Mugen Souls is another title from developer Compile Heart for the PlayStation 3. Like their previous efforts in the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, Mugen Souls tries to hook you in with a unique Japanese humor and a grind-a-thon. However, like the two aforementioned titles, this RPG has a lot of good ideas that never fully gel together.
The story in Mugen Souls starts off with the goddess Chou-Chou stating that she would make the seven worlds her peons. With her friends Altis and Ryuto, Chou-Chou must visit each of the worlds and defeat its hero and villain. Along the way you learn of her past and start to see hope of a fun and enjoyable story, but this quickly fades as the game devolves into overused cliches about video game and anime that just drag on and on. Any hope that the story could be saved by its characters is dismissed rather quickly as the game’s main characters are extremely linear and downright annoying. Even when the story picks it up a little bit in, it is too late as you won’t care about any of the characters and will most likely be out of the game by then.
Ok, so the story and characters aren’t the best, the gameplay has to be great right? Well in Mugen Souls, the developer has decided to try and confuse the player by throwing a ton of systems and variations at you, all the while the actual gameplay is rather straightforward and easy. Players will be traveling around the worlds in search of event points, enemies, and of course treasure. There is almost nothing to do when running through the world, moving along a set path. No optional dungeons are to be found and no towns to explore, leaving players with a boring grind of approaching enemies, swinging away and starting up combat.
Combat is where all those complicated and rather useless systems come into play. Players will have up to four characters in their party that they can move around the battlefield in turns. These characters have standard skills that use an MP system that should be old game to anyone familiar with RPGs but there is also a pool of points that can be accessed by the entire party. This pool is increased through killing enemies and can be used to perform super moves. You can also use skills to throw enemies around the battlefield and into other enemies like a pinball machine. To add even more to it, Chou-Chou possess the ability called Moe Kill, which allows her to charm her enemies and turn them into peons. To use this system, Chou-Chou must turn into the kind of girl the monster likes, then choose from a selection of three words to try and fit the monsters current mood, which will then increase their bar towards becoming one of your followers. The problem is that this can take up to three turns and only Chou-Chou is able to do it, leaving the rest of your party to attack elsewhere or sit there playing thumb wars. The system is beyond confusing and has little to no use in the game other than to confuse the hell of out the player. In fact, then moe kill system ended up just pissing me off to the point of not using it.
The game attempts to make the peon creating system useful with ship battles, with new peons increasing your ship’s powers. This would make a ton of sense except for the fact that the ship battles, which are a simple rock-paper-scissors battle, are the epitome of the word cake-walk. Thus, there is really no reason to partake in recruiting monsters to your cause, adding to player’s frustrations over a system that was implemented but never serves any real purpose. It is this system that really sums up a majority of the game, as there is a lot of time spent with no real gain.
The weird decisions in design don’t just stop with the moe kill system, as progression through each planet becomes a test in grinding will power. There are three different ways in the game to capture a planet and move onto the next. First, you can pay gold that is decided by the game picking an item, to which you must then give gold equal to, or more than, said item. Secondly, you can reach a certain number of overall kills, which can become a real chore, as more times than not you will reach the end of a level with not enough kills. Then you must spend a good chunk of time back tracking and grinding to reach that set amount. This is made worse by how extremely easy and boring that most all of the battles in the game are. The last option is to utilize a moe kill point similar to what you find in the battles.
As if the game battles weren’t easy enough, Mugen Souls provides you with the Mugen Field. This is a string of simple battles intended to help players level up through as an extreme grind without the story of the game, which can be a good thing. Characters can also be created to try and add a bit of spice to the game, but this falls flat as well. Unfortunately, you will need to commit a ton of time to even getting these characters respectable, so, like a lot of the other game modes, it really makes little sense to invest time in this. You can also alter skill loadouts and change the effects of crystals found across the battlefield. All of theses systems are explained through what seems like hours of tutorials that does its best to overwhelm you from the very beginning.
Things don’t get better when it comes to presentation either. While the graphics aren’t overly bad, they aren’t at any point memorable. Battlefields and enemies are more time than not an eyesore. The in-battle attack animations are a lesson in mediocrity, which are not helped by the ridiculous load times that come up after every little action that not only you make but the enemy makes. Install game data to your HDD or turn off combat animations and you still experience the same amount of lag. Good luck grinding through the game, fighting not only your enemies, but also the game’s odd decisions and lag. The mediocrity caries over from graphics to sound, with a rather bad soundtrack and sound effects.
There is a saying that sometimes less is more and this is something that should have been on every computer screen during development. It feels as if Mugen Souls was never fully finished and to try and cover this up, the player was handed a multitude of gameplay mechanics that unfortunately do nothing to add to the overall value of the game. In fact, most of these mechanics do more harm than good as it pushes players away from the game. Not even Japanese style humor could save this game for me and unless you just don’t have anything better to do, I would suggest looking elsewhere for your RPG fix.