This game is like a kid on sugar. It wants everything, now! Its combat system contains more features than I can count, it has expansive character customization and item synthesizes, and it allows you to verbally abuse your masochistic enemies. What more could you ask for?
Mugen Souls begins with our protagonist Chou-Chou and her trusted assistant Altis doing a concert. After that, enemies invade her flying ship and this serves as an introduction to the combat system. That is immediately followed by a hot spring scene and after that a flying fortress battle. You quickly realize that Chou-Chou and her friends plan to take over all of the seven worlds by converting every living thing into her peons, called Shampuru. Shampuru are cute little bunnies, this game’s prinnies if you like. As you can tell the game is totally crazy and at the beginning it seems like it has ADD, but shortly after the introduction the game starts to make a bit more sense.
The main characters are an interesting bunch, each totally insane. Chou-Chou can shapeshift and turn people and monsters into her peons, both of which are important gameplay mechanics. Altis is a demon reincarnated as an angel, who is constantly doing good things despite her effort to do evil and looks very similar to Flonne from the Disgaea series. Ryuto is Chou-Chou’s trusty peon who is also head over heels in love with her and a total pervert. Along the way they also meet a ton of other silly and interesting characters.
Mugen Souls has a great sense of humor. It often references RPG games. For example there is a segment where a hero breaks pots, opens dressers in other people’s houses and forces his party to wear bikinis because of the high defense value. The game doesn’t even miss the opportunity to make fun of itself when it gets the chance. Did I also mention this game has fan service? From Altis underboob to frequent bath scenes this game has a ton of fan service.
If you thought Disgaea had a complex battle system you haven’t seen anything yet. Mugen Souls has one of the most over the top, complicated battle systems I have seen in any game.
Even though battles are turned based you can freely move your character during their turn. A blue circle on the floor shows where your character can move, while a pink ring represents how far your character can attack.
Having multiple allies in range for an attack does a link attack. Link attacks are essentially combo moves from Disgaea where multiple allies will attack at the same time, but only use up the turn for one of the allies.
Aside from the normal attack characters also have a variety of special attacks at their disposal. Special attacks use up SP, and each have their own range, area of affect and type attributes.
Using special attacks charges your blast meter. Using a technique called Blast Off you can bounce your enemies using any special attack. The more of the blast meter you use the further you will launch enemies. Making enemies bounce of each other like in pinball increases the damage they receive and allows for nice strategizing, imagine a game of pool.
Another interesting feature is the so called moe kill, which only Chou-Chou can do. During moe kill you have to choose phrases you think will please your foe. These phrases in turn fill one of three gauges: Peon, Item and Frenzy gauge. Filling the peon gauge turns the enemy into your peon while filling the item gauge coverts that enemy into an item. On the other hand if you say phrases that don’t match the enemy’s mood you can make the enemy go into a Frenzy, healing him and making the battle a lot harder. For example if your enemy has a moe type of sadist and a happy mood, you should shape shift Chou-Chou into a sadistic type and use the correct sadistic phrases in order to win him over. Converting enemies into peons also gives you an additional edge at the end of your turn either by healing your allies or damaging your enemy.
Chou-Chou can shape shift into one of 8 different types of personalities: Ego, Sadist, Masochist, Ditz, Bipolar, Graceful, Hyper and Terse. Each of these personalities comes with radically different looks and has different stats during battles. You are allowed to swap your form at the beginning of every turn but only for a limited amount of times.
These are just a fraction of the elements the game keeps piling on. I didn’t even talk about Disgaea-like Geo panels, continent peons and the frenzy mode. Mugen Souls keeps introducing new elements hours in the game, making sure that even if you constantly grind you won’t get bored.
The worlds you visit are quite varied, ranging from green plains, to Japanese shrines, to huge cities. The maps have a couple of branching points, allowing you to explore for hidden items littered throughout the worlds.
All enemies are shown on the world map. Hitting these enemies launches a preemptive attack called Encounter Attack giving you a starting edge in the battle. On the other hand if an enemy catches you unprepared on the world map, your party will receive a beating. Even though enemies respawn on the world map, it is never much of a grind fest since if your timing is just right you can sneak past just about every enemy.
Mugen Souls also has space battles in flying castles, called G-Castle battles. This is essentially a rock paper scissors game where you must anticipate the enemy’s move and use the corresponding counter.
Your flying castle serves as your hub area. It is here that you will do your shopping and customization. New shops appear as the game progresses, one of them being similar to the item dungeon in Disgaea.
Just like in Disgaea you can make new peons/characters which you can take to battle. At the beginning you have 4 classes to choose from: Solider, Wizard, Gunner and Fighter. Each of these classes has additional sub classes with more unlocked as your charm level increases.
Characters can be customized to your heart’s content, but clothing and equipment must be bought separately. So if you don’t want your new character running around the battle in his or her underwear you will have to buy clothes for them.
All clothing is visible on your characters even during cutscenes. The main characters are no exception, since you can make them wear ridiculous stuff . This allows total character customization and is a rare feature seen in JRPGs.
The item shop is almost as ridiculously complex as the combat system, allowing for everything from item synthesis to upgrading and combining multiple items. Just like in Disgaea each item has its own hilarious info and it is a joy to read through the shop’s item list even though you aren’t planning to buy anything.
While Mugen Souls has super cute graphics with chibi characters, the in-game models are not too detailed and the world map does seem a bit generic. The biggest issue I have is the apparent framerate problem the game has. Fortunately this doesn’t have an impact on the gameplay.
On the other hand the visual novel segments of the game use breathing, constantly moving characters, making them feel more like living beings and not just cardboard cutouts. This is awesome looking and definitely is a huge plus for the presentation. I wish all visual novels would animate their characters like this.
The game features both Japanese and English voices both of which have full lip synchronization. So those that like to listen to the original Japanese voices can select them from the options menu.
To be honest I was a bit skeptical with this title at first, but now I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Featuring an absurdly complex battle system and tons of weapon and character customization options, it’s definitely not for everyone. The quirky humor and fan service might be a bit too much to handle if you have never played another NIS title. The game has some technical issues and the graphics are definitely not top notch. But for those of you that liked Disgaea or other NIS titles you should already know if this game is for you.