Developer: Compile Heart
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: Playstation 3
Release Date: May 20th, 2014
Compile Heart, the Japanese video game developer and publisher, just launched its western world release of Mugen Souls Z, their sequel to Mugen Souls. Produced by Inafune “Shooting Star” Keiji, the game, which was released to the Japanese and Korean markets in the spring and fall of last year respectively, was just released to the North American/EU market this week (May 20, 2014). The game required substantial editing in order to secure a “Teen” rating for the US market.
Mugen Souls Z features a vibrant anime-styled narrative and utilizes a ranged turn based combat system, where each character can move within their area to attack or defend. Like the original Mugen Souls, the wrinkle to combat is the ability to captivate enemies with moé. If you did not play the predecessor to this game, moé essentially means a characteristic preference or fetish.
The story begins immediately after the events of Mugen Souls, with Lady Chou-Chou, the “Undisputed God of the Universe” as she refers to herself, having just completed taking over her galaxy by completing a massive conquest of seven worlds (representing the seven hues of the rainbow and the seven days of the week). She quickly learns of another galaxy with even more planets, and sets off to conquer those lands as well, with plans to convert more creatures into her Peons. This galaxy contains 12 planets, which are a representation of the tertiary hues, 12 hours of the clock, 12 constellations of the galaxy or the number of months in a year (this is all based on Japanese interpretations of calendar and clock, so if it doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry about it. Just roll with it and you’ll be fine).
Mugen Souls Z is the JRPG version of a comedy of errors. After leaving her friends scattered around the other worlds in a race to see who can take over their respective domains first, Chou-Chou happens upon Ultimate God Syrma, who has just been awoken from her slumber inside a bizarre looking coffin with the help of a newly-proclaimed hero, Nao. Chou-Chou gets pulled inside the coffin, has her powers drained away by some slimy pink goo inside it, and then is tossed back out where she discovers that she is now a chibi-sized version of her former self. She continues on with her former goal of peon-izing all of the different worlds, gathering up friends both old and new along the way, all the while riding atop Syrma’s head, as she controls Syrma in the hopes that she can regain her powers and unshrink herself.
As with the first game, combat still plays out in turn-based fashion and the basics of fighting remain the same. You can move around within a designated area to get into the proper position and attack with each of your characters.
One fundamental combat change from the original Mugen Souls is to the Moe Kill system; it has been rebuilt into what is called the Captivate system. If fighting’s not your style you can use Syrma and attempt to “Captivate” your enemies by appealing to whatever fetish they have for the fairer sex. You accomplish this by choosing one of the eight Moe, such as Masochist, Terse, or Graceful. Depending on your choice there will be one of three outcomes: they will be captivated and captured inside Syrma’s giant coffin and converted into one of her peons to do your bidding and power up your home base known as “G Castle,” they will be turned into an item which could potentially be rare, or they will become an enraged form of themselves.
Chou-Chou has a giant spaceship-mech called G-Castle. It provides a nice diversion while also proving a handy utility. The ship morphs into a giant bot (think Voltron or Megazord) in order to fend off enemy ships. It’s simpler than the main battle system, and is a nice contrast to regular gameplay. G-Castle can rove around Mugen Field, a massive area filled with enemies which can be harvested for experience points. Difficulty and rewards increase the more the player progresses. Not only does it add variety to the game, the G-Castle encounters contain fun dialogue that plays into battle strategy at times.
G-Castle is the starting point of Chou-Chou/Syrma’s dominion and serves as a home base when not out exploring and conquering worlds. You will return to G-Castle frequently between raiding worlds, to sell off some loot or to create a new fully customizable character.
Graphics and Sound
Graphically the game is a mixed bag. I thought the character art was excellent, extremely sharp, and colors were bright. The color combinations were a little on the blah side, but I would also say they were fairly typical for the anime style. The background environments were okay, though nothing special. Although the game has a lot more enemy types than its predecessor, the animations are not much better than before.
I wasn’t terribly enamored of the soundtrack. I hit the mute key a lot. However, if you like your sound upbeat, then you will probably disagree with my assessment. Voice acting within the cut-scenes was well done; unfortunately not all cut-scenes had voice. Also, characters are limited in the number of phrases they can say when the battle starts or ends, and when they attack.
Mugen Souls was famous for horrendous lag. I didn’t find that to be a problem with Mugen Souls Z. I did, however, find some choppiness within the game. Frames stuttered at times, enough to make me walk away once or twice.
Maps in the game were not impressive. They lack in both scale and content and variety. Overall, though, the game provides a lot of content for the price; there’s a never-ending supply of enemies on each planet’s Overworld, at least a dozen boss characters, and a level cap of 9,999 which will require a lot of grinding to get through (and I don’t necessarily consider the grinding a down-side in this context, since grinding within the majority of games is fairly standard).
The game can be quite humorous as it contains copious amounts of jokes and references to video game/anime culture. If you’re lacking in that knowledge it probably adds nothing to your experience other than annoyance. Otherwise, it provides a fair amount of absurdity and comedy.
For all its faults, and it does have some, this game does give value for the money and has enough content to give hours and hours of gameplay; many hours and hours. If you played the original game and hated it, you probably won’t feel much warmth for the sequel. Otherwise, it’s probably a decent buy.