Mugen Souls Review
The Good: Character designs are great.
The Bad: Loading and slowdown issues.
The Ugly: Battle systems are either too simplistic or convoluted.
Mugen Souls peaks with its intro, which sees the world-conquering Chou Chou and her ally Altis bathing together. There’s a slew of amusing dialogue, some fun is poked at RPG and anime conventions, and then…battles begin and problems start to appear. A mix of SRPG character placement in a 3D world and JRPG menus certainly can work well. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case here.
Early tutorial battles are just a flood of information and loud, annoying beeps alerting you to pertinent information. I’m all for a game telling you how to do things, but the execution here is just bothersome to the player. It isn’t fun to have to skip through screen after screen of dialogue to explain a convoluted setup for something like CC’s moe kill. With it, she can make an enemy into an ally, but doing so requires you to pay attention to that particular enemy’s emotions throughout the fight since they change, and then make three choices on a menu that either work out and you gain an ally, or fail and you don’t, and lose her for the few turns it took to execute the attack.
The camera is a hindrance in battles, as it tends to get stuck behind the giant crystal in the middle of the screen. It’s not a huge problem, but is annoying, and becomes a major issues outside of the battlefield when it spazzes out. If it does so at the wrong time, like when you’re trying to time an attack on an enemy before a battle is initiated, it means you can miss the attack, get attacked, and then be at a disadvantage. Dealing with camera issues like this was barely tolerable in the PS2 era, and it’s long past that point now. Regular battles are also annoying due to the super-long and elaborate animations for linking moves. When you’re near another party member, you’ll do 2-on-1 or 3-on-1 attacks on enemies. These, like the Final Fantasy VII summons many years ago, look AWESOME when you first see them. Then you see them for the billionth time, they aren’t funny, and just take up a ton of time since they can’t be skipped.
While there’s quite a bit I don’t like about the battle system, I do love some elements of it – like the Blast Off system that lets you bounce enemies into one another or into the environment for more damage and XP bonuses. I also have a soft spot for any RPG that gives you the ability to skip battles by avoiding enemies, however, this game also has a ton of random battles, so it somehow manages to take a good thing and nullify it with random battles. That’s a game design element that was annoying eons ago and only sticks out more as time goes on and fewer and fewer games utilize them because they reek of a cheap way to increase the time spent playing the game and only serve to distract you from the task at hand.
Beyond standard on-field battles, you’ve also got ship vs. ship battles that pit your kitty cat-headed one against rivals throughout the universe. These battles are rock-paper-scissors affairs that are entirely too easy. The initial tutorial battle explains all you need to do to counter an enemy’s attack consistently, which just requires you to pay attention to hints given in every battle, resulting in easy wins every time out. These battles are entirely too simplistic and net you so much XP that it makes the regular battles more of a cakewalk then they should be.
Mugen Souls has two battle systems, and neither of them is much fun. It’s a real shame too since the game has some things that work for it, but they’re just bogged down far too much by the flawed battle systems. I like the writing – it’s self-referential, and while it isn’t the funniest script in the world, and the world-domination storyline and its characters aren’t particularly compelling or deep, it is funny to hear the characters interact with each other. The voice acting is great, and makes the script much better than it reads on paper. The soundtrack is a mixed bag, with some music being way too cheery and repetitious, and then there are slower, more melodic tracks that I enjoyed quite a bit.
Mugen Souls is also a mixed bag visually. The anime-styled art looks fine, and is very Disgaea-esque which makes sense given that MS and that series share character designers. The in-game character graphics look quite good, and their cel-shading reminds me of the latter-day PS2 game Rogue Galaxy, although that wound up being a far more impressive game visually on the whole. Here, the environmental graphics have a strange blur effect on them. It almost looks like the textures are popping in, but it isn’t quite that – it’s still ugly and distracting though and makes it harder to tell where you are in relation to your enemies, making it harder than it should be to attack enemies on the field before the proper battle.
Other major technical issues rear their ugly heads throughout the adventure, including hideous load times before each battle and a shockingly high amount of slowdown while you’re just running through open areas. It’s been a long time since I’ve played a game with as much slowdown as this, and I can’t recall an RPG since the PS1 era with loading before battles at all, let alone anything crafted with a modern console in mind.
Mugen Souls is the worst RPG experience I’ve had in a long time. I like that the game has two different battle systems, I just wish either was fun to use. Neither is able to hold your interest for very long, with one growing tiresome due to needless complexity and the other being too simplistic. Normally, if an RPG had a weak battle system, its storyline might be able to save it, but that isn’t the case here. There isn’t much depth to the characters or the plot, and there isn’t anything about the game that can really be recommended. I enjoyed the voice acting and the music, but not enough to warrant buying it. I normally wouldn’t recommend renting an RPG given their length, but I think many could rent this and get their fill in a day or two. Unless you rent it and love it, I don’t see a reason to buy Mugen Souls given that the PS3, thanks to PS1 classics alone, has far better offerings in the genre than this that are more worthy of your money and time.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: NIS America
This review is based on copy of Mugen Souls for the PlayStation 3 provided by NIS America.