This time, I’ll be discussing Mugen Souls, developed by Compile Heart and released in Japan as Attōteki Yūgi Mugen Souls (literally “Overwhelming Game Infinite Souls”). It was localized by NIS America for the rest of the world. It’s a JRPG, and a bad one at that.
What is Mugen Souls? A miserable pile of half-baked mechanics. But enough beating around the bush, I’ll explain. Mugen Souls follows the split-personality undisputed god Chou-Chou, as she sets out to conquer the seven worlds, because they looked beautiful from far away. How does she intend to do this, you may ask? Simple. She’ll find each world’s strongest hero and villian and make them her slaves, using some manner of divine enslavement magic that activates via the power of moe. She must basically seduce them. I’m not kidding.
Now, this seems like a very amusing setup for a game, if done right. The problem is that it’s not done right. Well, the story’s actually quirky enough to get a pass, it’s the gameplay that’s the problem. Mugen Souls‘ gameplay is built of a sturdy base – the battle system of the later Hyperdimension Neptunia games. Except mechanics are tossed in every which way, and barely explained or developed. Among these mechanics are pinball-like knockback, which can be toggled, the peon ball, which can explode and kill your entire party, and a togglable ability to have Chou-Chou’s AI dictate everyone’s moves – sometimes impossible ones – with negligible bonuses and noticeable penalties if you don’t follow her orders. There are also spaceship battles, using a completely separate battle system, which are actually quite fun and probably the best part of the game.
However, none of these are as central to the game as moe kills. Performing a moe kill instantly removes the enemy from the fight via seduction and adds them to your peon counter. The problem is that not only is this mechanic so opaque that you need to have a sort of Pokémon type chart open to know exactly what actions to take based on the personality and mood combination the enemy has, you need to use this system often to progress through the game due to Chou-Chou needing to moe kill continents (as in the physical landmasses) in order to continue the game at many points. This leads to grinding in many ways, as you also need to kill a certain amount of enemies, shell out a certain amount of money, etc., in order to moe kill continents.
All of this leads to stretching out the game for no reason, and the game was already way too complex to enjoy as it stood. Mugen Souls is a confusing, half-baked mess.
More effort seems to have gone into its sequel, Mugen Souls Z, however. Both from the developers and the localization team (the English track is mostly silent in Mugen Souls, and custom characters are completely silent, but they actually put more into Z). I have it pre-ordered and sincerely hope it’s as drastic as the transition between the first Neptunia and mk2.