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Mugen Souls Review

Mugen Souls Review

“It seems like an NIS game”, is a common, albeit reductive comparison for both Japanese role-playing devotees and detractors. Under scrutiny, Nippon Ichi’s publishing efforts share some broad similarities, but upon deeper inspection, their output falls into at least three distinct camps. Omitting GUST’s Atelier and Ar Tonelico franchises, La Pucelle Tactics, Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger Vs. Darkdeath Evilman, and the Disgaea franchise are developed internally. More playful than perverted, each of NIS’s own titles are often marked by traversable battlefields, disproportional damage quotients, and a buttery smooth overworld. Alternatively, Idea Factory and (subsidiary) Compile Heart-crafted works frequently rely on complex combat systems with multiple gauges, as evidenced by Hyperdimension Neptunia’s dense division of skill, action, and guard points. They’re also a bit more visually and thematically lascivious, with a large dissimilarity between the quality of character portraits and combat arenas.

Although recent Compile Heart creation, Mugen Souls has been touted as being Disgaea-esque, with art and character design from Takehito Harada and music from Tenpei Sato, make no mistake- it’s conceptually closer to Neptunia that anything from the Netherworld.  Faithful Idea Factory fans should enjoy it, buy Prinny pundits may want to revisit the undertakings of Laharl, Adell, Mao, and Valvatorez.

Mugen Souls Review

Undeniably, Mugen makes a memorable first impression, with the protagonist’s objective for world domination rivaled only by her eagerness for titillating exposure. Players are introduced to Chou-Chou, and her underboob exhibiting accomplice Altis, during the game’s opening J-pop number, which is exhausting enough to require expositional dialog amidst the steam of a onsen. Naturally, the duo’s male pilot is invited to leer at the two beauties, but is prohibited when his excitement leads to a massive nose bleed. Players who weren’t distracted by the skin or comical shaming will discover the approach behind Chou-Chou’s plans. She intends on traveling to seven worlds and defeating each realm’s ruler before forcing the leader to become her peon.  Later in the game, an additional character appears to put a serious crimp in the megalomaniac’s methodology and escalating the difficulty of Chou-Chou’s ambitions.

Typical of Compile Heart titles, tutorials are employed to help players make sense of Mugen Souls’ multitude of intricate systems. As Chou-Chou’s party moves across worlds and the three maps contained on each landform, she’s encounter a plethora of enemies. Bumping into one (ideally rather stealthily, to score a preemptive strike) initiates the title’s turn-based battle, which vaguely recalls the combat mechanics of the Hyperdimension Neptunia games. Here, characters are free to position themselves in a ‘move’ radius, optionally getting in rage on an enemy to swap attacks. Like Disgaea, adjacent heroes are capable of partnering up to deliver an exponentially more overwhelming assault against foes, each accompanied by an amusing animation.

Mugen Souls Review

Of course, that’s just the beginning of Mugen’s battle decisions. Unlike her teammates, Chou-Chou can summon a Peon Ball, comprised of defeated and appropriated enemies, which delivers an explosive attack that is particularly advantageous against boss characters. To generate addition peons, Chou-Chou is obliged to use the game’s Moe Kill, which permits the protagonist to get into the head of opponents. Once this command in activated, the players must pick adjectives from a bank that matches the temperament of an adversary. If the players speculates correctly (which can be challenging given the ambiguity of the words), the opponent becomes part of the player’s party. A succession of incorrect guess puts the enemy into Fever Mode, radically increasing their offensive and defensive abilities. Once you factor in Chou-Chou’s collection of seven personalities and the requirement of taking over continents with specific dispositions, the Moe Kill proves to be Mugen’s most complex system. Expect to still be discovering the technique’s nuances during your thirtieth hour of play.

While combat is Mugen Souls’ focus, there are plenty of other components that compete for the player’s attention. Beyond clothing the perpetually underdressed peons and augmenting your arsenal, the game offers its own take on Disgaea’s Item World. Dubbed the Mugen Field, a one-hundred level dungeon offers an escalating trial that’s ideal for buffing characters before a boss fight. For players who prefer the appeal of customization, there’s even a character creation component. Less interesting are Mugen’s ship-to-ship battles which prove to be little more than a galactic game of janken. Ideally, these skirmishes would have copped some of the complexities of the game’s core combat system.

Mugen Souls Review

Visually, Mugen is an archetypical Compile Heart game with opulent character dialog screens juxtaposed against battlefields which struggle to maintain a margin framerate. Expectedly, Takehito Harada’s contributions elevate the game, especially Chou-Chou’s fan-gratifying sadist and terse outfits, which portray the protagonist as a buxom dominatrix and lovable loligoth. Sonically, the game’s selection of songs complement each of the elementally-themed environments, while the game’s Japanese and English voice-overs are capable. Although purists will bemoan the removal of some of Mugen’s more salacious mini-games for stateside audiences, the localization team didn’t fail to interpret the game’s more lascivious lines of dialog.

