June 2, 2014
The story continues right after the events of the original Mugen Souls. The “Undisputed God of the Universe” Lady Chou-Chou has set her sights on a new galaxy themed after the signs of the zodiac, wanting to conquer its lands and make its people her Peons. After entering the first world she runs into Nao, a treasure hunter who’s about to unearth her latest haul. Said haul turns out to be the coffin of the self-proclaimed Ultimate Goddess Syrma who awakens from her long slumber.
One thing leads to another and Chou-Chou ends up being trapped inside the coffin. Not only that, she’s turned into miniature form of herself, and Syrma becomes the heroine as a dark power threatens to engulf the galaxy. This sounds like an interesting start for the story and it isn’t all bad, but like the original the story is far too generic and tends to overuse the one-dimensional archetypes for each of its cast members. This becomes evident early on as the first introduction scene between Nao and Chou-Chou lasted a good 45 minutes with no end in sight, where most of said text could have been easily toned down.
These tropes also take part in the clothing the characters wear as many of the female characters wear revealing clothing as their default attire. It makes sense considering the Japanese fan base this game was originally aimed at, but in North America it’s a bit of a culture shock to say the least.
There are some improvements in Mugen Souls Z, however. The battle system mechanics are significantly better, with the most noticeable being the removal of the lag that plagued the original – battles are now silky smooth. There’s still an issue with the “Captivate” system (known as “Moe” in the original Mugen Souls) as it’s still somewhat hard to read the tells of the enemies to know what mood to approach them in, but the developers have made said tells a bit easier to read this time around.
There’s a number of techniques to use in battle such as Ultimate Soul, Fever and Damage Carnival, but one of the more interesting approaches is colored crystals that litter the battlefield granting bonuses to the party and its enemies if one is in range. Mugen Souls Z improves on this mechanic by making it clearly evident what bonuses are being applied instead of the guessing game that was in the original.
The plethora of approaches in battles causes some issues, however, as the same mistake of far too many “Overwhelming Tutorials” found in the original rears its ugly head again. They did decrease how much was in said in individual tutorials this time around, but that just creates more of them so it’s the same issue all over again. The G-Castle mecha battles from the original that return here also suffer the same fate.
Graphically it’s a mixed bag. The game is colorful to say the least, but there’s an extreme amount of frame rate lag inside the PS2-level overworld maps which is odd considering there’s barely anything loaded on the maps to begin with. The music is passable and the voice overs are surprisingly good even if there’s a few characters that are especially grating to the ears.
If you enjoyed the original Mugen Souls, this sequel is more of the same with a technically better packaging. On the other hand, if you hated the one-dimensional characters, grindy combat and overindulgent cutscenes from the original game there isn’t anything here to sway you mind – just less cumbersome gameplay mechanics. Compile Heart aimed this at the moe-loving fan base and it shows. It has its own soul, but for some that might not be enough.
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