Conception PLUS: Maidens of the Twelve Stars (PS4) Review

JRPG`s are one of my most loved genres! So when コンセプション 俺の子供を産んでくれ!or Conception: Ore no Kodomo o Undekure! from 2012 (JP release only) was making its way to the PS4 in English, I couldn’t be more excited. Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars was released in English in 2014, it’s been an agonising wait for those who wanted to start from the beginning but the time is finally here! With that being said, I unfortunately can’t make many comparisons to the original release as it’s a title I’ve not personally played. 

The original 2012 title was Conception: Please Give Birth to My Child! while the remastered got the titling of Conception PLUS: Maidens of the Twelve Stars. Conception PLUS, like the original, was developed by Spike Chunsoft and published by them for NA and Numskull Games for the EU. Without the original to compare to, and never having played the second title, I get to have a fresh look into the Conception universe.

Conception Plus Maidens of the Twelve Stars Compare

The original vs the newly released Conception PLUS

The mechanics and gameplay can be quite complex so let’s start at the beginning with, what exactly is Conception? Conception begins with what is known by the popular trope of ‘Isekai’, a term for where characters travel from their familiar world to an unknown one. You play as Itsuki who is summoned by his childhood friend Mahiru, to the school rooftop. Her concerns start with how she became pregnant whilst still a virgin… before long, a rift opens up in the sky above and from your world of Earth (or ‘Sora’ as it’s known within the kingdom) you’re pulled into the Kingdom of Granvania.

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Mahiru is summoned as the 12th Maiden, and you’re summoned as ‘God’s Gift’, a being destined to purge Impurities and bring balance to the labyrinths. These ‘Impurities’ are released as humans copulate, a manifestation of the negative energy during the copulation. To defeat the ‘Impurities’ you’ll need Star Children, beings born from rituals with the 12 Star Maidens. The main premise of the game is to place Star Offerings in the depths of the labyrinths to keep Impurities contained. The original 12 offerings were placed 10 years apart from each other, each with a 120-year effect.

Unfortunately, there was an incident known as the ‘Star Chaos’ which caused all the offerings to wane at once and now you need to replace all of the offerings in the 12 labyrinths.

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Looks like someone’s pregnant!

The Game
Conception PLUS: Maidens of the Twelve Stars has two places you’ll really be spending most of your time, Granvania and The Stardust Labyrinths. Granvania, where the game takes place, is the kingdom where you reside. Upon your summoning, you’ll be immediately introduced to a perverse and boisterous fairy by the name of Mana. Mana is Conception PLUS’ version of a mascot and will be your guide and source of knowledge while in Granvania. It will often introduce you to the tutorials, explain the story, give you aid, and help you along your journey.

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Mana who can apparently smell a banana

The kingdom is where most of the interactions take place based upon which of the following locations/options you choose:
The Inn – A building where stories can take place, manage your team, and interact with your Star Children.
Rest – An option which allows you to skip a week.
The Palace – The building’s only purpose is Story Events and backstory.
The Stardust Labyrinths – These are the dungeons of the game (more on this later).
The Church – Where you perform rituals to create Star Children (more on this later).
The Star God Academy –The school for the 12 Star Maidens where you’ll interact with them (More on this later).
The Shop – Where you purchase and sell goods.
The Tavern – Where you receive and turn-in quests.
The Day Camp – Where Star Children not on your team can gather experience.
The Scavenger – Where you can hire Star Children to excavate.
Lastly is
The Gift Shop – Where you purchase items to woo the Maidens.

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The Kingdom

Let’s talk about the few buildings that needed further explanations, shall we? First is the Church where the rituals are performed to make Star Children. You and one (Classmating), sometimes two (Trimating), other Star Maidens use bond points to perform a ritual and a doll to create Star Children, and no, it doesn’t involve any fornication. It’s a ritual where a Star Maiden literally imbues a part of herself to create a child or children. This bit of information is important because it means only certain Maidens can create certain ‘jobs’. A Star Maiden with high MDF and MAT won’t be able to create classes needing ATT for example. You’ll need to be very informed of this as you try to create one of the nineteen jobs.

