Welcome to another exciting episode of Dragon Ball Z… ops I meant Mugen Souls Z. Made by Compile Heart and published by NISA, Mugen Souls Z still somehow manages to keep a lot of elements from their other franchises and still remain quite a unique experience.
The game continues directly after the true ending of the original Mugen Souls. Not satisfied with only seven planets, Chou-Chou and her group set out to conquer the rest of the universe, beginning with a system of twelve new planets.
Chou-Chou encounters Nao, the hero of the world, and Syrma, an ultimate god of one of the worlds who always drags her coffin with her. Once Chou-Chou decides to take Syrma’s coffin for herself she is sucked in and loses all her power, rendering her to the state of an even cuter chibi form.
Syrma’s goal is to capture the eleven other ultimate gods and place them in the coffin in order to combine into one ultimate god. This in turn will cause Chou-Chou’s lost power to trickle out of the coffin and return her to her original size. They once again set out on a journey to conquer the worlds and collect all their friends.
The game never takes itself too seriously, but still has enough material for a basic plot. It’s suffice to say if you liked the story in the original or love the story in other NIS titles this will be right up your alley.
Like in the previous title, the characters are the highlight of the show. Almost everyone from the original returns, sillier than ever. Just about every planet you visit will have one of your previous allies. There are also new additions to the cast. Syrma is the protagonist now and because she sucked up Chou-Chou’s power she can do most of the things Chou-Chou could. Nao is the hero of the twelve worlds and she desperately wants to become the greatest hero, but her dreams and hopes are quickly shattered when she sees the rag tag bunch that teamed up with Chou-Chou. She is the most sensible out the group and really gives the humor more of a punch line, as she is the only one taken aback when something ridiculous happens. You will encounter various other characters most being ultimate gods all which are somewhat unique.
Because of the huge cast of characters, some of the cutscenes can drag on for a bit too long. Everyone will always say something, but at least this way all your favorite characters will never be left out.
Even though all the characters fall into some basic kind of stereotype, Mugen Souls Z uses this to its advantage. It jokes on their behalf, making it all the more interesting to see this band of ridiculous characters together.
From the get go Mugen Souls Z shows you its a light hearted comedy. It loves breaking the forth wall, as it has a lot of self-referential humor. Combine the nonsensical plot, wacky characters who are aware of their own stereotypes and the game had me giggling more than any recent title I can remember.
The combat mostly plays out like your standard JRPG with a few surprises here and there. Like in Disgaea there are geopanel-like crystals on the battlefield, giving you various buffs or debuffs. Destroying them also allows for various results. An interesting feature is the coax system, which gives you random commands. Follow the commad and you will receive a bonus for your ultimate attacks, ignore it and you will lose a bit of it.
Moe kills are now called fetish poses. Syrma can change into one of the following types of girls: Ego, Ditz, Graceful, Bipolar, Masochist, Sadist, Terse, Hyper. Depending on what kind of girl the enemy likes, he will be more or less charmed. Raise the one of the first of three bars to the max and you will either make a peon or item and get a preselected boost. Raise the third bar to the max and you will enrage the enemy, healing them in the process. Now you can see the effects of each choice beforehand, but there is a percent chance for it to be twice as effective or half as good. This adds a much needed risk reward system as it does a tactical way of battling since luck is now a factor that you must count on. Unlike in its predecessor you can transform a lot more often, that is, once per turn, making the system more dynamic. Because of this fetish poses are infinitely more useful, as you no longer need check online guides to what combinations you need to use.
You will return to previous locations as you acquire new skills which allow you to reach previously inaccessible areas or chests. All the enemies are visible on the map which prevents backtracking from becoming a chore.
Master points are now called planet spots. These are places on the map in which you need to fulfill specific requests in order to conquer it, such as kill enough enemies, bring it an item, or win it over with a fetish pose. You can now see all the planet spots on the map the moment they become available. While it does make things easier, it also removes the treasure hunting aspect the original had, which gave you hints and forced you to look for it yourself.
G-Castle battles are back and you now take control of a giant robot. These sections are in reality a simple game of rock-paper-scissors, where you select a command and watch two giant floating castles battle it out. If you listen carefully to what the enemy says and use the correct command you can easily beat opponents double your strength.
Shops function in an interesting fashion. Each item you want to buy costs a specific amount of gold and materials. Materials are gained by killing monsters or opening treasure chests. Once sold, the shop can make items that require that material, which prevents you from quickly stocking up on the most expensive gear.
Aside from standard weapon and equipment slots, all characters can be outfitted to your liking. Clothes are visible on your characters and unlike the original they are a lot less expensive.
You will still be able to use the hot springs to give your characters stat buffs in the following outing. But since the censorship is still in place, you won’t get those steamy bath scene mini games from the original Japanese version.
Even though the game is extremely similar to the its predecessor, there were quite a few changes. The hub has a different layout. Menus had an overhaul, now looking more stylish than ever. Links with standard attacks are gone, now you can link only predetermined skills. You don’t know how glad I am for this, as now not every single attack results in a long cutscene, but only special skills. This improves the feeling that links are special and not just your standard form of attack.
Unfortunately Mugen Souls Z is littered with game breaking bugs. The game randomly freezes at the beginning of floors in Mugen Field. Mugen Field was a place where you could try out weird and crazy tactics, as well as grind in a matter of minutes what would otherwise take hours. Because of this Mugen Shop is pretty much useless, as you cannot take advantage of its purchases. What makes things worse is that the second ending is almost impossible to get because of this. Thankfully, NIS America has stated that the bug was found and that the patch will most likely be out within a month.
As it stands now the game can get ridiculously difficult. Once I finally made it to floor 10 of the Mugen Field without crashing I had over 100,000 MP points. It’s here that you can spend MP on various upgrades such as additional armor slots and powering up skills, as well as gallery items, which allow you to read background story on each character or just enjoy the beautiful fully animated illustrations. After this I was quickly able to steamroll through bosses I had originally a though time with.
Graphically speaking, the game is very similar to its predecessor. Everything looks a bit better. Locations look more diverse and characters a bit more detailed. Like the original the game has visible frame rate stutters, but fortunately to a much less extent. Compile Heart games usually have stunning 2D visual novel sections, Mugen Souls Z is no different. All the portraits blink, breath and have full lip syncing.
Like in the original, Mugen Souls Z has very Disgaea-esque soundtrack, with some very catchy tunes. As with all NIS titles the game has both English and Japanese voices. I suggest keeping the voices in Japanese, as selecting English will result in missing out on half of the dialog in the game, since English voices are only kept for the important sections.
I fell in love with Mugen Souls once again. The crazy story, over the top cast of characters and complex battle system make it for one hell of a ride. The game isn’t for everyone, but it doesn’t try to be. I recommend this game to all the fans of the original, as it has everything the that game had just better, but you might want to hold out until the patch for Mugen Field kicks in. As for people who never played the original, I suggest starting there as Mugen Souls Z will be infinitely more enjoyable afterward.
Mugen Souls is now available to buy from Rice Digital for just £39.99