Game Review: Mugen Souls Z (PC)
01/10/2016 Leave a comment
Throughout the past year Steam has become littered with various anime-themed games, with Idea Factory International publishing a majority of their Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise onto the service; but what about the less known titles such as Mugen Souls? Well thankfully thats where European-based publisher Ghostlight Games comes in as they have published the latest instalment of Mugen Souls, known as Mugen Souls Z, onto Steam and while it may not have a dominant appearence within the JPRG market right now it will sure bring-in some attention due to it’s colourful charastics!
In any event; what can one expect to receive from this latest, and updated, release of Mugen Souls Z? Well let’s find out in our review!
|Title:||Mugen Souls Z|
|Resolution:||1920 X 1080|
|Audio:||English & Japanese|
Originally released onto the PS3 in 2014 Mugen Souls Z is an overly bright over-the-top action S-JPRG game developed by Compile Heart and Idea Factory, the creative minds behind my ever-favourite Hyperdimension franchise, and published by NIS America onto the PS3. Fast-forward several years and we now see Ghostlight Games have released the game onto Steam with updated 1080p visuals, Steam achievements, Xbox 360 controller support and all previously released DLC Content bundled into the base game; but this aside is it worth the time and effort?
Honestly; Yes it is. Mugen Souls Z is a game I have been familiar with for quite some time – as I often saw it on the shelf in my local GAME store for the PS3 – but oddly enough it is a game that I have never played until this recent Steam release. Why exactly? I have no idea; but I do regret not picking it up sooner as it offers a wide-selection of characters, each with their own comical personalities, and a seemingly never ending story that just gets better the more you progress; and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Of course I’m not going to mention everything; but you’ll find that Mugen Souls Z offers everything you could want from a JPRG and so much more!
In any event; Mugen Soul Z is a direct sequel to the previously released Mugen Souls game; a game which saw – from my understanding – two gods battle it out for supremacy over their universe of worlds. Following on from this war Chou-Chou, the self-proclaimed undisputed god of that universe, her devoted follower Ryuto and her group of subordinates known as Peons, have now embarked on a new adventure to conqueror other universes.
It’s here where the storyline elements of Mugen Souls Z begin to unfold; as upon arriving on a new world they encounter a mysterious girl known as Syrma who claims that she is the rightful god of this world. Determined to conqueror this particular location Chou-Chou attempts to overthrow Syrma and claim her possessions but upon doing so activates Syrma’s coffin which absorbs Chou-Chou causing her to be trapped within it. Interestingly enough this capture is short-lived and just as quick as it happened Chou-Chou reappears except this time she is in a minature Chibi-form.
It turns out that the Coffin absorbed all of Chou-Chou’s divine-powers and in order to return to her normal the Coffin must absorb a similar power. It sounds like a simple task but with Syrma having no memory of her past, or any understanding on how the coffin works, it proves to be a challenge and as such Chou-Chou, Ryuto, Syrma and the random ‘self-proclaimed hero’ of the world Nao join forces to help each other in locating a solution. It’s a comical predicament as for an extensive period of time we see the one ‘small girl’ become miniature in size and it leads to some interesting debates between the newly introduced characters. But alas this is just a prelude of events to come; as while Chou-Chou and the group go off looking to restore her to her original size elsewhere within the shadows a more sinister group of characters begin a plot to cause havoc amongst the worlds. It’s an interesting story; and it’s one that progressively gets more entertaining the further you progress forward.
Initially at the start the game has a lot of mystery surrounding the true elements of what is about to transpire and many questions remain unanswered, such as who are the two mysterious characters that appear throughout each chapter of the game; but as you begin to progress through the seemingly-never-ending selection of dialogue you’ll soon begin to discover the real story that’s being told. It may start relatively slow, with its dreary recap and intro, but give it some time and you’ll find yourself immersed in a truly entertaining story.
Speaking of which as with most JPRG styled games the story is presented through visual-novel-styled dialogue all of which will be available in either Japanese or English language. Personally I prefer the English Dub for this game as the voice actors fit perfectly well with the characters on screen; especially Syrma who has that split-personality that’s similar to Plutia’s in Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 3 – and coincidentially enough it is the same English voice actor as well, but of course the Japanese audio track does add that authentic JRPG experience. It’s not just the voice acting either; as the way it is present and the comical debates between the characters, such as the constant demands of Chou-Chou, make it all that more satisfying to watch, listen and play.
