I say this phrase a lot, “Oh, Japan.” It’s mainly because I understand the “otkau” culture, but have never really wanted to get into it. Now, that may be a very damning thing to say when you are reviewing a Compile Heart game, but even when I say I’m not big into the otkau culture, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a good role playing game whether it be from the East or the West. When a game like Mugen Souls though, I don’t care if it is embedded in otaku culture, when you have a confusing game, you can’t help how you feel about it.
Mugen Souls is a turn-based RPG that features a young powerful girl named Chou-Chou. She is dead set on taking over the entire universe and making everyone and everything in her path her own personal “peon.” Her loyal peon army and a select few members of her regime travel to different planets in the universe to take out the most powerful beings there and take over the planets one by one.
The battles take place in turn-based form in the same vein as Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2. Each character gets a turn, during which you can move in an allotted space within a circle. Moving to better positions will help get a better angle to hit your enemies or other objects in the battlefield.
Some attacks can be used to send the enemies flying into other enemies and crystals that are on the battlefield. When these crystals break, everyone in the party becomes powered up, so using the “launch” attacks can become very useful.
Depending on whose turn it is in the battle and who is up next, you may be able to use a combo attack where successive party members will team up to do special attacks that can do massive damage to enemies. There are even opportunities that allow you to use all those peons you have collected to do big attacks that can end immediately end a battle.
When I talk about Chou-Chou wanting to make everything her peon, I mean it even in a game play sense. Certain quests you take on will have you doing what the game calls, Moe Kills. These mainly take place in combat, but also by completing certain objectives on the world map. In order to turn an enemy into a peon, you have to do a Moe Kill. To do these, you must figure out what turns the enemy on, and capitalize on that by choosing the correct affinity or personality. The personalities come in the form of shy, timid Chou-Chou to dominant, sadistic Chou-Chou. Yes, you read that right. You have to turn on the enemies in battle by choosing how to act around them.
The unfortunate thing when trying to Moe Kill an enemy is that you have to both choose the correct personality to use as well as what to do or say from three options. These options feel random and sometimes are so vague that I didn’t know which would help and which would hinder my effort. If you mess up the choices, you can result in angering the enemy and having it become twice as strong as before, making the battle just that much harder. To top it all off, only Chou-Chou can do Moe Kills. The other party members will either have to stand around and wait for Chou-Chou’s next turn to see if she can entice the enemy.
There are also these space battles that take place when you’re traveling from one area to the next. These play out like a game of rock, paper, scissors. It sometimes feels like a crapshoot.
Now, at the beginning of this review I mentioned that this game is totally aimed for the otaku culture. Not only does it hit the mark, it destroys it. Even the opening of the game has panty shots and a J-pop song and dance routine that features Chou-Chou and another party member, both of which look to be around 14 years old. This plays out through the entire game. The dialog and character interactions all have something to do with sexual innuendos or perversions in the form of jokes. Most of these fall flat, but there were a few jokes that actually tried to make fun of RPGs and other video games that made me chuckle here and there. For the most part though, it came off as immature and creepy.
The amount of content and mechanics is astounding, and I would normally welcome many of them. The Moe Kills are similar to the Shin Megami system, but it becomes a chore trying to guess what to do. There’s a full party member creation system that lets you make characters to take with you into battle, but most of it is not explained at all. It feels like the game is trying to be ambitious but fumbles when trying to show you how all these systems work. More times than not, I would try to do something in battle, and because I was sick of trying to remember how to do it, or couldn’t figure it out in the first place, I would end up just completing the battle with physical attacks. When a game has tutorials 10-15 hours into the game, there’s a bit of a problem.
Aesthetically, the game is just ugly. The environments when walking around the world map are completely barren, with the exception of some enemies that usually all look alike, and uninteresting at that. Amazingly, with the graphics and number of things on screen at a minimum, the game still chugs. That blows my mind.
I know I have been hard on Mugen Souls. I know I’m not the biggest fan of otaku culture, but even I can see a clunky game when I see one. Mugen Souls has some really good ideas that I think fall short because of the way the game tries to explain the mechanics and just how many there are to remember. The Japanese RPG enthusiasts and the American otakus will get some enjoyment out of the humor, but casual RPG players and Western RPG players should be warned. This game is VERY Japanese. Mugen Souls had a lot going for it, but in the end, turned out to be too convoluted for its own good.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.