Mugen Souls Z (PS3) Review
Not so much?
In the original Mugen Souls, the so-called undisputed goddess Chou-Chou made it her mission to take over the seven worlds and turn their inhabitants into her peons. Not content with that, she decides to go after another twelve worlds, but everything goes horribly wrong when Chou-Chou’s powers are accidentally drained by Syrma, the ultimate god […]
In the original Mugen Souls, the so-called undisputed goddess Chou-Chou made it her mission to take over the seven worlds and turn their inhabitants into her peons. Not content with that, she decides to go after another twelve worlds, but everything goes horribly wrong when Chou-Chou’s powers are accidentally drained by Syrma, the ultimate god of the twelve worlds. Now Chou-Chou must help Syrma take over the twelve worlds so that they can both restore their godly powers. Japanese games are usually bright and colourful – indeed, that’s part of their appeal – but when you load up a new game of Mugen Souls Z, you’d better prepare yourself for a sensory overload. Right from the start, the game bombards you with energetic music, flashing neon backdrops and more characters than you can shake a stick it. It’s all a bit headache inducing, and trying to make sense of what’s going on is not really recommended. If you can persevere, however, after a few hours, the game settles down to become a solid if not outstanding RPG experience. There are twelve worlds to explore and conquer in total, and each one offers a similar experience – you run around the map fighting enemies and triggering cutscenes whilst searching for ‘Planet Spots’ – areas in which you can exert your influence to make the planet fall under your control. In order to conquer a planet spot, you’ll either need to impress it with your KO count, bring it a particular item, or win it over using Mugen Souls Z’s special gimmick – Captivate. An adaptation of the ‘Moe Kill’ system from the first game, Captivate allows Syrma to transform into various different forms such as Sadist, Masochist, Graceful or Ditz, depending on the, er, fetish tastes of her opponent. By striking alluring poses, she can then win them over, transforming Planet Spots and enemies alike into her peons. Unlike Moe Kill, which relied a lot on dumb luck, Captivate gives you graphs and probabilities of success, so you can have a good idea beforehand whether you’ll transform an enemy into a willing servant, or just enrage them. Apart from the Captivate mechanic, battle in Mugen Souls Z is pretty standard fare – characters and enemies take it in turns to run around the battlefield, attacking each other and casting skills. Difficulty levels range from trivial to challenging, whilst running out of MP is a common problem, especially early in the game. Given how small and densely packed with enemies each map is, and how much backtracking is required to get from one event or Planet Spot to the next, exploring can sometimes feel like a bit of a chore. As well as regular battles, there will occasionally be times when you need to take your spaceship, the G-Castle, into combat. G-Castle battles are essentially a take on rock-paper-scissors, where you try to guess the enemy’s next move and counter with something better. This is where gathering peons through Captivate really becomes useful – the more you have, the stronger your G-Castle will be. There’s something of a Disgaea vibe to Mugen Souls Z, and nowhere is this more evident than within your home base, where a wealth of additional and often unnecessary gameplay mechanics have been shoehorned in. There are options to fuse and upgrade weapons, take baths to temporarily upgrade your stats, and of course the obligatory massive optional dungeon to tackle in your spare time. Even buying weapons requires first collecting components and then selling them to the shop so that they can be turned into weapons, leading to ridiculous outcomes such as having to buy a particular weapon and sell it back to the same shop just so that it counts as a component towards a stronger weapon. It feels like a while since an RPG with a really good, compelling plot has come along, and unfortunately, Mugen Souls Z is in no way about to buck the trend of shallow, meaningless stories. The plot is paper thin, and, as you might imagine, the game is quick to play to the lowest common denominator, with stereotypical infantile humour and tentacle jokes. The game is packed with characters from the original Mugen Souls, plus a whole host of new faces, each as one-dimensional and uninspiring as the last – and, as you can imagine, this makes cutscenes painful rather than entertaining, since pretty much everyone has to have their say. Fortunately, prior knowledge of the original game is in no way required; not only do the old characters spend an inordinate amount of time introducing themselves to the newcomers, but there’s a summary of the first Mugen Souls available on the G-Castle. Final Thoughts In the increasingly crowded market of JRPGs, an average game like Mugen Souls Z can’t help but struggle to stand out. Whilst the Captivate mechanic is different enough to be interesting, the rest of the game is pedestrian at best; stick with it for a few hours, and you’ll have an enjoyable enough experience, but no one would blame you for being putting off by the game’s initial assault on the senses.