Creating quality RPGs must be a difficult task. Creating a unique story deviating from the young hero with a chip on his shoulder seems to be impossible. However, creating too strange of a story can cause the RPG to not resonate with players, making it a difficult sell as well. Mugen Souls Z definitely has a unique setting, but does it have enough gameplay to make it worth a purchase?
Mugen Souls Z takes place shortly after the previous game. The original protagonist, Lady Chou-Chou, is looking to overtake a new galaxy based on the characters of the Zodiac. After conquering the first world, she bumps into Nao, a friendly bounty hunter. It just happens that Nao has just completed a treasure hunt and is examining the bounty. Unfortunately the bounty includes a coffin holding the ultimate god Syrma, who wakes up when the coffin is opened. Lady Chou-Chou ends up being trapped into the coffin without her powers. You control these characters who are forced to join forces to defeat the other gods in this Zodiac universe before another darkness conquers it. As you can probably tell, this is the CliffsNotes version of the story, and it is a bit of a mess trying to explain the entire thing.
While the story sounds unique, the characters are rather flat, only showing one personality trait. The developers milk that trait past its welcome, and then milk it some more. If they could have created characters with a bit more depth, the entire story would have been much more interesting. It doesn’t help that there are plenty of double entendres with characters that don’t look like they are out of high school. Several games have gone down this path lately, most recently to me the recently reviewed Hyperdimension Neptunia PP. I would rather play something with a good story over something that would make me uncomfortable if my wife walked in as I played it. Several anime archetypes can be found in abundance. If you don’t have a problem with that, then it may not be an issue. If you are tired of them, then it may turn you off from the game completely.
The battle system sets itself apart from other RPGs. While the combat is turn based, everyone moves around the battlefield. Since different weapons have different ranges, positioning plays a large part in combat. Crystals populate the area as well, giving bonuses to members of your party as well as the enemies. These crystals can also be destroyed, making their position a large part of the strategy of the battle. Do you try to camp out by the crystal and use it, or destroy it so your enemies can’t?
While there are enough NPC characters that join you throughout the game to assist your party, you can also create characters to level up from scratch, allowing them to specialize in any way they can. Doing this can give you a more personal connection to the members of your party, but enough characters are present within the game that you don’t need to do this. Some may also consider this too much of a grind to level up the characters.
An element of the Persona series exists within Mugen Souls Z. Enemies on the battlefield can be “captivated” by Syrma. Syrma can transform into seven different personalities which all have different weapons and secondary abilities. If the enemies like the personality, there is a high probability that they will be captivated, turn into a peon which can be used at G-Castle, a robot fighting mini-game that can be played outside of the main game. To captivate the enemy, you have to select dialogue that will be pleasing to the enemy you are encountering. If the enemy is captivated and gives you a rate item, they can provide you with temporary power-ups on the battlefield.
The dungeons you crawl through aren’t particularly interesting. Some of them have puzzle-like elements to progress through, like teleporters or force fields. They don’t take much time and really only serve to prolong the game. At least you aren’t going to need to run to a walkthrough to figure out how to progress throughout the game.
Graphically, the characters and backgrounds look rather plain. While I know that Idea Factory doesn’t have the same amount of resources as other developers, since we are close to the end of the life of the PS3 the bar is set a bit higher. A little more definition in the characters would have gone a long way in making the game just look better. This is true of the 3D environments as well as the 2D drawings used during dialog sections.
Mugen Souls Z looks like it does a lot of things right on paper. A story that isn’t cliche, a battle system with more depth than the typical “each party lines up on opposite sides and waits for everyone’s turn,” and a way to encounter monsters without killing them. Instead the story, one-dimensional characters, and lolita factor make Mugen Souls Z a niche RPG aimed at a very specific audience. If Idea Factory can pull the reigns in a bit and concentrate on the portions that are done right, I can see them having an RPG hit on their hands. Instead, we are left with too many questionable decisions that detract from the game.