Friday, March 8, 2019

Conception 2's Star Children

You know what? The whole Star Children situation in Conception 2 is messed up.

You may recall that I am not a great fan of Conception 2. Or maybe you don’t recall that, because you didn’t read that rant, because you are among God’s Favored Children, AKA, Human Beings Who Have Not Played Conception 2. If that be the case, please, feel free to take a hard pass on this rant, too. Because even my describing 1 of the problems with Conception 2 is still too dangerously close to the act of experiencing Conception 2 for comfort. But for the damned like myself, you may remember that I am not a great fan of Conception 2, notably (but definitely not limited to) its villain. But even with the understanding that there wasn’t much I liked about this listless dating sim wannabe, even with the understanding that my overall opinion on Conception 2 is that it really ought to be on any and every time traveler’s bucket list of catastrophes to prevent, Star Children are a pretty disturbing mess.

I mean, to start with, just the concept of them is creepy. They’re children magically conceived by the main character and the girls he partners with in his world-saving duties, children whose births are not just encouraged, but mandated by his world-saving organization. Given that both the protagonist and his partners are all highschoolers, it’s more than a little uncomfortable that this is an unavoidable aspect of gameplay. And yeah, yeah, I know, it’s not actually underage sex, there’s no actual teen pregnancy, and all that jazz. It’s all done through nebulous, plot-convenient magical essence-mixing mumbo-jumbo. Conception 2 just wanted to plagiarize Shin Megami Tensei: Persona’s way of pushing the envelope, and chose to go with metaphorical teen parenthood instead of metaphorical teen suicide. Well, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 has got enough superb qualities and thoughtful use of its allegories and imagery that I can at least tolerate (albeit never become quite comfortable with) its disturbing obsession with people putting guns to their head and pulling the trigger. Conception 2, on the other hand, does not have enough going on in the intellectual department to earn the same forgiveness: its imagery of teenage procreation isn’t serving as a metaphor for anything other than the exact creepy stuff it so transparently looks like, as the game is, ultimately, a subpar dating sim that can’t even be honest with itself about its nature.

But all of that is messed up on a meta level. It is (or at least should be) disquieting to us, the audience, but in the context of the game’s own world and lore, it’s not as obviously freaky. Once we start thinking about the Star Children beyond their vaguely disturbing origins, however, that’s when things are seriously and clearly fucked up even within the context of Conception 2’s own setting.

Because if you really think about it, this whole Star Child system basically entails bringing self-aware life capable of emotions and reason* into the world solely for the purpose of immediately forcing this brand new life form into life-threatening combat against monsters of tremendous destructive power. These children, as capable of love and kindness as any man or woman, as capable of feeling pain and fear as any human, are born into this world, and immediately thrust into warfare. Children born solely for the purpose of killing and dying at the whims of their parents. No choice of whether or not they want to take up a sword on the very day of their birth. Now how can anyone, player or in-game character, possibly look at this situation and not realize how messed up that is?

And it doesn’t stop there. A Star Child may be lucky to survive long enough to become obsolete in combat, but he or she won’t be fortunate enough to actually have earned a happy life. Nope! After a Star Child is released from their enslavement as a newborn forced to endure the horrors of constant life-and-death combat, their retirement plan is to be forced to go into the city and perform menial labor from then on. You’d think maybe these poor things might have earned an actual rest by that point, but apparently having to cut their own umbilical cord with the blades of war isn’t enough: their reward is to go from being warrior slaves to just regular slaves. Their ever-growing workforce population benefits the city and raises its ability to research and produce greater technologies for its long war against the encroaching monster nests, but I’ll be damned if there’s even the slightest indication that this earns the kids even a basic level of human respect from the overlords who benefit from their slave labor.

You send them out into the city to labor and raise its level of proficiency, exiling these children from their parents who, for some unfathomable reason, the kids express an inexhaustible love and respect for, their only interaction with Mommy and Daddy from this point on to be the regular money that the Star Children send. Yeah--they pay you for having banished them to fend for themselves as unloved manual labor within the city. Thinking and feeling beings born to be cannon fodder, thrust into the nightmare of constant combat from the day they’re born, regarded by the parents they love as nothing more than mindless automatons of war, destined at very best to indentured servants of menial labor to the state who relinquish their earnings to the very heartless monsters who bore them and then discarded them. That’s the lot of Conception 2’s Star Children.

And people say Pokemon is fucked up.

* Not that I think anyone would, but it is definitely beyond debate that the Star Children are as intelligent and capable of feelings as any human being is. They react and they reason, they speak to express ideas, to question, and to make their feelings and affections known, and they’re capable of filling roles both in combat and in normal social situations that require the capacity for rational thought that humans possess. The only limit upon their mental and emotional faculties is that they seem to perpetually maintain a child’s sensibilities and attitude, never ‘growing up,’ so to speak. Which, frankly, just makes the situation that much more distressing.


  1. Takes a lot for an RPG mechanic to offend my sensibilities. And here my sensitive ass was feeling slightly awkward about synthesizing homunculi into my weapons in Star Ocean 3.

    Is there at least some flimsy in-game justification for this setup, or is it a case of a gameplay mechanic first and a (questionable) plot point second?

    1. What, like a moral justification? Nope, not in the slightest. And I don't mean like, "we're pointedly ignoring that we're having teenagers give birth to a slave race." I mean no justification in the "We never paid enough attention to any aspect of the game we created to notice that this situation might not be totally normal and fine" way.

    2. Oh, I was thinking more along the lines of a pragmatic reason why this was going on, like hideously low population and birth rates or whatever. I wasn't about to give this the credit of a philosophical angle. This being there just to be there seems somehow even worse.

    3. Oh, right. Well, I guess the answer is yes, in that humanity's engaged in a long-term war with monsters and shit, so having a steady supply of unquestioning, disposable child soldiers is useful front line fodder...although things never seem so damn dire that such measures are called for, if you ask me.

  2. holy shit , what a horrible game , in the playable sense and in the meta

  3. Another game it seems I was wise to pass on.