While the story and dialogue elements can be entertaining this is a game and as such it’s the gameplay (not the story) we should be focusing on and for those who enjoyed the combat mechanics found with Hyperdimension Neptunia you will be glad to hear that it’s practically the same within Mugen Souls Z. During combat players are able to freely navigate around a small combat environment, choose a target and then engage with that target in either standard or magical attacks. As part of this setup up to four ‘player controlled’ characters can be controlled in battle against numerous enemies and, as with any good JPRG, each character will have a different set of attacks, skills and abilities; all of which can be upgraded by earning experience points during combat.
As you would expect early battles within the game are relatively easy but as you move forward within the games narrative the fights will become more difficult, especially when it comes to infamous boss fights. Foturnately Mugen Souls Z offers not only destructive magical abilities but characters can also use special abilities that allow for insanely high numbers of damage to be done; even during boss fights. Of course if you do find yourself in trouble then you are freely able to use items and healing spells during your turn of combat but be advised you’ll need to use these carefully.
Ironically enough their isn’t a lot to say about the combat mechanics within Mugen Souls Z; as they are everything we have seen before in other games (especially Hyperdimension titles) and they have been ported over and adapted accordingly within Mugen Souls Z. In hindsight the only real difference is the menu presentation; as everything else felt pretty much the same.
When not in combat or basking in extensive amounts of dialogue you will be navigating around vast environments, such as dungeons and open fields, in order to go to your next location. Once again it’s a similar mechanic that we’ve seen in past JPRGs and as such you can choose to either engage with the enemies wandering around these locations, which will ignite a battle to start, or avoid them. While battling needlessly can result in items being wasted and HP drained it does help build a characters experience, which is of course used to get stronger and learn more abilities, and as such it’s best to engage in battles where-ever possible as it will make those all important boss fights much easier to handle. As part of this ‘exploration’ element of the game a mini-map will display with points of interest, such as an exlamation mark for the next objective or a crystal for a save point.
Although I have constantly been comparing Mugen Souls Z’s gameplay mechanics to that of Hyperdimension Neptunia there are some differences and comical additions. For starters the character artwork and presentation of the story is completely different (as they are their own independent games after all) but more importantly a ‘Mecha-Battle’ feature has been implemented; something which occurs during the early stages of the game. It looks impressive, two mecha doing battle against each other within turn based combat, but it’s actually just an elaborate game of Rock, Paper, Scissors – but it’s done with great effect that you don’t entirely notice it.
This gameplay element does not make an extensive appearance; but it’s a nice addition – and offers that all important variety – you wouldn’t expect. What’s even more interesting is that the mecha unit, which is actually the ship that carries Chou-Chou and her peons, can be upgraded with new equipment earned during regular gameplay. Speaking of upgrades each character can also be customised with weapons and outfits; with a whole selection of outfits being bundled as DLC with the base game.
My experience with Mugen Souls Z gives me the impression that it has an independent storyline, albeit one that continues from the events of the previous game, that’s built on the foundations of gameplay mechanics from other Compile Heart/Idea Factory developed games. This isn’t a bad thing, as why change something that’s not broken, but if you didn’t enjoy the combat mechanics or playstyle found within Hyperdimension then you may not entirely like what Mugen Souls Z has to offer. From a personal stand-point I think these gameplay mechanics work perfectly with Mugen Souls Z just as they did within Hyperdimension and as a result it makes the game much more approachable for me to play and enjoy.
The only negative aspects I had with this game were its extensive periods of dialogue, as some scenes could last for dozens of minutes, visual novel scenes which looked blurred or out of focus, as these should theoretically be crystal clear, and that the gameplay visuals themselves aren’t exactly high quality. Sure enough Mugen Souls Z’s visuals weren’t exactly impressive on the PS3 but on this PC release they feel no different and as such you’ll get that ‘PS2 remastered feel’ when wandering around dungeons or engaging in combat with the enemy.
In short If you enjoyed Hyperdimension Neptunia or the Fairy Fencer franchise then you’ll enjoy what Mugen Souls Z has to offer; and even if you haven’t played the first game (Mugen Souls) you will still be able to dive in and enjoy the story that is being presented. It’s a great game with plenty of comical antics and it’s one that I recommend giving a go.
Mugen Souls Z is now available as a digital download for the PC through Steam; alternatively the game is also available for the PS3.