I always try to begin with some kind of witty comment or pun but this game makes it too hard to give birth to one. So, I’ll keep it simple; Welcome to Conception Plus: The Maiden of the Twelve Stars.
If I told you the story of Conception Plus: The Maiden of the Twelve Stars is about getting to know some girls so you can make children with them (or even two at the same time, you sly devil) so you can save the world, would that grab your attention? I am sure it did. I should point out that this is not an eroge, but we don’t judge around these parts…
This is a remaster for the PlayStation 4 and PC of the original Conception: Ore no Kodomo o Undekure! (Translation: Please Give Birth to My Child!) which was originally released only on the PSP in 2012. The game was a Japan exclusive developed by what was known as Spike at the time and published by Spike Chunsoft. The two companies merged shortly before the game was launched. The physical version was published by Numskull Games in Europe.
Now that we’re over the general view, let’s talk about the game. If you take a quick look at the original title for the Japanese version, you might wonder what you are getting yourself in for. Conception certainly has a… different touch to it as a game series name so, if your parents, significant other, or children ask you about the name when they see it sitting on your shelf, say it’s because the Gods gave birth to your character and that’s why he’s the protagonist. Friendly PSA over, let’s continue with the review!
My experience with the series started with the second game released for the Vita and 3DS. Seeing a remake of the first entry made me intrigued to see how this “quirky” concept was established. I don’t know how to explain this game without it sounding way dirtier that it is but hey, that’s part of the series, right?
The story of Conception Plus: The Maiden of the Twelve Stars revolves around a nameable protagonist called Itsuki Yuge by default (I named him Nathan as that means God’s Gift but we will get to that) and to a lesser degree his childhood friend and cousin Mahiru. After losing his parents, he has been living with her for about 3 years at the start of the game. One day, she calls him to the rooftop to share the news that she is pregnant (I said this game was quirky, don’t say I didn’t warn you). You can imagine the loss of words on the whole situation. While they are trying to figure out this mess, a hole in the sky appears and sucks the two of them up, transporting them to what seems to be a maze.
After defeating a monster that bizzarely manifested from Mahiru’s mouth, you notice that a brand has appeared on her cheek. They escape the maze and find themselves in a forest where they meet Mana, a flying tanuki, and Narcissus, a scholar for the kingdom. Noticing the Star brand, they guide you towards the city in order to meet the king.
When you reach the city, you are given the role of God’s Gift and entrusted with the task of conquering twelve labyrinths – one for each zodiac sign. This is so that the Impurities – monsters who have taken over the labyrinth, and the 12 Impurity Gods can be removed. The shrines also need to be cleaned up with ‘Star Offerings’ that can be placed at the core of each labyrinth. Because all of the offerings suddenly lost their power at the same time, you must take care of them as quickly as possible.
It seems like you have been given a Herculean task right? Well, you do have twelve Star maidens to help you out, including Mahiru who turns out to be the Virgo star maiden this time around! The girl that thought she was pregnant is the virgin zodiac sign? A bit odd, but let’s go with it.
Conception Plus: The Maiden of the Twelve Stars is a dungeon crawler/dating sim game so we will be covering these two fronts, or in better words, one in front and one on the back for extra damage! The combat system in this game is a 3X3 battlefield in which you must move your units to attack opponents with regular attacks or special skills that consume MP. Conception’s system is quite interesting due to the focus on unit placement in these battles, as along with the 3X3 format, you can also choose one of the four cardinal directions to attack so that you can hit enemy weak spots and also plan out dodging attacks.
Another element of the combat is the chain drive, a bar in the bottom-left corner that allows you to delay enemy’s attacks for your party’s turn to come faster. You can simply charge it by hitting the opponent. The strategy comes by hitting in places where enemies are charging attacks signaled by a “CAUTION” written in that cardinal direction. This charges the chain drive the most, while hitting the enemy’s weak spots charges it very slowly.
Overall, movement is an important aspect. The dungeon crawling itself is also nicely designed for a PSP remaster, with some diverse patterns for each of the 12 main labyrinths and enough items that you can keep exploring it after every battle. That said, I wish they had more diverse designs since most have a basic structure that can become repetitive, but since I enjoyed the battle system, I didn’t get too tired of it.
There are more dungeons to explore than the main labyrinths. In order to reach them, you have to explore the first ten floors of each group of seasons. For example, the Spring portion has ten floors to complete, then you can choose either the Aries,Taurus or Gemini labyrinth to play next. So it’s going to be like a family trip, but instead of fishing, it’s you and your star children killing impurities. How wonderful is that?
