Mugen Souls is the latest Japanese RPG offering from NIS America, and one that will look instantly familiar to those who have followed franchises such as Disgaea. Scratch beneath the art style, however, and players will uncover a few novel ideas, albeit ones that perhaps don’t fully pay off.
The game’s protagonist is Chou-Chou. Despite looking like a ten year old girl with pink hair, Chou-Chou has declared herself an “Undisputed God”, and is on a mission to conquer the seven worlds. Accompanied by interstellar ship pilot, Ryuto, and demon-turned-angel, Altis, Chou-Chou must tackle both the hero and demon lord of each world and turn them into her Peon. We will get around to discussing Peons a bit later on.
The story is interesting enough to keep you going, although the humour is rather risqué. When I first saw the PEGI 16 rating on the box I was surprised – surely such a bright and cheery looking game shouldn’t command such a rating? Within a few minutes I understood perfectly; the first scene shows Chou-Chou and Altis dancing, with plenty of boob and knicker shots. The innuendo can also be off the charts, so this is definitely not one to play whilst the kids are about.
Once on a world, RPG players will feel at home with Mugen Souls. You take control of Chou-Chou looking for various items whilst heading towards the story progression marker on the map. Battles aren’t random, as enemies can be seen on the field. If you sneak up on one you can do a pre-emptive strike, but if they get to you first you’ll start the battle at a disadvantage.
It’s during the battles where things take a confusing turn. The basic mechanics are fine. You can move each party member anywhere within a set distance to set up for an attack. Every character has your bog-standard normal attack, as well as the ability to link up with others for a flashier, more powerful combo.
Then there’s the ‘Blast Off’ ability. Blast Off comes into effect when a special ability has been selected, and can be used to hit enemies extra hard and bounce them off the walls of the battle arena, or into other enemies (who in turn may get staggered and miss a turn). This gives you more points at the end of every fight.
The mechanic I struggled with the most though is ‘Moe Kill’. As an Undisputed God, Chou-Chou has the power to turn others into her Peons. These are useful little beings that will do Chou-Chou’s bidding so it’s wise to try and get as many as possible, and this requires you use Moe Kill.
Every enemy has a mood and an affinity, and to Moe Kill them you must pick three phrases you think matches the mood of the enemy. Done correctly the enemy will turn into a Peon, or an item, but if you mess up too much the enemy will enter Fever mode and deal out more damaging, whilst taking less.[drop2]The problem is that I found the whole system so damn confusing. When confronted by an enemy with an ‘Ego’ affinity and a happy mood, you’re asked to pick one word from groups of phrases such as “Abuse”, “Hit”, and “Confession”, followed by one from “Kind”, “Smile”, or “Glare”, and so on. It gets even harder once it is revealed that Chou-Chou has in fact got seven alter-egos (Terse, Ditz, Graceful, Bipolar, Sadist, Hyper, Masochist) that you can switch to, and being in the incorrect form may affect your Moe Kill success.
Moe Kill isn’t just used for enemies. At certain stages in the game you will be able to take control of an entire continent, which requires you to track down a number of points on the map, and then Moe Kill them. To find these points you have to read a number of clues in the menu section, which will point you in the right direction and hint about what alter-ego form you should be in before the point will appear.
If it sounds confusing, it’s because it is. Personally I felt that Moe Kill is a bit of a misstep, adding a layer of frustration that takes a lot of the shine off some otherwise engaging gameplay.
When not on a world, Chou-Chou is on her spaceship, G-Castle. Occasionally G-Castle will come under attack by another ship, and so begins a game of rock, paper, scissors – only with heavily armed crafts of destruction.
Each ship has a number of stats, with the objective being to reduce the opponent’s health to zero. It’s not a case of firing weapons, and then waiting to be fired upon, as hints are given at the bottom of the screen informing you of what the enemy are up to, which in turn gives you an idea of what action to take. For example, if the hint is “it looks like the enemy ship is preparing to fire”, it’s best to select a defensive option, lest you leave yourself totally exposed to an attack.
If you really want to get the most out of Mugen Souls, you really need to visit the Mugen Field when it becomes available. The Mugen Field is the ideal place to level up your characters, and is essentially a dungeon with 100 levels to it. The further you progress the harder the enemies become, but the rewards also go up to match. Whilst you don’t need to use the Mugen Field if you just want to blast through the story, it’s wise to.
Visually the game has some rather nice touches, such as the myriad of special attacks, but also a number of bland environments. It’s not a terrible looking game, but some areas have had noticeably more work done to them than others. There’s also a fair bit of loading, and sometimes an unexplained pause of a few seconds between a battle being initiated, and you being able to control the character. I don’t know how intensive the game is, but my PS3 constantly sounded like it was about to burst into flames.
- Decent Story.
- Most of the mechanics are engaging.
- Some enjoyable humour.
- Likeable characters.
- Lots to do.
- Can look rough in places.
- Lots of loading.
- Moe Kill can get frustrating.
Mugen Souls is the very definition of a ‘good’ game. Whilst it’ll never blow you away, and there are certainly a number of issues, there’s also plenty to do and a varied cast of characters to escort you on this bizarre adventure. If you’re after an RPG that isn’t quite the norm, then Mugen Souls is worth a look.