Mugen Souls is not a horrible game by any stretch of the imagination. It just contains a plethora of features and mechanics that are so unwieldy and poorly implemented it becomes horrible. If you are looking for a straightforward and concrete system look elsewhere; while everyone else that wants something different will find just that. It may not be the different you are looking for, but at least it is present.
When it comes to oddball and niche titles in the world of JRPG’s, as a video game developer and publisher, Compile Heart wins out without a doubt. With western audiences familiar with titles such as: Cross Edge, Agarest War, and the every popular Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise – Mugen Souls is title like all others that will be either a “hit or miss” with most fans. Taking elements from Hyperdimension Npetunia Mk2 and some influences from the Disgaea franchise, it definitely is not for everyone and not exactly as promising as some would imagine. “Bizarre” would be the most apt way of describing it and that is putting it lightly.
The story basically features a young headstrong girl named “Chou-Chou” whom has no recollection of her past. With her loyal companion Altis and new servant Ryuto, Chou-Chou only has one thing on her mind: “Making all the Seven Worlds in universe and everything on them her peon !”And so begins a long odyssey that is Mugen Souls. Understandable, right? Well, if that lost you maybe the mechanics might make more sense. The game is divided into chapters (10 total) and at the start of each, you begin your journey at the hub town, G-Castle. Here you can buy new weapons, clothes, increase your stats temporarily at the hot-springs, visit the Mugen filed (a place akin to the item world of Disgaea and grind), and of course, access the different worlds you will be going to. While all of this sounds pleasing, the core gameplay is where things start to lose their luster and become an overwhelming mess.
First off is combat, which amounts to roaming around each world and once you make contact with a seeable encounter, the battle starts. Much like Hyperdimeson Neptunia Mk2, you move your character into position and attack the enemy using whatever you please and the once the battle ends, you are awarded: cash, xp, Mugen Points (I’ll explain later), and maybe even some Shampuru (also will be explained later). Sound easy, right? Well, I wish that were true, but you just can’t fight ever battle or else you run the risk of dying. In this game, you also have something called a “peon ball” that will explode if you battle too much (indicated in the screen above to the top left), so instead, you must “Moe kill” your enemies, too.
Moe kill is basically a skill only available to Chou-Chou that will allow her to charm the enemies and change into different personalities to do so. If you pick the right personality and prompts (they appear on a grid with three gauges indicating how you are doing), the enemies will turn into Shampuru or cash ending the fight, but if you manage to anger them, they get a huge boost in parameters making battles more longer and tougher. It is usual no problem balancing defeating enemies and making “Moe kills”, but since the process of Moe kills are so different per enemy and some personalities work better than others, it will be a lot of trail and error on the players part, but also nice that the peon ball does not fill quickly per battle and can be avoided in several ways such as: leaving Chou-Chou out of combat, execution peon commands (another small system in-game), or returning to G-Castle. The field Crystal in each battle does not make Moe Kills any easier if you mess up, but if you manage to charm the crystal, everything becomes a Shampuru or money depending on your choices and what gauge fills first. Mugen points you earn in combat are used for various things such as: creating characters, fusing them together, strengthening weapons/armor, and other upgrades that will come from visiting the Mugen field. As for Shampuru, they are a whole another matter.
Much akin to Skies of Arcadia or Suikoden, you will get into special fights called “G Battles” that are fought not with characters, but G-Castle itself. It functions like Rock-paper-scissors where certain attacks beat others, but so much more complicated. The Shampuru’s part in all of this are upgrades, since each amount and type of Shampuru will grant G-Castle specific abilities and skills. The more Shampuru you have and of a certain type will grant you the next tier of skills, thus making your chances of winning more higher, providing you know what you are doing. Ryuto, will usually hint to the player on what they need to do through messages that are usually easy to figure out. Once you win, just like regular battles, you gain money, xp, and Mugen points. While most G-Castle battles happen in the storyline, you can also get into random ones in between levels in the Mugen Field. That being said, if you skip on Moe Kills or combat, you probably will not be able to win G Castle battles either, so it also something to consider. Despite the game having measures in place in terms of story progression, grinding for Shampuru, levels, or otherwise is something that must be done.
While I am simplifying a lot of the gameplay elements, the rest are rather understandable and once the player see this, the game will be more or less exciting than it is. The rest usually comes down to the story progression where Chou-Chou will meet the “hero” and “demon lord” of each world, the most powerful to make peons (most acting off various anime and Japanese game tropes), add them to her party through a series of events, and move on to the next chapter. Since there is so many storyline characters you will obtain over the course of the game it is almost pointless to make new ones, even though they will gain experience for not participating in combat if you choose so. If anything, you will only keeping them around to dress up or fuse. Simple as that. Luckily, if you want to breeze through the game, free weapon DLC available will help you do so, but to take on post game material, earn the True Ending, and even platinum the game, it will take a whole lot of time and effort. Players will be looking at 35 to 45+ hours plus for both endings and the rest of the other content varies. If you wish to platinum it, I heard it takes 300 to 500 hrs+ depending on the player, so good luck with that. The music and graphics, are around average. Much like Hyperdimesion Neptunia Mk2, imminent frame rate issues are prevalent (especially within G-Castle), so that is something to consider.
Mugen Souls is not a horrible game by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I actually liked the game for its quirky characters, insane story, and actually did like some aspects of the gameplay, despite the shallow and superficial use for most of them. However, it just contains a plethora of features and mechanics that are so unwieldy and poorly implemented it becomes horrible and leads much to be desired. If you are looking for a straightforward and concrete system look elsewhere; while everyone else that wants something different will find just that. It may not be the different you are looking for, but at least it is present.