Ready to conquer the universe? In NISA's newest import title Mugen Souls, you take on the role of the charismatic (and slightly hot-tempered) ChouChou. This daring self-proclaimed "goddess of the universe" has only one goal: to make everything in the galaxy belong to her just because she wants to. It's just not enough to conquer one planet in the solar system: you'll need to conquer all seven planets, their continents, and pretty much every life form that can be found. Luckily, she has a small crew and a ship to help make the journey easier.
Story-wise, the first few chapters of the game are fairly cut and dry as players are introduced to the characters and start to conquer their first few planets. The first main character besides Chouchou is Ryuto, the first peon of ChouChou and original owner of the G Ship, which is the gigantic hulking bunny-faced ship you see in the opening before the start screen appears. The other main character is a devil who was reincarnated as an angel named Altis. Personality-wise, you could say that Ryuto is a masochist and Altis is a sadist.
Naturally with conquering different planets, you'll get to meet different people who live on them. In order to conquer the planet, ChouChou must track down and find the heroes and demon lords of each and make them her peons. Each of the unique seven planets has these individuals, and they all have their own little story arc that you go through when you're trying to recruit them. Unfortunately, after each pair of characters goes through their small story arc, you quickly move onto the next pair on the next conquerable planet. It makes the supporting characters have even less of an impact in my opinion, given that the supporting cast is quite large.
The storyline of Mugen Souls may seem to be scattered, but overall it is filled with J-RPG tropes, fourth wall humor, ample amounts of comedy, and some slightly sexual jabs and jokes. Playing this game as a female reviewer, the story didn't seem all that appealing given the aforementioned raunchiness, however the game gets better the farther along you go. The last chapters are more serious and players start getting into character development. You eventually find out why you are really on this quest to conquer the universe and what exactly is going on behind the scenes. But despite this, I still found the earlier portions of the plot to be enjoyable as it is a very welcome diversion from the more story-heavy and character driven games that I am more used to playing.
In terms of gameplay, Mugen Souls has a ton of features. There is a mechanic that allows you to turn monsters into peons via the Moe Kill method where you choose a set of phrases to try to sway them towards your side. In addition, the main character ChouChou has the ability to change into different personifications of herself. These versions are mostly adapted from popular character personality types found in anime and manga (Egocentric, Ditz, Sadist, Terse, Bipolar, Hyper, Masochist, and Graceful). These character types can be useful with Moe Kills as certain personality types can raise the success of Moe Kills. Of course what do you do with these peons? You roll them into a giant ball and hurl them at your enemies. The more peons you have in your peon ball, the more it hurts. It seems that you can make a peon ball as big as a planet.
Other features include battle modifications such as a field system, a ship versus ship battle feature that is based on a rock paper scissors format and an overlimit type of mechanic. Battles are fought on a turn by turn basis but you don't move characters into squares. These characters are controlled on a field and they have a set amount of range that can be modified with equipment. It reminded me a lot of Disgaea without the grid system.
Like previous NIS games, Mugen Souls also has the feature to create...peons! Create your own custom avatars with distinct classes to join the fray alongside ChouChou and her allies. Overall I found this mechanic to be quite enjoyable but I've always wondered why the created characters in Mugen Souls never start out with any gear and end up running around battling in their undergarments.The player created peons and storyline characters can also engage into joint attacks much like the Disgaea series, except they are executed with fancy 3D animations. However, after playing the game for a couple of hours it looked like that the animations were limited in number, which could easily be remedied with a patch. There is also some lag issues when switching scenes or to different skills, even with the optional data install.
With the amount of features that Mugen Souls has, there is a lot the player can do. Unfortunately, most of these features are explained only briefly in the game and may require some experimenting with. In addition, Mugen Souls also features quite a bit of end game content that you can complete for trophies. The first goal is to max out every character to an insane level to inflict massive amounts of damage. The second would be to just unlock and conquer every section of the worlds you travel to. You'll find out early on in the game that there are many optional areas that you can backtrack to. This is a great game for completion gamers as it rewards you for actively exploring every nook and cranny.
The art direction and music in this game will be quite familiar if you've played any other NIS title such as the Disgaea series. There are CG artworks and animated custscenes, all of which are pretty detailed. J-pop styled scores are present in Mugen Souls, some of which are actually lyrical tracks. A good example would be the Opening animation and the first custcene that you get when you select to start a new game. The English voice acting in this title is decent, although some of the characters possessed voices that are sure to annoy you. such as Ryuto. However, there is the option to turn all of the audio to Japanese if you wish.
Best known for their quirky and inventive games, Nippon Icchi Software does not fail to deliver on the promise of an exciting and fun new game to play. They are not afraid of producing what they want, even if these titles are ones that other companies wouldn't touch because they are either too suggestive or too outlandish in concept. Despite the risk, it's great that NIS America decided to bring this title stateside. It's an ambitious game that sets itself apart from other NIS games with the sheer wackiness and uniqueness of its style. Even if the game might be a little suggestive at times, with the various amounts of systems available for the player to explore, and the overall concept (even if it's unusual), Mugen Souls is a charming game that deserves a chance to sit in your gaming library.
Things I Loved:
- - The amount of features
- - Battles were fun
- - Create-a-Peon
- - Wide cast of characters
- - Wacky scenarios
- - Hodgepodge of elements from previous titles
- - Areas to backtrack to afterwards
- - J-pop styled OST
- - Creative art direction
Things I Hated:
- - Cut and dry beginning to plot
- - Not enough focus on some of the supporting characters
- - Ryuto’s English voice
- - Lack of tutorials on different features
- - Lag issues and loading times
- - Somewhat suggestive
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher
Images copyrighted: NIS America/Compile Heart