Thursday, June 28, 2018

Conception 2's Main Villain

If I had to pick 2 areas of improvement for RPGs in general, with regards to writing, it would probably be Romance, and Villains. Obviously there are both some truly excellent love stories and some truly excellent bad guys to be found in the genre, and a great many more romantic tales and baddies of decent or good quality, too. Nonetheless, over the course of over 300 titles, I’ve noticed that there’s a far better chance in any given RPG that the love subplot(s) and, relevant to today’s rant, antagonist(s) are going to be underwhelming, included and developed out of necessity (or imagined necessity, in romances’ case) rather than passion. To put it frankly for our purposes today: in spite of some absolutely magnificent exceptions, this is just not the genre to look to for high quality villains.

But even by the genre’s low villain standards, Enzea of Conception 2 is gobsmackingly lazily and carelessly written.

And let me tell you, my expectations for Conception 2’s writing were not high by the time that Enzea’s villainy is ‘revealed’ to us. By that late point in the game, it was patently obvious that the most generous way you could describe this game is, as a reviewer once put it, “Trashy Persona.” I’d already figured out that Atlus can’t copy other developers’ style very well when I played Code of Princess, their unremarkable attempt to replicate a Nippon Ichi formula, but you’d think that Atlus could at least competently rip itself off. But alas, this game seems more like a bootleg of Persona than a proper forgery.

Conception 2 was made for 1 purpose, and 1 purpose alone: appeal to the pathetic power fantasies of maladjusted half-men with barely-functional genitals that can only chub up at the thought of owning a doting group of female cliches (since overused female character tropes are the sole experience they have with the opposite sex). In other words: most harem game enthusiasts. So to reiterate my point, I most certainly did not expect anything more of its villain than generic copy-pastes of countless JRPG bad guy tropes of the past, from a game like this.

But oh my Palutena, even by bad, lazy RPG standards, Enzea is awful. It’s like 15 minutes after picking Enzea’s villain motivations out of the Box of Tired Cliches, the game’s writers promptly forgot entirely what they’d decided on and couldn’t be bothered to scroll back up a few pages, so they just played a guessing game of what dialogue lines they grabbed from the Box of Equally Tired Cliches to use. For example: Enzea says he wants to create a world of equality--he doesn’t like how the poorly explained plot magic of Conception 2’s world determines the course and worth of a person’s entire life. The course and meaningfulness of one’s life should be in one’s own hands, is what Enzea believes.* But then his villainous and stupid plan is to use a different kind of poorly explained plot magic to revert everyone to their ‘primitive’ form, which just essentially means they become a monster.**

Now, as one expects of most dime-a-dozen RPG antagonists, this goal is self-contradicting on a philosophical level, in the sense that by forcing the world’s population to become a part of a new kind of world and society, Enzea is removing their agency to choose whether or not they want to be part of this new world of supposed equality, which, y’know, is directly opposed to the entire reason he’s doing this to begin with. But what really shows how little thought the writers put into this is that Enzea’s plan contradicts itself even beyond the typical paradox of making people live free by force. See, causing everyone in the world to become monsters, and letting them thus live as they wish... it is the complete opposite of this ‘equality’ that he supposedly wants to create! Because in this world vision of his, the ‘social’ standing, such as it is, will naturally be determined by one’s power as a monster, which is a set factor exactly as beyond that individual’s control as the current world’s system of Star Energy (the actual name for the first poorly explained plot magic I mentioned) determining a person’s social placement and worth. For all this dimwit espouses his disapproval of the Star God for creating people with varying levels of Star Energy that they themselves cannot change, he will be filling the exact same damn role in his dumb utopia!

