Review: Mugen Souls (PS3)

Title: Mugen Souls
Format: Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: October 16, 2012
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Compile Heart
Original MSRP: $49.99
ESRB Rating: T
Mugen Souls is exclusive to the PlayStation 3.

In today’s market, JRPG’s seemingly get nothing but hate. Fans are crying out at the lack of innovation and variety. The once proud staple of the gaming community can currently be seen as niche at best. Fortunately, companies like NIS America don’t care about the poor label JRPG’s are getting and continue to pump out well-received games like Disgaea and Hyperdimension Neptunia. Their latest effort is Mugen Souls, a game both similar and different from everything that has come before it.

Mugen Souls tells the story of Chou Chou, a Goddess bent on universal domination. To do this, she must take over the 7 worlds in the galaxy. This game is all about making others obey you and will often time play with the tropes found in Japanese games. It’s a refreshing take in the genre and will sometimes make you laugh with the dialogue.

The player is tasked with exploring the planets, using the maps to get to way points, and defeating foes until you capture the planet. Pretty basic stuff. The sad part is that the worlds are barely worth exploring. Each world, while unique, isn’t that eye catching. And the abundance of mundane loot is high, but who wants mundane loot? There is an area where you can battle foes and level up characters, called the Mugen Field. But battles here are boring and uninspired. When games like Disgaea do the randomized training dungeons so well, it’s sad to see the Mugen Field be such a boring place.

Combat will take a lot to get used to if you aren’t familiar with games like Hyperdimension. And even if you are familiar with it, it’s still different. I’ve played plenty of JRPG’s in my time, they are one of my favorite genres, but the elements that Mugen Souls puts into their game seem confusing. You all know the game “Rock, Paper, Scissors” right? Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, etc. Well, who wins when it is Bipolar vs Sadist? Exactly. It’s things like this that make Mugen Souls tough to play. I want to say these elements are just poorly transported from Japan, maybe some tropes that make sense over seas, but I don’t think that’s the case. And at the end of the day, you end up having to guess the results of your match ups.

You think bipolar and sadist is a weird combination? Well that’s what this game is like. Despite it’s Teen rating, there are some very mature themes. The premise is taking over the world and making everyone your “peon.” There is plenty of talk about domination and submitting, and even some whips and chains jokes, which is a unique thing to talk about it a video game. All of this would make the game more interesting to play if it weren’t for the fact that each character looks to be in their teens and discussion of the topic is done in a way that makes it seem like it’s on a kid’s television show. It’s an odd combination between two worlds that should stay very far a part.

Mugen Souls introduces something called “Moe Kill” which is a way of charming your opponent and making them your peon. This is an alternative way to win battles and can be seen in other games as well. It’s this kind of strategy that I usually enjoy in a RPG. But despite the games long, mandatory tutorials, they teach nothing about the art of Moe Kills. It turns into another guessing fest, exploring the total randomness that happens when trying to charm an opponent. First, you have to dress up in a way to impress the foe in some sort of fetish costume. But the game limits how many times you can change in battle and each creature has a different personality. But let’s say, on an off-chance, you have the right set up to charm you opponent. Then you have to choose three different, random, words that will “woo” the enemy into being a peon. This brings back the sadist, bipolar, tough, hyper, nice dilemma from earlier. The worst part of all this is the fact that taking the time to perform “Moe Kills” don’t seem worth it (outside of trophy hunting). Performing basic attacks and specials will be enough to win almost every battle in the game. It’s sad that Mugen Souls does not properly reward the player for taking the time to learn advanced tactics.

Mugen Souls is nothing impressive to look at. In some areas it looks like it could be a PS2 game. The environments are uninspired and boring. Some of the attack animations are fun to watch, but will soon get to be an eye-sore because of their length and how often they are repeated.

The cutscenes are different. A mixture of cartoon drawings that talk and animation. The drawings are nice, but nothing special. And the animated bits aren’t very good at all. The strength of Mugen Souls is not its graphical prowess. This game will not come close to testing the PS3’s hardware.

The voice acting is good for a localized title. But I always prefer to set the voice acting to the original language, Japanese, and that option is available. It is always better to experience the product as it was originally meant to be experienced. The soundtrack for Mugen Souls is nice, but won’t be anything new or memorable in the genre.

This game is single player only.

Mugen Souls isn’t for everyone. In fact, it isn’t for most. There are some interesting ideas and themes that it plays with, but they often times fall short of being fully realized. That being paired with the games frustrating mechanics and poor graphics, make it a hard sell beyond the hardcore of the hardcore. If you are an NIS America fan, then you might want to check it out. But if your hesitating at all, I’d probably recommend you play some other game this season.


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