Conception PLUS: Maidens of the Twelve Stars is one of the best dungeon-crawling RPGs I’ve played in a while. Its old-school feel, wonderfully unique premise, and excellent design continued to shine over the scores of hours I spent with the game. If you missed this one on the PSP, this remastered version is a great place to get to know the series.
The story concept hooked me from the beginning. It starts with Itsuki Yuge’s friend Mahiru telling him she’s pregnant. Before they delve into the details, a vortex opens and both characters are pulled into the world of Granvania. Itsuki is identified as “God’s Gift” and will need to save this world from being overtaken by monsters called Impurities lurking in the many labyrinths.
Saving the world is a family affair, so he will create an army of up to twelve children with the chosen Star Maidens to help him fight. Once you have an army of child soldiers, it’s time to take your kids to work, which in this case is a dangerous labyrinth filled with monsters. You can have three teams composed of up to four Star Children each. The teams can be balanced or have a certain purpose such as magical attacks, and some combinations result in stat boosts. It’s another way the game gives you customizability in how you approach the labyrinths.
More powerful kids come from deeper relationships with the Star Maidens. Each of them, including Mahiru, is associated with an astrological sign. A thirteenth maiden has been added for this release, and it feels natural. You’ll have a short conversation with them, give them gifts, and answer questions correctly to give your relationship a boost. The personalities are different (or split in one case), so you’ll find the right ladies for you. For a little more social variety, there are different events to attend with your special ladies during the game’s seasons, but I do wish the overall relationship mechanic was a little deeper. That feeling carries over to the ending which, after 80 hours to get there, felt rushed and less satisfying than I expected.
No matter who you decide to spend your time with, you will be busy making babies in a process called Classmating. When a God’s Gift and Star Maiden love each other very much (or just don’t want the world to end), they will head to the church to make a Star Child. There is a sexy animation for Classmating and even Tri-Mating when it’s between you and two ladies, but it’s serious business. Your kids are customizable. You’ll choose a Matryoshka that gives your bouncing baby a stat boost or elemental alignment. You’ll also have to pick the class for your new child. Selection is restricted by their stats, and it impacts skills, spells, equipment, and stats going forward.
Location matters in the turn-based combat. Every enemy is visible in the labyrinth, and each fight has three Impurities to defeat. Combat takes place in a four-quadrant ring around the Impurity and one or more of the directions is a weak point that will give your attack extra damage. The Impurities will be in different spots in the room too, so knowing your location relative to other Impurities can keep you from being hit on both sides. Filling up the Chain Gauge by bouncing between monsters and directions of attack can give you extra experience. Strategic choices like these are sprinkled throughout the game without it becoming a pure strategy RPG. I appreciated the focus on player choice from building my team to approaching fights.
Returning to Granvania after dungeon-crawling gives you a whole host of options for improving your next trip. You can buy equipment and items from the shop. You can drop your kids off at Day Camp to give them a portion of the experience you receive in the labyrinth. You can send other offspring to scavenge in previously cleared labyrinths, so they can bring you loot. The max level of your Star Children is tied to the relationship depth and your level, so there is no wasted activity. You are constantly improving and building, and there are many options to consider, including building teams specifically to counter the challenges in a specific labyrinth.
The magic of Conception PLUS is in how well all the elements of the game are integrated into a satisfying loop. There are four primary dungeons grouped by seasons. Impurities increase in difficulty every five floors or whenever you beat one of the Impurity gods, and there are a total of twelve Impurity gods to kill across those dungeons. Going to the harder dungeons gives you more experience and better equipment. Leveling up your Star Children and making them independent opens and levels up more of the city. Better relationships increase the max level of your Star Children, so you can increase their power. All of these systems flow naturally as you play.
Although most of the focus is on building a rewarding and satisfying grind, this PSP remake looks and sounds fantastic too. I did want more visual variety, but the Impurity and dungeon designs are good. Everything is crisp and the battle themes and general music and sound were good.
I enjoyed Conception PLUS: Maidens of the Twelve Stars. It’s a dungeon crawler that keeps all of its systems from becoming unnecessarily complicated, but it keeps plenty of ways for you to customize your experience and includes little extras such as the ability to fast forward animations during a fight or automatically win a fight with a monster that’s too easy.
It’s not without some minor drawbacks, but it’s a game that keeps you invested and grinding away in labyrinths, grinding away to make better, stronger babies, and grinding away hours without it feeling like a grind. If you want an excellent dungeon crawler intelligently built on good systems and a fun concept, you’ve found it.
Conception PLUS: Maidens of the Twelve Stars PS4 Review
Overall - Must Buy - 9/10
Conception PLUS: Maidens of the Twelve Stars is an excellent dungeon labyrinth crawler with a great setting. The ending feels rushed, and the story and character development could be a little deeper, but the solid mechanics and great combat make it easy to overlook the minor problems.
- Great mechanics deliver a satisfying grind
- Unique premise
- Plenty of customization and player choice from labyrinths to building a team
- Needs more Impurity and dungeon visual variety
- Story and characters could use more depth
- Rushed ending
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Reviewed using PS4 Pro.