Mugen Souls Z
Release Date: May 20, 2014
Publisher (Developer): NIS America (Idea Factory, Compile Heart)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Fantasy Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes
NIS America is a hard company to read. It’s mostly because you never really know what to expect. Their games cover a wide variety of genres and premises, and not all rely on constant fanservice. One thing that you can expect from NIS America is that what they publish will be a niche product with something that makes them stand out. Mugen Souls Z is no exception.
Oh gods, more to conquer.
Mugen Souls Z takes place shortly after the events of the original Mugen Souls. Lady Chou-Chou, an undisputed goddess, has conquered her solar system. Naturally, one solar system is not enough. So she heads to a new and larger solar system to conquer it. There, she runs into Syrma, a reawakened ultimate god, and Nao, a newly awakened hero. A confrontation happens, and as a result Lady Chou-Chou is shrunk down, after having her power’s absorbed into Syrma’s coffin.
The coffin, as a means of plot, is used to reabsorb the powers of the other gods in Syrma’s solar system back into herself. This will allow Syrma to return to her former self and form, so she can have the strength to fight and defeat an ancient evil. As Syrma’s other aspects are reabsorbed, Chou-Chou’s powers will be restored to her. Everybody wins!
It’s a formulaic story, yes, but there’s good formulaic and bad formulaic. The good type usually uses a set formula to challenge or at least invert some of the tropes of a certain formula. Mugen Souls Z starts off with the tried tactic of Chou-Chou working to gain even more power. Through the mistake of Lady Chou-Chou messing around with the coffin, that formula is inverted and turns to Syrma saving the world and restoring Chou-Chou. The game works marvelously on a story level.
New gods, heroes, and worlds
Mugen Souls Z is a solid game for numerous reasons. The story is great. However, a game is more than just a story. What’s the world like? Are the mechanics completely thought out and implemented? Better yet, do the design mechanics actually work?
For the most part, the answer is yes. Mugen Souls Z‘s world design does a good job of making the game feel unique. Each world has a distinct feel and design. They’re bright, colorful, and usually filled with things to do and people to see. Not to mention, each world has its own personality and mythology, with specific Moe types and god personalities common to each area area.
Which applies to battles as well, as each region has its own kind of monsters to fight that correspond to the area. The battle system itself works well too, mostly because Mugen Souls Z recycled the combat mechanics of the original game. Especially due to the strategic elements crystals afford. Each crystal provides various penalties or buffs, so a player constantly needs to keep them in mind and, perhaps focus on eliminating some of them from the field before tackling enemies. Not to mention, the use of combos lets players see damage totals in the millions, possibly even the billions. It’s interesting, satisfying, and further emphasizes the fact that we’re dealing with goddesses here.
As does the returning system of acquiring peons. Moe Killing mechanics return in battles, with Syrma acquiring peons after Captivating them. Performing poses could make an enemy want to join your team, if the right poses are chosen. Though, mistakes could lead to increased aggression. It’s an interesting idea, though Moe Kill success is far too easy for far too long, especially when you figure out how to transform. Also, the fan service does get to be a bit much.
Reclaiming Syrma’s glory isn’t limited to conquering worlds and moe killing monsters. G-Castle space battles play a part as well. These are considerably different from standard field battles, partially because they are a lot more traditional. Each fight plays out like a game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” Effectiveness of attacks depend on level, health, and accuracy of each ship, as well as types of attacks used. For example, if you and the opposing ship choose a piercing attack, you might weaken each others attacks or possibly one of the attacks will be negated. If you have two different types of attacks happening, you might be able to completely punch through the attack of an enemy, though an enemy might be able to do the same. It works to enforce the idea that Syrma and Chou-Chou are facing an enemy force that’s ready to continually attempt to stop them, on land or in space.
The Mugen Field game mode is back and refined as well. It’s a bit more balanced, especially in terms of difficulty. By reducing the amount of difficulty ranges from 14 to 10, it increases the potential challenge as well as the potential payout for success. Each floor in the field is randomly generated. The one flaw is the fact that it feels more like level grinding rather than something that expands the game, and gets tedious since players have to go through Mugen Fields to unlock the Mugen Souls Z‘s true ending.
Another returning, and improved, feature is the Peon system. You can create custom peon party members, and the process feels more streamlined. The Peon Salon lets a player choose the class and look of the peon being created. It’s simple, but can result in some formidable companions.
There was only one thing that bothered me about Mugen Souls Z. While it didn’t take away from the quality of the game, I kept wondering if some of the fan service was necessary. Especially with the Captivate mode, which is entirely about performing idol poses. It didn’t turn me away from Mugen Souls Z, because I was paying attention to the game as a whole rather than the fan service, but it might turn off others. Some might even find that content objectionable.
Mugen Souls Z is not without its flaws. Some aspects of the game, like the Captivate mechanic, which is too easy for too long, and the constant, in-your-face fanservice. Some elements could stand to be fleshed out more, specifically the G-Castle battles. Still, Mugen Souls Z is solid, and offers a better and stronger experience than the original game. If you’re into the other Compile Heart games NIS America has localized, especially the Hyperdimension Neptunia series or the original Mugen Souls, you’ll want this game as well.