Conception II is an unusual game for a couple of reasons. It’s a sequel to a game that wasn’t previously released in the US, but it’s coming out here anyway. It’s being released on both the Sony PS Vita and Nintendo’s 3DS portable systems. Games coming to both portable systems isn’t all that rare, but RPGs tend to be pretty exclusive. And finally, Conception II has been the target of some controversy, with Polygon accusing it of having bizarre sexual tones and treating women as nothing more than breeding grounds for weapons.
A demo for Conception II is out now for both 3DS and Vita (I downloaded it on the Vita, but to my knowledge the versions are identical), so you can judge for yourself. It introduces you to some of the characters, most of the basic gameplay elements and takes you through the first dungeon. A pretty cool feature is that you can save your progress at the end to use in the full game, should you choose to buy it.
At a very superficial glance, Conception II does bear some strong resemblance to the fantastic Persona 4. Both feature randomly generated dungeons, turn-based battles, take place over the course of about a year and have a strong emphasis on building relationships with others. But that’s like saying Farmville is like Harvest Moon because they are both games that center on farming. How battles play out and how the relationship dynamics work are very different, and frankly, not in a good way from what I played.
Let’s start with the “controversial” game mechanic of “classmating”. It’s where you and a female character “bond” and create offspring that will aid you in battle. Yes, it’s basically a euphemism for sex. Through events, dialogue choices and other means, you can improve your relationships with the various female characters in order to create stronger offspring — though the women will “classmate” with you regardless of your relationship status with them.
I can see where some would find this offensive. Mostly, I just found it a silly way to wrap a concept around a tried and tested JRPG mechanic. It seemed basic, and the whole “classmating” cut-scene where the characters are naked (but not really because they are glowing) is just odd at first and gets old really quick. It’s functional, as the little helpers are quite useful in battle, but the process is pretty repetitive and annoying even a couple hours in. Maybe it gets a lot deeper as you go further in the game, but what was presented was very basic.
That would be a small annoyance to put up with if the actual dungeon exploring and battling were exciting. Like, at all. Plenty of other games do randomized dungeons. But unlike something akin to Persona 4, where from the very first dungeon there’s a unique aesthetic and tons of dynamic stuff going on in order to keep it from being just another dull turn-based RPG, Conception II has very little of that. Sure, there’s the “chain” system that can occasionally be used to get a little bit of a bonus at the end of the battle, but that’s really about it.
Also, for whatever reason, you fight enemies one at a time. Even if there are multiple ones in the battle, which frankly really lessens the challenge and is kind of tedious. I didn’t have a completely terrible time with Conception II, but based on the demo it’s a fairly mediocre offering when there are many solid choices for JRPG fans on both the 3DS and the Vita.
Conception II releases on April 25th. Got any thoughts on the Conception II demo or the controversy the game has stirred (if any really)? Let us know in the comments!