[Review] Mugen Souls
It’s pretty hard to pinpoint the thought process behind games from Idea Factory. While the company releases some of the most interesting game concepts I’ve seen in the last few years, they all tend to go in some bizarre direction. Mugen Souls continues the trend with it’s odd characters, setting, design and I guess everything else it has going for it.
Weird ideas however don’t always make good games so read on to see if Mugen Souls lives up to it’s concept.
Mugen Souls is the story of an optimistic young girl plotting to conquer the universe by making all of it’s inhabitants to fall madly in love with her. To do so she must target and manipulate the heroes and villains of seven worlds to follow her will. The bizarre yet fascinating twist is that the main character has to use her feminine wiles and adopt a persona that pleases each of her targets. While the forthright adventurer might not find our loli egomaniac Chou-Chou to be all that appealing, a quick little transformation can change her in to the bosom dominatrix of his dreams. It is absolutely ridiculous to design an entire game around this concept, but Idea Factory lives to try and bring the ridiculous to life.
This plot is right up NISA’s territory for localization and at face value it almost feels like it came from the same people that made Disgaea. Heck, Idea Factory even poached the artist for this one so it actually looks like a Disgaea game. For all extents and purposes, Mugen Souls is Idea Factory’s Disgaea and they worked hard to copy the formula.
In that respect, the game has a lot to live up to. Disgaea is most certainly a popular franchise in it’s niche circle, but it’s hardcore grind leaves many people turned off. This is where Mugen Souls can show itself off. The level curve here is nowhere near Disgaea’s and the monotony of the grind isn’t as tough. For those looking for a great challenge, there is a limitless dungeon, but really the RPG mechanics makes this a much easier game to push through. Since the game works off a similar battle system as Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2, they only really had to focus on adding new things to make it fresh and interesting within this game setting.
What’s worked fine for Neptunia works fine here. It’s turn based with a grid you can move your character around in. What changes things up is the ability to knock your opponents around with special attacks, you can combo together your basic strikes and even set enemies up with a Moe Kill. You read that last one right. A Moe Kill is somewhat tricky to pull off in the beginning, but it’s an ability that uses the 8 personalities of Chou-Chou to get enemy units to drop gold or even join your team as a servant shampuru. Failure to yield a kill will reset the enemies health and boost their abilities. Lining up a personality with verbal attacks is actually pretty fun and figuring out the perfect personality and response to win over enemies is a nice way to tie the central concept in to battle. It’s an interesting option to abuse for one hit kills and offers another bit of strategy in battle that has no effect on character turn.
The ability to knock opponents around the rink works as a nice bit of added fun. Blasting off enemies around at will is a nice way to add a bit of damage, but there is also a bit of strategy with this. Above all battles are little crystals that go bonkers when you knock opponents in to them, juggling the enemy and just causing all sorts of interesting things to happen. It’s all over-the-top and fairly unnecessary, but it’s interesting to work for each battle. The combo attacks also follow in to that flash with some really weird attacks. In the end though, I just started to skip each one to move the game along faster. It’s nice to have the characters hop in to some tanks and blow people away, but it isn’t all that important to the battle as they occur every time two or more party members turn orders coincide with each other.
This RPG system has a lot of flashy and overly complex implementations to it yet it still is a fairly straightforward system. If worse comes to worse, there is a super move in the game that you build up over time called the peon ball. This ball builds until it explodes so you have to use it at some point in battle even if you don’t want to. It’s all interesting in theory, but ultimately it’s a trump card that you’ll only use to get rid of.
Other than those little additions, the game is a natural JRPG. You have open dungeons to run around with respawning enemies to bump in to. The surroundings are bland, but that’s to be expected from Neptunia’s engine. It actually is improved with better vistas and background objects, but it’s all just an open world to find boxes of treasure, peons to tame, and enemies to fight.
A side feature that is also offered up is a giant space ship battle that happens usually at the beginning or end of a chapter. These are essentially over the top games of rock paper scissors, but I honestly enjoyed these little diversions the most. Something about ridiculous looking battle ships getting reduced down to a guessing game is satisfying. The enemy will call out a thought he is having and you have to guess one of three main attacks to counter it and maximize damage. It is a simple system that really is here just to break up the monotony of battling over and over. In that way it works really well and is a simple yet fun little distraction.
Now let’s be realistic, with all this moe talk there has to be a bit of sex appeal. Sadly however, the character models all run off the same body type. So every character is modeled the same. The only time external sex features are really displayed is in cutscenes (and as you can see above, they are shown off). Seeing as how all characters have to have the same body type for the game’s customization system, it’s a shame that the main characters aren’t better modeled. That being said, you have plenty of options to use in the customization with the ability to merge and combine their abilities in to other characters.
If that screenshot above still keeps you interested in the game, the whole concept of finding relationships between heroes and villains through shared interests plays itself off in to some humorous situations. The first world offered the best example of a typical JRPG hero who parades his partner around in a bikini for stat boosts (but really it’s just because he likes his ladies in bikinis). Chou-Chou’s interactions with odd characters on her quest for world domination is light hearted and fun. Uncovering everybody’s hidden fetish is a unique story to unravel. It’s fun because Chou-Chou is mostly innocent at heart so her manipulations aren’t sadistic despite being able to assume the role of a sadist.
I’ve said it above, but it bears repeating. Mugen Souls is Idea Factory’s Disgaea. It’s not as polished or as deep in gameplay, but it puts up a solid attempt and makes for an interesting little game. For those looking for a quirky moe JRPG about enslaving people through mastering their fetishes, this is probably the only game you’ll ever get. They put a lot of ideas in to the cauldron for Mugen Souls and they work well enough.
I had a lot of fun with the game as a Disgaea fan. Sure the Shampurus aren’t as charming as Prinnies and the systems in place aren’t as deep, but Mugen Souls makes up for it by not having that wall to hit like Disgaea does. The game strips everything down to something a bit more manageable while still allowing you to build your character up to deal attack damage that actually makes you hand count the commas used. The methods used with points really opens the game up to burn through more efficiently and the distractions of ship battles and moe mastery is interesting enough.
Realistically, this is a niche audience the game is hitting with it’s concepts. Mugen Souls is a quirky game that’s hard to really recommend to people as the crossover appeal isn’t there. Bath scenes at the end of each episode kinda separate the audience for this. If you are ok with the odd theme and just want an RPG version of Disgaea, Mugen Souls is a game that should work for you.
[+Quirky Setting] [+Interesting Moe System] [+Fun Ship Battles] [+Solid Customization] [+Interesting Battle Attacks] [-Shallow Battle Systems] [-Bland Customization]