Also, I think it’s worth noting that Enzea coming to this conclusion is a case of extreme careless sloth on the writers’ part. Again, even by the standards both of dumb RPG villains, and of Conception 2. This world order that he’s rebelling against? This terrible, unfair system of determining a person’s social order by a factor determined at their birth which they cannot alter? It’s only for 3 YEARS of a person’s life. See, as the game explicitly tells you and makes absolutely clear many times, a person’s Star Energy can only be used to fight monsters and protect the world and all that jazz for their high school years. It's a system not entirely unlike Final Fantasy 8's strange teen mercenary Garden concept--and I think that, when you're borrowing ideas for your game's lore from Final Fantasy Motherfucking 8, you really need to ask yourself where you went wrong as a writer, and human being. Once they hit the age of 19, it all goes bye-bye, for reasons you can damn well be sure the game isn’t going to bother explaining to you, and they have to retire from the world-protecting corps and pursue a normal life. And there’s no indication that one’s post-soldier life is limited in any way by how highly ranked one was during that time--the sister of 1 character, for example, was in her day an exceptional fighter, but now chooses a life no more ambitious than running a small cafe, while another character was nothing special while he was a soldier, but as an adult is the second highest researcher at the world’s premier tech lab. So yeah, even though this is a clearly established piece of lore for the game, noticeably a present aspect of its setting throughout the entirety of its events, somehow the writers seem to have just forgotten about it, and had Enzea go on a world revolution rampage over the fact that people’s social standing is outside of their hands for a mere 3 years of their life.

And then there’s Enzea’s last words, after losing in the final battle. So, like, Dusk is the second of the poorly explained plot magicks that I mentioned before, and it’s the one that, somehow, for some reason, transforms people into monsters, or as Enzea puts it, reverts them to their primitive forms (which is another fat load of quasi-intellectual nonsense). Basically, Dusk = Bad. So you beat Enzea, he’s dying, and he tells you that there will always be Dusk so long as the Star God is in charge, and that there’s no end to darkness as long as man exists. Yeah, okay, I suppose that’s an arguably true, and also unoriginal to the extreme, observation. But, Enzea? Bro? Did you somehow forget that you were trying to FILL the world with Dusk and darkness to bring about your new world? It’s like Enzea’s trying to imply that the heroes are in the wrong for beating him because now the world will continue having some bad stuff in it. Bitch, you wanted to bring about a world of INFINITE Dusk and darkness! You can’t use a statement that implies that even a little Dusk and darkness is bad as an argument for why you should have been allowed to fill the damn world with them! Pick a stance on the topic of unending evil and stick to it, dammit!

Conception 2 is lazy schlock through and through, it cannot be denied. But even for pandering, sloppy trash, I gotta say, its villain Enzea is a remarkably listless bit of negligence on the writers’ part.
















* A concept which, incidentally, isn’t exactly ‘equality’ like the game says. You can have a system of complete equality for all that still doesn’t allow them much room to determine the course of their life--I believe that’s essentially what poorly-implemented Communism boils down to, in fact. What Enzea is (supposedly) championing is actually more just along the lines of freedom, and maybe equal opportunity. But whatever; I’ve clearly given this matter more thought in the 2.5 minutes it’s taken me to type this paragraph than any of the writers did in the months they sat around the Atlus offices drawing their salary like leeches draw blood from an animal too large to realize that it's got a bunch of useless, slimy hangers-on attached to its ass.


** Along with Equality, we can chalk Evolution up as another concept that the game’s staff don’t really understand.

1 comment:

  1. I don´t particularly disagree with what you write here about the games themselves (though I find the attack on people who liked the game to be excessively harsh, surely one´s choice of entertainment doesn´t dictate their worth as a person. Criticize the work, not those who find pleasure in it), but do note that neither Conception 2 NOR Code of Princess were developed by Atlus. Both were published by Atlus USA in America, but that´s as far as their involvement goes. Conception 2 was developed by a Spike Chunsoft team, and published in Japan by the same company. Code of Princess was developed by Studio Saizensen and published in Japan by Agatsuma Entertainment.


    In general, many lesser known Japanese games are published internationally by foreign branches of bigger Japanese companies, hence the possible confusion.

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