Oh, you don’t know what star children are? No problem! This is the lead for our second half of gameplay of Conception Plus: The Maiden of the Twelve Stars; the dating sim aspect. Grab your best suit, buy some presents and be wary not to touch hands as that’s too inappropriate because we are now a dating sim! After leaving the dungeons, you can spend your time in the Kingdom of Granvania to explore. This gives you a chance to interact with each of the lovely twelve maidens available in order to deepen your bond with them. It may seem like too many girls, but don’t worry about that! You have all the time in the world to chat with them, since when a God’s gift and the star maidens take their jobs, apparently they don’t age for 120 years, so you should be good!
Setting that aside, you are probably thinking “but Mr. Nick! Why should I spend time bonding with the girls? I could be grinding!” And to that, firstly I’d wonder why you picked this game instead of a more standard RPG. And secondly, dating is an important part of the dungeon crawling! The two elements blend quite nicely, as since the star maidens don’t have the power themselves to hurt impurities, they can have your babies so you can use them to fight!
If your bond with a star maiden is high enough and she’s in a good enough mood, the game allows you to ‘classmate’ with them! It’s like pregnancy with less steps but no less innuendos. The ritual is not described entirely, but from the small cutscenes shown, my archive of out of context screenshots is totally reasonable. Anyways, let’s leave it at the hand touching shown now.
By infusing your power and the girl’s into a matrioska doll, you can create a star child to join your party! These can have different jobs depending on their stats. Why do that more than one time? The child’s max level depends on your own level and also the level of bond with the maiden. If you constantly improve the star children made, you can go on more difficult missions. For those of your children who reach the maximum level, you can give them independence, letting them roam the city and level it up, gaining jobs and such.
If I said I didn’t get attached to all the star children and feel like a father, I would be lying since they are amazingly adorable. The comments in dungeons made me feel less lonely since they are your only companions. They grow up so fast….literally. They can even turn into a robot to fight, or a mecunite as the game calls it. So yeah, they’re still my little children but are highly dangerous. You can have three parties containing four star children each, meaning you could be the father of the year and bring a child from every single maiden into the fray! Or is there a 13th one? Gonna have to play to find that out!
I do have some nitpicks with the gameplay. The first is that it involves a rather grindy start. For example, the floors get progressively harder, with a big difficulty jump every 5th floor. These require grinding to proceed and you may experience some blackouts. Twelve children are plenty to carry your unconcious body out of the dungeon, don’t worry! There’s Mana with you as well. That said, after the grind, your character will be up to the task to defeat higher level opponents, which lets you level up newly conceived star children. If your power is significantly higher, you can instant kill enemies and still get the experience points as you explore the dungeons, so that’s a plus.
Speaking of exploring, I wish we could explore more than the capital of Granvania for some world building. It’s understandable in context since you have to bond with the 12 maidens and they are all at the capital, but I am curious about how the world outside of the main character’s focus works. This is a world where science was substituted for star energy as far as Narcissus tells us. It has a lot of possibilities, but we don’t really see it.
The voice actors are something I want to particularly give praise to since I feel they made the game feel more lively, and all of them did an amazing job. The maidens’ voices all bring some personality to their character, which makes the conversations that much more interesting and engaging. My regards to Mana since I love that pervert and she acts really excited to see you with girls. She also becomes your companion through the whole game. The cast of characters overall are very charismatic, almost too much as the king consistently creates festivals as asked by Mana from your world simply because you might like it. God’s gift’s power is higher than the king and I can prove it.
Overall, this game does have its flaws, mostly since it was originally made for PSP and was meant for quick sessions. The PSP had a battery that ran out quite fast after all. Despite this, the premise is attractive enough to draw attention to what is still a genuinely fun dungeon crawler with enough depth in this aspect, despite the more obvious side of the game being a dating sim. For those who enjoy a simple good dungeon crawling game and/or any person who enjoys dating simulators, I say the following;
Conception Plus: The Maiden of the Twelve Stars is Recommended
So hey, if you are ever lonely, you can always grab a copy of the game, hit up a star maiden and make a child together. And I won’t even talk about classmating with two star maidens as….well you should go and experience it yourself! The world of Granvania awaits you and your child making capabilities!
Conception Plus: The Maiden of the Twelve Stars can be bought digitally via the Steam or PlayStation 4 stores. For those of you who like to get physical, the Numskull Games or Spike Chunsoft physical versions can be bought via retailers such as Amazon US / Amazon UK. The Numskull Games version is advertised as including a mini astrology-themed calendar featuring the star maidens!
For those who complete this game, Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars can be bought digitally for PC on Steam or Humble Bundle, as well as PS Vita.
Many thanks to Numskull Games for the review copy.
If you enjoy JRPGs with an anime feel such as this one, you may be interested in Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk DX.
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Nick has been gaming for quite a while, a decade now! His first console was the DS but the first one played extensively was the Nintendo 64. He loves a huge variety of games, favourite genres include RPG, platforming, metroidvanias and visual novels. Follow him on @NoobieReviewer.