A JRPG brimming with sugary cuteness.
I must admit that I never had the pleasure of playing the first Mugen Souls game, so was somewhat at a loss as to what to expect from Compile Heart’s Mugen Souls Z, except that I was going to be overwhelmed by colour and cuteness. Once I had recovered from my sugary coma, I started trying to work the game out. It turns out that this took some time…
Mugen Souls Z is a JRPG which follows the adventures of the supremely cute Chou Chou, the undisputed god. The game apparently follows on from the previous title in which Chou Chou presumably conquered her solar system. This time around, she has her heart set on conquering another solar system, and is bringing with her a small group of friends/subjects and a giant transformer/spaceship. It all makes perfect sense so far – A bad tempered little girl god, a transformer spaceship.
However, things take a turn for the weird (like they were not weird already) when we switch to an adventurer who has just happened to wake up another cute god, Syrma, who appears to have been asleep in a magical coffin. It turns out that Syrma is one of 12 ultimate gods for the solar system that Chou Chou is intent on conquering. Pretty soon, the two meet and Chou Chou takes an interest in the magical coffin, which results in her being sucked in, stripped of her power, and spat back out in miniature, chibi form. The result is that the two gods must team up and defeat the other ultimate gods before being destroyed by a further evil adversary.
To say that the story is quirky would be an understatement. There is a lot going on, not much of which makes any sense, and there is a lot of dialogue for the player to wade through. The characters in the game are highly stereotypical, and much of the humour revolves around making fun of these stereotypes, which is repeated far too much.
Then there is the overall flavour of the game, which combines very young looking female characters with somewhat revealing clothing. I don’t judge, but I would imagine that a lot of people would be instantly turned off by this style, and that is before they even get to the bubble bath scenes (don’t ask about the bubble bath scenes).
But style and story aside, the game has quite an in-depth, turn-based combat system available for those who wish to master it, with some gloriously over-the-top, godlike moves. The player will control a party of characters on the battlefield and are able to move around on their turn to bring enemies into their area of effect. Movement also allows the characters to take advantage of battlefield items, which are made up of crystals with both negative and positive effects on those nearby. Enemies can also make use of these crystals, which makes the combat in Mugen Souls Z nice and tactical, especially when the monsters are crowding around a power increasing crystal.
One of the more interesting abilities that become unlocked early in the game, is Syrma’s power to captivate enemies and turn them into peons. Here, through a series of dialogue options, the player can attempt to make the monster like Syrma, with success resulting in a peon and failure resulting in an even more annoyed monster.
Peons have a role to play in the other type of combat in Mugen Souls Z. The transformer/spaceship, known as G-Castle, is used to travel through space and will often come up against other spaceships for battle. The peons that the player captures during battle are used to power G-Castle and thus the more peons equal a more powerful transformer. The space combat is slightly different in that it is more of a game of rock,paper, scissors. The player chooses a move and the enemy chooses a move and one beats the other. Hints are given as to which move the enemy is going to use, so the player has the chance to choose correctly as long as they pay attention.
There is a huge amount going on, both in the combat system and in the game as a whole, and this works both for the game and against. While JRPG purists will find the depth of the combat system, with all of its different systems, a challenge to master, many gamers will be turned off by the increasing difficulty. And that is if they were not already turned off by the questionable style and quirky story.
But no one can accuse Mugen Souls Z of not being bright and colourful. The visuals may not be cutting edge on the PS3, but there is a rainbow of colour that is quite enjoyable to watch. The soundtrack is not bad either, with some pretty upbeat tunes to get lodged in your head. That being said, the voices can become somewhat irritating over time.
Mugen Souls Z is a strange game. While fans of the original title may well be enticed by the story of this little god, new players who happen upon the title will be left wondering what the hell they have wandered into. Those looking for a JRPG challenge with plenty to learn should grab the game now. Otherwise, it may be best to look elsewhere for your quirky JRPG fix.