Home | News | Reviews | Previews | Hardware
Mugen Souls
Score: 87%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Compile Heart
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:
If thereís one certainty in gaming (aside from Call of Duty releases earning the GDP of small countries at launch), it is JRPGs Ė especially from NIS Ė will always present you with something different. Mugen Souls fits this concept perfectly, introducing a couple of really interesting play mechanics. On the flip side, "something different" usually comes with long, cumbersome tutorials and a slog of an early game. To its credit, Mugen Souls makes a valiant attempt at avoiding this pitfall, but with limited success.

Yes, Mugen Souls offers both English and Japanese voice tracks. It is an option weíve come to expect from NIS, yet the question seems to come up with an odd frequency anyway. I canít speak for the Japanese track to any great extent, but the English track is excellent. Voicework is liberally sprinkled throughout the game Ė so there are some unvoiced story sequences Ė which is a bit of a distraction, but Mugen Souls makes up for the inconsistencies with personality. Chou-Chou is a "bad guy," but incredibly likeable, as is her supporting cast. There are a few one-note characters, but thatís just another of the genreís particulars.

Visually, Mugen Souls is a lot of fun. Itís bright and incredibly "anime," but not to the point where its distracting. Chou-Chou flips personalities throughout the game, each offering a different look for the main character. You can even customize your peons, allowing a bit of self-expression. I should, however, mention Mugen Souls is loaded with suggestive visuals. All keep within the gameís "Teen" rating, but you will see scenes of girls bathing together and the like. Depending on your threshold, it might get a little uncomfortable, though I never got the feeling anything was included with the intent to offend.

I like Mugen Souls' gameplay for the simple fact that, when Chou-Chou says youíre going out to conquer the world, the assertion is actually backed up by the gameplay. Yeah, there are a few story bits to enhance the premise, but a bulk of the game is dedicated to turning enemies into peons willing to do whatever you want Ė even if it means turning them into living bullets.

Mugen Souls starts out with Chou-Chou, a Goddess of sorts, deciding to flex her muscles and take over the universe. Each world is based around a different color, offering a variety of themed locations to visit and eventually conquer. While on planet, Mugen Souls plays out like any other NIS JRPG. You control Chou-Chou and travel around an overworld map completing tasks. Your main goal is to kill, or win over, each planetís overlord.

As JRPG stories go, Mugen Souls probably wonít hold your attention for long. There are a few neat twists involving Chou-Chouís personality type, though youíll likely figure everything out quickly. Every planet follows the same story pattern, which gets dull. Mugen Souls does, however, parody some of the better known JRPG tropes, adding a little more interest for long-time fans.

Mugen Souls isnít incredibly hard, though it takes a long time to really understand what youíre supposed to do. The downside of Mugen Souls diving into action without a lot of tedious early game is the lack of really good tutorials. They may be a slog, but with past games, you usually had a firm idea of how combat worked before facing your first big threat. Here it takes a couple of tries, especially since the Moe Kill system isnít the most intuitive. Youíre offered clues about how to impress the locals, it still requires a lot of trial and error to get good results.

Not understanding the Moe Kill system makes the game harder. The obvious downside is not having enough peons, which works into a variety of mechanics, including overcoming certain obstacles, though failing to win enemies over also makes them harder to kill. It will take a few hours, but once you figure the system out, you can bring even the hardest of battles to a quick end.

Game Mechanics:
Where Mugen Souls differs from other JRPGs is its combat system. Chou-Chou can engage in "normal" weapons-based combat, which resembles Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 in a few key ways, but in order to get the most out of the game, youíll need to use Chou-Chouís special ability to make everyone love her. Called "Moe Kills," the basic concept involves matching Chou-Chouís equipped personality (she has seven) to the mood of enemies in battle.

In the briefest of explanations, Moe Kills involve switching Chou-Chou to one of seven personalities, then answering questions correctly. Essentially, each of the seven worlds goes for a certain "type" of girl (Graceful, Ditz, Sadist, Terse, Bipolar, Hyper, and Masochist) matching one of Chou-Chouís personalities. The idea is to match the mood of enemies, turning them into gems or peons. Thereís a catch, since even if you do everything right, Chou-Chou still needs a certain charm level to make the locals fall for her.

Winning enemies over and creating hordes of peons is vitally important to gameplay. There are a variety of roles peons need to fill in Chou-Chouís growing empire, not the least of which is ammunition for Chou-Chouís starship. Ship-to-Ship battles are one of the gameís more interesting gameplay systems. Combat runs on a simple "rock, paper, scissors" premise, but adds a few twists, such as which type of shot you want to use. Some do less damage, but penetrate shields, while others can overpower and knock out incoming shots. Different shot types are dependent on peons, placing even more importance on gathering mass numbers of peons.

Fights even include boarding parties, mixing a bit of combat into the mix as you try to repel boarders. Youíll typically face other ships when approaching planets, though there are a few random encounters in the vastness of space.

Mugen Souls is an acquired taste, but should win over JRPG fans, particularly fans who enjoy complex mechanics. It takes a while to fully understand how some elements work, but once you figure them out, they are enjoyable and rewarding.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Related Links:

This site best viewed in Internet Explorer 6 or higher or Firefox.