Review Copy Provided by NIS America
Mugen Souls Z follows on from the original as the Undisputed God, Chou-Chou, stumbles upon a new solar system of 12 planets and looks to conquer these new worlds. On one of these worlds an ultimate god, Symra, is awoken by a hero, Noa, and they are the first to meet chou-chou's wrath. Unfortunately for Chou-Chou though, due to some mishap regarding Symra's power-sucking coffin, she loses most of her power and is shrunken to become lil Chou-Chou. it transpires that Symra is actually one of 12 gods, with one being on each of the 12 worlds, who's power when combined would create an 'Ultimate' God. And so your adventure begins as you help to return Chou-Chou's power & form while gathering the 12 god's powers in preparation to defeat an awakening evil. The story keeps to this basic premise, and the stereotypical characters all fit their roles within it perfectly. That's not to say that its a bad thing, far from it, as there's enough humour from the games cast & innuendos to keep one entertained. There may be the odd time when an innuendo may have you cringing, but the lightheartedness of the games delivery always shines through and its a somewhat rare occurrence. One character easy to relate to is Noa. She's a self-proclaimed hero that is at a complete loss when all the wacky shenanigans start to happen, much like the player at times, and her grounded viewpoint of everything acts as a nice counter to the nonsensical happenings. While the games storytelling may not be the most complex, its wealth of customisation options that effect gameplay make up for it.
On your G-station (Chou-Chou's spaceship) there are numerous stores that open up as you progress through the game. There's your typical shop that sell weapons, armour & items that also increases its inventory depending on what items you manage to get from defeated foes. You can also customise & enhance your weapons here too. A clothes shop allows you to customise the look of your character, but this also has the effect of boosting stat increases when levelling up. For example, wearing certain attire that has a 10% HP boost will add another 10% on top of what it would increase by when levelling normally. Theres also a place for recruiting Peons. It says recruiting but it really means you can create your own party members & take them into battle. There are a few different classes to choose from and their appearance can be customised too. An option to 'fuse' Peons by using a peon to make another more powerful one is another major aspect of this feature. It all adds depth to the game and depth, as you'll find as the review continues, is a recurring theme. The first hour of the game can seem a little overwhelming though due to all this as it piles story/characters & mechanics on the player with nary a moments rest. Once you begin your quest, the game opens up a little as you start to explore worlds/dungeons looking for gods and loot. Some of these locations can be a little small unfortunately and you'll often find yourself running occasionally to & fro for events. There is the added bonus of also making planets your peon by approaching Planet spots and doing whats required which can boost your power while on that planet. Sometimes this may be to captivate or hit a certain quota for kills etc and passing the test boosts the planet energy you have there. If the 'Grind' isn't a part of your RPG vocabulary, then this may cause you give up on the game fairly early. Bosses can be tough and the game occasionally If you stick with it though, theres enough depth to the games numerous features to keep you entertained for a while
If you thought the games expanded feature set wouldn't eek its way into the titles gameplay, you thought wrong. While the main crux of the game is its turned based combat system, similar to the Hyperdimension Neptunia series with a somewhat open arena, there are numerous additions to add depth to the skirmishes. one of the most talked about facets of the game during the build up to release has been the 'Moe captivate' system. This allows Symra to change her style/personality to one of several Moe fetish types (Hyper, Ego, Bipolar - to name a few) depending on the foe you face, as different enemies are weaker to being captivated by different Moe types. Due to this there are 3 outcomes - captivate enemies to turn then into peons/convert them into items or weapons or you can lastly enrage them (boosting your foes stats & HP) As you progress in the game, even more features are dropped into the battle system. Akin to Disgaea, crystals are placed around the arena that offer up numerous bonuses, both your and your foe can take advantage of, that you'll be wise to position yourself into during hefty battles. you can also destroy & captivate these, plus once you start making use of the Blast off mode which allows you to send enemies flying, you can reposition the crystals during battle. Other facets make there way into battles - Damage Carnival acts as an overbreak, slowly building up as you do damage to foes & coerce is a way of boosting friendly stats temporarily by following Symra's orders. There's a hell of a lot to this games combat system as you make your way through the game. Another surprising addition is the games battle mode featuring the G-Castle, as you fight enemy ships in a turn based combat scenario. In this mode listening out for the clues of which attack your enemy will do next so you can counter it will lead you to victory. The captivate system also helps out here, as captured Peons go towards booting the stats of G-Castle. Mugen Souls Z can seem a little overwhelming at times with so much to remember, but once it all sinks in you realise that the depth in many aspects of the game can put the bigger Jrpg's out there to shame.
The presentation department. Always a mixed bag when concerning Compile Heart, and here its no different. Mugen Souls Z aims for and pretty much nails its Moe leanings. The design of the characters is great during dialogue and the sprites used pop with colour. This extends to the game too as the title offers up a clear anime styling to its worlds. The texturing is basic, but colourful, and characters exhibit the typical cel-shaded styling of its peers with an almost chi-bi styling to how the cast are modelled in-game. The game does offer up a nice assortment of foes (although sometimes you'll think 'Ive seen you before?') and a decent variety of locations. There are oddities to the visuals of course. Jagged edges can sometimes be rife, and sometimes non-existent!, with the characters shadowing being so poor & blocky it may have been better to just have no shadows. Considering all this, its even more odd that the game has such a fluctuating framerate. While its nowhere near as bad as the original, it can still be a little choppy but thankfully its issues here dissipate once you've entered combat. The games audio carries on the mixed bag. Music & sound effects sound similar to other niche titles out there, namely Hyperdimension Neptunia & Disgaea at times, which doesn't quite help the game stand out from the crowd much. The voice acting as well on the English dub seemed to have most of the cast sounding eerily similar, thankfully I tend to play these titles with the original Japanese audio and here its the better option. Its a shame the performance woes of the original haven't been ironed out completely and the game does little to differentiate itself from its peers in the audio department, but its not all bad as the characters are well designed & each offers up enough personality to go with all the Moe on offer.
When looking at the title from a pure perspective of how it plays, without getting into a debate about any 'sexualised' content, what we're left with is a solid & feature rich Jrpg. The games packed feature set ensures theres much to do, both in & out of combat, giving the game much depth to keep you interested during the long haul. Unfortunately it shares some of the same issues as the original, namely in the technical department & structure, which erodes some of the good work elsewhere. Worthy of a try for those intrigued, whilst the discernible Otaku out there would be wise to pick it up.
Who Should buy this?
- You love the Moe
- An Otaku that loves Jrpg's
- Looking for a Jrpg with a rich feature set
- A turn based combat system with added depth
- your looking for a humorous & nonsensical adventure
Who Should avoid?
- A mainstream Jrpg this is not
- You have no love for the Moe..Pantsu..innuendo's etc
- Turn based combat isn't your thing
- You don't have the patience to make it through the dialogue.