Regretfully, the title does have a number of significant drawbacks. While the level of challenge is manageable through most of the storyline, the difficulty increases dramatically across the last three chapters, swapping impish fun for rage-quit levels of frustration. Additionally, the game’s character maintenance menus proved to be a bit inelegant, failing to provide an easy way to compare the quality of two items. Like Hyperdimension Neptunia, positioning in the movement radius proves to be finicky, making lining up at attack a bit more cumbersome than it should be.

Mugen Souls Review

With console role-playing games becoming increasingly scarce, enthusiasts will likely look past Mugen Souls’ missteps, mollified by a copious quantity of fan-service. With an engaging (though still needlessly complex) array of gameplay components, the title represents a small step forward for Compile Heart. Yet for most players, the developer’s succinct stride won’t be substantial enough- resulting in a competent experience undermined by a few irksome design decisions.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

26 comments

  1. Seems like an NIS game! hoohoo

    Actually good review. I saw IGN’s “review” this week there they king of glossed over it and then 3.5ed it. Maybe you should try freelancing for them. They need help.

    • Check this out:

      On first Impressions

      IGN: “First impressions are always crucial and Mugen Souls fails to make a good one. Panty shots and face palms abound as the game tries ever-so-hard to be both funny and naughty, yet succeeds only in being juvenile and creepy.”

      TG: “Undeniably, Mugen makes a memorable first impression, with the protagonist’s objective for world domination rivaled only by her eagerness for titillating exposure.”

      I like they way they look at the same thing completely differently.

      • Want a good laugh, read ZTGD:

        “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.”

        WTF is OTKAU?

  2. Without the scrubbing mini games that helped buff your characters in the Japanese version, is the American version harder?

  3. You don’t seem to list enough weaknesses to give the game a C+

    Let’s see:
    – Combat system too complex
    – Gets too hard (wah!)
    – One small problem with the menu
    – Framerate

  4. Seems like a NIS game.

    Can’t argue too much with the reviewer. Seems like he knows NIS catalog and developers.

  5. Seems like the review scores are all around the low to middle. C+ might even be one of the higher ones.

    If I remember didn’t Sean and Rob review Hyperdimension Neptunia (no links, guys?) I recall a pretty average score.

  6. What about NIS’s action games? Where do they fit into all this.

  7. Zoinks! A C+ for a NISA game?

    This must be pretty bad, considering Deagle loves them.

  8. C+ means better than average, not “OMG it’s horrible!”

    From what Ive seen, the review sounds about right. Compile Heart games are really polished on the character screens. With Mugen Souls you can see them breathing, different emotions, it’s really well done.

    But move to a map and it’s a bit crappy. I don’t really know why they don’t fix it. This looks like the same engine as Hyperdimension.

  9. NIS posted on the Sony Blog and mentioned on your podcast that the game was like Disgaea. Kinda, sorta. I still can’t tell if it’s a parody of Disgaea or a wannabe.

    I do wish the combat was grid based (even though Agarest War is a bit on the boring side). I don’t really like the move circles. Most people don’t like the Moe Kill, but I think it’s cool, and Peon collecting is pretty well done. It’s also balanced, you can’t do it all the time.

    So far, I can see a C+ for the game. Its seems complicated just to be complicated sometimes.

  10. I know it’s not Disgaea, but I’ll still buy it, play it, and laugh my ass off.

  11. “but is prohibited when his excitement leads to a massive nose bleed.”

    If you knew anything about anime and JRPGs, you’d know that this happens when men see a woman undressing.

    Terrible review. All your complaints are weak and don’t affect Mugen Souls in the least.

    • He used the words onsen and janken in the review, so I’d think he might know about the nosebleed trope. Plus the guy reviews NIS anime exclusively, so probably no negative bias.

    • Yeah, happens to me ALL the time 😉

  12. Good review, Robert. Let the haters hate. The write up gave me a pretty good idea of what Mugen is all about.

  13. I really like Harada’s art style. Probably my single favorite artist in gaming.

  14. What’s not to love about a game with dialog like “I’m gonna peon his ass right now”?

    So far, so great. Yeah, there’s some problems. Frame rate chugs like a NG64 game, but it’s very funny and crazy kawaii.

  15. Thought I’d post what was left out of the game.

    Don’t judge me!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EGuZC89LZk

  16. If Takehito Harada is the artist, can’t you say it LOOKS like an NIS game, then?