given our little review site here, but no less true. It’s our job to call it as it is and for the most part Conception will fall to the wayside for most. That being said, people interested in that niche will likely be all for what this game is and thankful to finally be able to play it, or even replay it, on a larger screen. The premise for the title falls aside for innuendo for the most part, but along with the other distinct systems, offers something a little different. I do wish the dungeon exploration was a little more fleshed out and that the affection system was less of a grind, but I can’t quite say its bad in its execution as someone with experience with this type of title and will likely come down to personal preference.

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