Although some game developers can't seem to get their act together when it comes to localizing games from Japan, NIS America always seem to deliver. This latest game from Compile Heart is Mugen Souls, sandwiched between the release of the developer's Hyperdimension Neptunia MK2 and Hyperdimension Neptunia victory. Those are some very big shoes to fill, especially since Mugen Souls is a brand new IP.
The story in Mugen Souls is rather quirky, but that's what we've come to experience from NIS America titles. If you're expecting a charming narrative paralleling our current world, questioning our moral, religious, and perhaps even political beliefs, you just won't really find that here. What you will find is a simple story about a girl named Chou Chou whose only objective in life is to make everyone her "peon". In other words, she has a taste for world domination and with the help of her friends Ryuto and Altis, her dream of being the 'Undisputed God of the Universe' can finally become reality.
Overall, the story pretty simple, but it comes with some rather dirty humour tacked on. There are quite a few moments where the jokes just seem a bit to vulgar even for the 16 year olds who are allowed to purchase the title. To give you some insight, the first five minutes take place in a bath and both Altis and Chou Chou are wearing no clothing. A pretty shocking opening for those not really expecting it.
Unfortunately, none of the characters are given any real sense of development, something that you'd like to see in an RPG as you're pretty much stuck with the characters for a considerable amount of time depending on how much you choose to complete. Although the funny dialogue is welcoming at first, after a while it just gets a bit tedious.
There are seven worlds that need conquering in the game: Shining Sun World, Glowing Moon World, and Vivid Fire World to name a few. Aside from Peons, Chou Chou will also be picking up seven different "personas", such as terse, graceful, and bipolar. These personas end up playing an important part in the game's battle system as certain enemies are easier to fight in certain personas compared to others.
How you fight is also a bit different from your standard RPG. While it's typical to have traditional attacks and special moves, in Mugen Souls there's also Moe Kill, where players have to use a correct pattern of adjectives in order to successfully charm a creature into becoming Chou Chou's prized new Peon. Basically what you're trying to do is get the creature to like you by matching their status effects and being the exact kind of girl that turns them on. For example, it might be a kind girl or it might be a determined girl.
The main issue with the Moe Kill system is that it can sometimes be quite hard to decipher when to use which one when. You might think you have the exact pattern of traits to successfully perform a Moe Kill, but it could still go horribly wrong. This gets a bit frustrating as if you get them consistently wrong, your enemy will go into fever mode and become even harder to kill.Master Points are what you need to dominate worlds and in order to do that you have 3 choices of what you can do: pay money, beat a certain number of foes, or collect Moe Kills. Along with this, you need to pay attention to the hints on the menu screen to decide what persona you should be in. The only thing that's frustrating is that it's not so clear cut. Everything's still a guesstimate and for people who wish to just play the game for the story, this system can be a bit frustrating.
Aside from that, there's Mugen Field, which is a dungeon of about 100 levels which actually provides you with more rewards than the normal enemies that graze in the worlds. The higher level you go, the better the rewards you'll get. If you've ever played a NIS America game before, like the Disgaea franchise, this system will be very familiar to you.
One neat thing about Mugen Souls is the ability to create characters. Through Peon Hire you can create new characters using your collected Mugen points. From there you can select what job you want them to take on and then decide what you want them to look like. It's not often that you're allowed to do this in an RPG so it's really a fun way to customize. You can even choose what they'll sound like.
Finally there's the ship battles, which basically turn into a game of rock, paper, scissors. If you use the hints that show up on the screen on which move to use, this portion of the game can be a piece of cake, but that also means it can be pretty boring.
One of the biggest nuisances with this title is the fact that there's a ton of tutorials and a ton of information right off the bat. If you have the time and attention span to read the tutorials, you'll end up in okay shape or more confused than you were when you started. The tutorial information is just in the worst format it could be in and with a battle system so different from traditional RPGs out there, it's really a shame they didn't organize it better and make it more accessible for those unfamiliar. They didn't even allow for players to review the tutorials later in the game which makes it even more frustrating.
As far as graphics go, some of the environments seem a bit uneven. You can definitely tell which worlds the developers spent more time on and which ones they didn't. With that being said, the artwork is top notch. The music isn't overly memorable though.
As if you could expect any less from Japan, Mugen Souls is an anime based RPG involving some very suggestive one liners and, at times, too little fabric. While it might appeal to those of us who're into risque anime like Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, it's definitely not a game for everyone. The suggestive one-liners take away any real substance and the characters offer very little in the development department. If you're an avid fan of Compile Heart titles, this game would probably do well in your collection, otherwise, it's not really worth it.
|Cute character designs and artwork.|
|Mugen Field very helpful for levelling up and earning rewards.|
|Character creation is very interesting and fun.|
|The environments are a bit uneven quality wise and often very sparse.|
|Although the writing is for a specific demographic, the vulgar humour is a bit overdone at times.|
|Battle system is very confusing to control and the tutorials offer far too much information at once to actually help you.|