NIS America is known for taking chances by making unique games, ones that many other developers wouldn’t even think about making. Maybe it’s because they’re a bit weird or maybe it’s because they’re geniuses – who knows? What we do know is that it does involve a lot of risk for them. However, it also means that we get to play games that would probably never have been released outside of Japan if not for NIS America’s involvement. Mugen Souls is one of these games. It is funny and weird in the best ways possible, but overall, it is such an unusual game that it deserves a chance.
Mugen Souls begins with main character Chou-Chou’s plan to conquer all seven worlds so that she can become the ruler of them all. However, as it would take too long to make every one of all the worlds’ residents her peon, she sets off with Altis and Ryuto to make each of the worlds’ hero and demon lords her peons instead in the belief that if the two most powerful people on a planet become Chou-Chou’s peons, everyone else will follow.
Mugen Souls has loads of personality to it, as players get to follow a selfish teenage girl as she makes a massive section of the universe bow down to her and accept her as their only god. It is hilarious, and the idea that she is just going around making both people and objects her minions is just awesome. There are a few twists to the story, although if you are familiar with JRPGs then you might start putting two and two together very early on in the adventure. It also pokes fun at JRPG stereotypes while also adhering to some itself. Mugen Souls is a game made by Compile Heart, so you can expect it to be over-the-top. About half of the time it is hilarious while the other half of the time it’s just ridiculous. Of course, as funny as Mugen Souls is, there are some parts that a few people might find offensive. If you don’t like or prefer not to see suggestive material, whether it’s visuals or sexual references, then Mugen Souls is probably not the game for you.
This kind of thing could turn a lot of people off, which is a shame, as Mugen Souls‘ battle system, moe kill system, and custom peon system can be great fun. Battles are turn-based and involve a lot of strategy, especially when you have a group of characters moving around and using various attacks (including linked attacks and special skill attacks) on opponents at the same time. Chou-Chou is best when with a group, as she can use groups of peons to unleash extremely strong peon ball attacks, or can moe kill enemies to make them turn into peons or items. You can also hit enemies around like you are playing pinball, cannoning them into other enemies.
Moe kills are great fun as they involve using Chou-Chou’s seven different personalities to make enemies and landmasses fall in love with her. The personalities are like elements in many other games. Each enemy or area of a continent you are exploring prefers a certain personality in a girl, and if Chou-Chou is in the right personality (graceful, masochist, hyper, bipolar, terse, sadist or ditz) for that area, then she can make the enemy or area fall in love with her. Any enemies that do fall in love with Chou-Chou will either turn into an item or a bunny-shaped peon that unlocks new aspects of the G-Castle, or can make special attacks more powerful and dangerous. Making enough areas of a particular continent fall in love with Chou-Chou will make it connect to another landmass or unlock new areas to explore.
In G-Castle, you can create your very own custom peon characters to join your party and fight alongside Chou-Chou, Altis, Ryuto and the many other hero and demon lords who also become Chou-Chou’s peons. When customizing your peons, you can change their class and skill, and you can also put them together to make new abilities available. It is a really good feature, but there is a downside: each custom peon starts out without any weapons, clothing, or armor. The only thing they have is their underwear, and if you want them to be equipped, you have to spend money.
There’s really only one gameplay mechanic in Mugen Souls that is not good, and that is the G-Castle battles. There is usually one per chapter, and they involve Chou-Chou’s G-Castle battling another G-Castle on the way to a new world. When you encounter a rival ship, a rock-paper-scissors type of turn-based battle begins. Ryuto will provide a vague hint at what kind of actions an opponent will take before each of your turns, and then you must choose what action you want to take. You keep repeating this until your opponent’s G-Castle HP is down to 0.
Mugen Souls has experienced some censorship, but it is totally understandable – the Japanese version of the game contained a mini-game called Bathhouse, which saw players wash various heroes. This did not add any real gameplay value; all it offered was half-naked pictures of the characters, and so NIS America took it out of the final American release. It’s not even noticeable – Mugen Souls is a very strong and entertaining game without Bathhouse included. It seems clear that most gamers would rather see one unnecessary mini-game removed than not get to play the game at all.
It is understandable that Mugen Souls is not going to appeal to everyone. That does not take away from the fact that it is still a great game that introduces a lot of really interesting and funny ideas. People who love to play JRPGs and anime games will want to buy this, while those who enjoy more straightforward games should look elsewhere for something to play. However, it is definitely worth a shot, as NIS America have done a fantastic job: the overall game is something unique that has not been done before.
This review is based off a review copy of the Playstation 3 version of Mugen Souls developed by Compile Heart published by NIS America