Mugen Souls from NIS America sends a scantily clad youngster out to conquer the world. Of course, there’s a bit more to it than that, since this particular youngster is a goddess of some power (and more than some delusions of grandeur). Chou-Chou has the unusual skill of turning enemies into loyal minions, which then generate power for her ship. In her quest to make the entire world her peon (including even the continents themselves), Chou-Chou must travel around with her companions, battling enemies and conquering heroes, until world domination is hers.
It rather sounds like an interesting premise, doesn’t it? You have your standard rpg elements there, of grinding and wandering the world. You have companions to fight alongside your character. Unfortunately, that’s about as close to an rpg as you’ll get with Mugen Souls. The developer, Compile Heart, introduces some different combat systems that, while they sound interesting at first glance, simply make the gameplay confusing.
Since making everyone, everywhere, Chou-Chou’s peon is pretty much the basic premise of the game, you are introduced to how to do this fairly early on in the game. This is explained in a written tutorial by one of Chou-Chou’s shampuru (peons). By using the Moe Kill system, you can win over your enemies in battle. You are to look at the enemy’s mood and affinity, and then choose three statements that will win them over. Each statements is chosen from a random list of three, meaning that the type of statement you want might not even be available. Oh, and Chou-Chou can change into different bodies, to match each enemy’s preferences, which will affect how the statements are received. And, the Moe Kill takes more than one turn, and the process must be repeated each time.
Sound confusing? I hope not, because if you don’t figure it out the first time, you won’t be able to access the tutorial again, which probably wouldn’t help that much anyway, because it often boils down to a combination of luck and guesswork. When you throw in the fact that, since it takes more than one turn, you will need to avoid killing all the enemies before your moe kill is complete (which ends the battle, and thus your chance for a new peon), it makes for a frustrating dynamic that is both confusing and frustrating.
Added to that, the map that you travel around is just not all that interesting. There are constantly spawning enemies, which you cannot outrun once they’ve seen you. They aren’t too hard or anything, but since you can’t just save anytime it makes it a little annoying when all you want to do is get to a save crystal but you end up sitting through three or four battles just to preserve your progress.
As I mentioned, Chou-Chou has the ability to change her shape. Not into different animals or monsters or anything like that, mind you; Chou-Chou can change into different womanly shapes, in order to be more attractive to her opponents. You find out early on in the game that Chou-Chou’s relative attractiveness has a huge effect on how successful she is at turning enemies into peons. Every single female stereotype is included in the seven shapes Chou-Chou can assume. While I rolled my eyes a bit, that sort of thing is relatively common in these types of games. If you’ve played a jrpg before, then Mugen Souls probably won’t shock you, but they do go a bit far at times. Chou-Chou is very young looking, child like really, and scenes like the one where her and her companion Altis are in the bath together, covered only in bubbles while a male character looks on, are quite frankly a bit creepy.
Mugen Souls is not all bad. There is a rather fun ship battle system, wherein you battle other ships in a version of rock, paper, scissors for domination. While it doesn’t develop much as a battle mechanic, it does add some variety to the gameplay. And while a lot of the humor doesn’t really hit that well, the potshots they take at traditional rpg’s made me laugh out loud.
Mugen Souls offers a unique jrpg experience that just might not be for everyone. The incredibly young looking characters coupled with very suggestive content will turn off some, and the overly complicated combat system will turn off even more. If you are a die hard jrpg fan, it has some downright funny moments and the combat is something new to try. If you just want to try out the genre, there are far better jrpgs out there.