Mugen Souls Z is a game aimed at Japanophiles in every aspect, down to the character models, dialogue and combat. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a game that so strongly emboldens stereotypical anime cliches, but can it spin it into something worth playing?
There’s a huge niche market for this type of game, and it’s fun to relax with such a carefree game and cheerful characters, even if they’re immensely exaggerated.
The story is as laidback as the cast, and revolves around self-proclaimed Undisputed God of the Universe trying to take control of all worlds, and the True Ultimate Goddess Syrma as she looks for the other Gods to regain their ultimate form. Whilst the plot doesn’t allow for much in the way of character growth, it’s crazy enough to keep you enticed.
Other characters are typecast, such as a willing servant who gets a nosebleed over the smallest thought of something too cute or sexual, villains wanting world domination and self-proclaimed heroes who wish to deliver justice to all evil-doers.
If you’ve ever played a Hyperdimension Neptunia game, also by developer Compile Heart, then you’ll be familiar with the Mugen Souls Z battle system. You’re given free control to move your character on the field, both in and out of battle, and it’s a turn-based affair.
There’s a crystal system which I’ve grown fond of that allows you to buff certain stats when you attack within a crystal’s radius. It’ll always inform you what will change, and considering you cannot move very far per move, you’ll want to take your moves wisely to get the most use out of the crystals.
It isn’t all on-foot battling though, there are special boss fights which allow you to fight in a giant robot. These play much differently and you’re able to use your turn to regain HP or even negate the next enemy attack, so there’s a great strategic element that doesn’t allow you to just mindlessly attack the enemy and hope for the best; if you do so, you run the risk of losing the battle.
Visually it’s a mixed bag. 2D animations are some of the best I’ve seen, and the slight 3D effect that’s added when their portraits move is fantastic, and should be implemented in more games like this; even a slight shake of the head oozes with detail.
On the other hand, the 3D animations leave much to be decided. They’re quite rough and pale in comparison to the character portraits which were so well done. There’s also slowdown when traversing the map, which is strange as the areas are usually pretty bland and there isn’t a lot going on, much stranger is how the game feels much more fluid in battle when plenty of action is going on.
All characters take on a chibi effect outside of conversations, which is cute and fits the games joyful humour, and they’ll be depicted in their more realistic proportioned form in conversations – although breasts seem to be exempt from the proportion rule but they manage to not be too ridiculous.
Audio fares much better, with top-notch voice talent such as Johnny Yong Bosch, Cristina Vee, Cherami Leigh and Kira Buckland taking center stage. Although the floaty voice of Syrma, depicted as a stereotypically busty air-headed girl, will annoy some, it will be endearing to others. I’m personally used to many anime-heavy games having such an airy protagonist, but it does make dialogue go slower, meaning I skipped a fair bit of it.
The soundtrack does the job, but I can’t recall any of the tunes now that I’m typing up the review. It never grated on me in-game but it doesn’t stand out as anything memorable, either.
Being a JRPG, you can be confident in the length of your purchase but there are some tough difficulty spikes that are a drag to go through, especially as enemies seem capable of doing much more damage than you on average. A bit of grinding goes a long way, but make sure to stock up on health items and to save often.
If you’re an anime fan, or a fan of Compile Heart’s games in general, then you’ll find loads to like in Mugen Souls Z. However, I’d find it hard to recommend to somebody who isn’t a fan of either, and those who dislike Hyperdimension Neptunia which is arguably Compile Heart’s biggest series; it shares many of the same qualities, but Hyperdimension Neptunia has a story that parodies the ‘console wars’, helping it to appeal to more people.
Compile Heart and NIS America know what their fans want, and that’s to deliver fun games with an anime icing. They’re absolutely brilliant at delivering on this. Mugen Soulz Z is aimed at a niche fanbase and the publisher are fully aware of this, and it’s easy to see how Mugen Souls Z is directed at them and although it succeeds, it definitely won’t be to everyone’s liking.