I finished Conception II, and it was the most disappointing ending I could possibly imagine. I had maxed out the affection with all of the companions, and had spent most of my time focusing on Miss Cloe, because she was my favourite out of all of them (I also liked Fuuko and Narika, but the only character I really disliked was Serina, but that archetype seems to be quite popular in Japanese RPGs/Interactive Novels). I went through all of the stage interactions with them, repeatedly, and expected at some point by the end of the game I’d have to choose which one to settle on. And, much to my surprise, the game proceeded on and I ended up with the “no one likes you” ending, where you tag along with Clotz and Luce on their “date”. What, wait happened?
Well, it turns out that in order to actually get to choose who to go to the final festival with, you have to do the Classmating to advance their personal stories. While playing, I was wondering why those stories seemed to have stalled, but thought it might just be that they were pretty much at the end and so there wasn’t anything new. So why wasn’t I Classmating? Well, it uses bond points, and I had all the Star Children I wanted, the level of the city was reasonable, and I was using bond points to Mechunite to help me clear the dungeons so that I didn’t have to grind so much. This meant that I was grinding the individual story scenes — seeing the same ones over and over and over again — to build up bond points anyway; the last thing I wanted was to spend them on something that I didn’t need to do.
And so, because of that, I didn’t get the ending I wanted. In all fairness, I think this was something that I had known about when I was playing it the first time, and it was only the long lay off that made me forget this, and so end up with the ending I didn’t want. It was still disappointing, though.
However, this, to me, highlights the major and serious flaw in Conception II: its grinding. How did I get into this mess? I was trying to avoid grinding levels in dungeons, and so a) wanted to stick with the Star Children I had and b) wanted to use the Mechunite to allow me to survive encounters that I wouldn’t survive in a simple straight fight, including the boss fights. In order to do that, I had to consume bond points, but grinding bond points was easier for me than grinding dungeons, especially since I was always cash-strapped. But Classmating would have used those points and required me to grind that more, and the grinding of that simply wasn’t fun. Since I didn’t need the Star Children, it would have been grinding for no real reason, and so boring. Ultimately, then, too much of the game is spent trying to reduce how much you grind, or grinding, which is not fun.
Which is a shame, because the characters are interesting, and their stories and reactions are worth exploring. Compared to Akiba’s Trip, the character stories and personalities are deeper and more interesting, and the plot is more involved and entertaining. Conception II should just be a better game than Akiba’s Trip, but I don’t like it as much, because the grinding is just too much for me. Which is a shame.
Ultimately, my conclusion is if they can tighten up the main story and remove a lot of the grinding, then they’d have a worthy competitor to the Personas. They can even keep the lighter tone and the more goofy interactions, as long as they stop breaking the mood by starting a very, very serious scene and then trashing that with an utterly ridiculous statement. The game is juvenile, but if they weave that better through the game it could be very entertaining. But with the grinding as it is, the game is okay, but not really worth playing over and over again.
I don’t know if I’ll ever play out the remaining stories. On a restart and load you can start late in the game, so that you don’t have too much left to do, and so hopefully be able to experience each story with a minimum of grinding … but the final battles weren’t fun for me, and the grinding you have to do is also not fun, so I think I’ll pass. Ultimately, Conception II is a bunch of decent ideas killed by gameplay that’s far too grindy to be truly entertaining.