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The jobs range from Fighters and Mages to Dungeon Masters and Bondsmen! Allowing a VAST and intricate system of skills that offer different strategies for every kind of gamer; from Magic to Physical attacks and Ailments to AoEs, the possibilities are endless! The issue therein though, lies with how to get those classes. Seven of them are unlocked at the start of the game and besides stat requirements, there is no information on how to acquire the other twelve. 

That’s one of the few problems with Conception, they teach you the bare-bone basics and that’s it. In a game with depth and complexity such as this, it would be nice to at least have some form of guidance in regards to how to unlock the new roles via hints or clues.

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A ritual taking place

The Star God Academy is where you will find all the Star Maidens. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the game as every week you get to interact with five different maidens to boost their affection and earn bond points. When you choose a maiden you get to converse, answer questions, and woo them with gifts. What’s important here is the conversation and questions, every maiden has their own personality which relates to the answers you receive. The questions can lower or raise affection, or do nothing depending on your response. THIS is where the game shines as you need to learn the Maidens personality in order to understand which answers are right for each person.

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It’s so much fun to learn each Maiden’s backstory, their history, personality, and build bonds with them! I looked forward to each and every interaction so I could feel gratification knowing I got the answers correct, this made me feel connected with the characters in ways a lot of games don’t. The conversations are important because the more you talk, the higher the affection increases – in turn, unlocking more events. These events recall on past choices and talks making you feel like you have a history with the maidens.

The level of affection between yourself and the maidens enables and affects two things, the True Endings and Star Children. Remember when I said the rituals imbues a part of the maiden unto the children? Well, the stronger the affection and the better the Maidens stats, the stronger the children she will create. You’ll need to master this in order to discover new jobs and ‘better’ children.

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Lots of lovely ladies!

On the subject of buildings and strong Star Children, there’s a mechanic in the game that utilises your Star Children to upgrade your buildings. As stated above, the more you get acquainted with the Maidens, the more powerful your Children – this is important because all of the Children are born with a ‘level limit’. In the beginning, this will be around level 10, but as you create more and strengthen your bonds with the Maidens, your new Children will be born with higher limits, allowing them to grow further before they hit the upper limit.

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Constantly restarting at level one sounds like a bad thing, but Conception PLUS: Maidens of the Twelve Stars handles it really well! The equipment you gain throughout the game also has no restrictions, so you can equip end-game gear on a brand new Child. Since you only bear one new child at a time (excluding multiple births), you can bring your level one Child with your Level 40 party and level them back up really fast. The main reason for level limits is to encourage you to have your children go Independent. This means they’ll now put their efforts towards developing the city. After a set amount of experience points from independency, one of the buildings will level up, offering new benefits.

Now comes the meat of the game, the Stardust Labyrinths. There are four seasonal labyrinths that branch into the 12 Zodiac Sign dungeons which is where you’ll replace the offerings. You will be bringing in yourself and three teams of four Star Children each. This is where Conception PLUS: Maidens of the Twelve Stars really twinkles. YES, you have twelve children BUT they form three teams acting together as one unit each. Teams can have colour bonuses (formed by a mixture of certain jobs that give you benefits), Skill combos (that require certain jobs in the same team), Stat customisations (the team’s stats are comprised of the individual children), and more. The complexity behind the team formation is what makes this game so enjoyable. All of this becomes very important during battles.

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A standard battle

Combat
You have the traditional JRPG mechanics such as back attacks, weaknesses, ailments, etc. But Conception PLUS has a very unique and original battle mechanic that deserves a mention… You attack in a plus formation (+) where the middle is the enemy and each spoke is one of your teams. Multiple directions mean you can manipulate who’s going to get attacked, the best direction for your units to attack an enemy (based on their weak points), safe distances, and so much more (Rob – this sounds a little like the mechanics we saw in The Last Remnant).

Knowing the direction to place your units in is important because you’ll need to weigh doing damage (weak spots indicated by a pink arrow) versus building your chain (indicated by a yellow arrow). Chain is a gauge in this game that when full, grants you bonus attack and bonus experience alongside heavily delaying the enemy’s turn.

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It doesn’t stop there though, each battle can have multiple enemies which turns it into a heavy game of strategy, especially when your battlefield looks like: 
+ + +
+ + +
+ + +
This means that depending on locations and enemies, you could have up to 36 different spots to place your units (based on the above example). If you want to make battles more effective and efficient, you can also make use of AoEs or a mechanic called ‘Mecunite’, which is where your Star Children combine to form an ultimate being for a few turns.

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Mecunite unite!

Those are the upsides of the combat, now for the downsides. There’s very little enemy variance, it’s mainly colour palette swapping and re-using the same models throughout the dungeons. Each dungeon consists roughly of one to five different enemies, the only difference other than the palette-swapping is some alternate stats.

The enemies and difficulty change every five floors, often having floors one to ten being rather simple and easy to plough through, yet floors ten and upwards being incredibly difficult. The difficulty spike is heavy and can deter newcomers to this genre easily. I found myself grinding floor nine for hours just so I could handle floor ten and beyond – this shouldn’t be a necessity.

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Enemies aside, Conception PLUS: Maidens of the Twelve Stars suffers in the actual ‘dungeon design’ as well. Each floor consists of hallways and small rooms, there’s not much more than that, unfortunately. The graphics and aesthetics are pleasing but it lacks puzzles, dungeon interactivity, mazes, grandiose layouts, etc. All of which we’ve come to expect over the years from dungeon crawlers.

Calendar
The last mechanic to talk about is the calendar. Unlike many similar games with calendars, Conception PLUS isn’t timed in what you do. The calendar system in this game is utilised to benefit your affections and Star Children. Certain months correlate with the Zodiac Signs which boosts your maidens and their Star Children rituals, or the seasons which strengthens or weakens the various dungeons.

Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
Other than the dungeons, one of the main features needing a good polishing, Conception PLUS: Maidens of the Twelve Stars was a rather unique and fun game to play. Sure, the difficulty spikes and lacklustre dungeon design left much to be desired, but everything else was so entertaining that you can easily look past those! It’s worth picking up the game simply for the strategy and battles alone as the depth and originality on display greatly enhance the overall experience. Though, with 15 endings, collecting EVERYTHING and getting 100% will take serious dedication if you’re aiming for the platinum.

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There are nice little touches such as a swimsuit mode and uploading/downloading Star Children, which are both great additions but they don’t affect the gameplay very much. As hard as this game is, and how much there is to do, I will aim to platinum this one day!

Conception PLUS: Maidens of the Twelve Stars is out now both digitally by Spike Chunsoft and physically via our friends at Numskull games here in the EU. Physical copies come with a small booklet which contains art of each of the maidens and a calendar, and picking up the game from Geek Store (HERE) will also get you a Spike Chunsoft pin badge! Alternatively, if you want to spend a little more, NIS America (EU) have a ‘God’s Blessing’ edition which contains an art book, soundtrack, art cards and a beach towel HERE.

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Conception Plus: Maidens of the Twelve Stars

£49.99
8.6

Final Score

8.6/10

The Good:

  • - Large character development and history
  • - The immensely unique battle system
  • - The customisation of your teams
  • - Updated graphics with beautiful backdrops

The Bad:

  • - Sudden difficulty spikes
  • - Lacklustre dungeon design
  • - Resetting of Children’s levels (could deter some)
  • - Complexity and game depth barely touch base with short tutorials, leaving room for confusion
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