Mugen Souls is the next anime style moe moe* game by NIS America and developed by Compile Hearts. The game centres around a young pink haired girl Chou-Chou, who rides around in space on a massive bunny space ship with her companions Altis, a self proclaimed demon and Ryuto, the spaceship mechanic / vassal. Mugen Souls from the beginning, has many signs of fan service game (panty shots and provocative poses) which seem to be the norm for anime style games.
*moe moe pretty much means cute in Japanese.
Chou Chou the main protagonist, has one overall aim within the game and that is to conquer the entire universe. To do this, she decides that she must make every inhabitant of the universe into one of her peons. Her peons seem to take the form of little bunnies that say pyunn a lot. However, some of her 'higher' up peons do get to keep their normal form.
Chou Chou decides to conquer the universe she will go from world to world following her master plan, each of the worlds being represented by a different colour. For example, the green coloured world is very 'green' with nature. The act of going from world to world allows the player to have a change of scenery and not be forever in the same area, it also lets players see the animated beauty of Mugen Souls.
Chou Chou realises close to the start of the game, with the help from her friends, that instead of turning every monster in the universe in to her peons, she can just charm the main boss of each world, Hero or Demon. Even then however, turning everything she sees into her peon still has its benefits, later on in the game.
Games that are clearly from Japan, you think would normally always have the option to choose the language between Japanese and English this is not the case with all games. NIS America on the other hand, delivers again and allows the player to choose between English or Japanese. This may not be a deal breaker for all gamers, but having the choice is nice if you're an anime fan or prefer one voice acting over another.
The voice acting in the game is pretty good in both Japanese and English. There is always emotion in the characters voices which fits in well with what's going on at that time in the scene. Voicing is normally in every cut scene and speech sequence, but for the one or two moments in the game that is not voiced it does not impact on game play.
Music in games by Compile Heart and NIS seem to be really catchy. Players who are used to these types of games will most likely find themselves loving the music and players that are new to the genre will still probably enjoy the music because of the catchy beats, if they don't, there is always the option to turn the music down. As with most NIS America games, play time can really rack up and a background song that you liked at the start of the game could really get tiresome, but hey you may be singing it all the way through your 1000th hour of play time.
Gameplay, Mechanics and Control
Gameplay in Mugen Souls very much resembles a mix between Disgaea and Hyperdimension Neptunia. There are standard RPG game play elements like running around a map, bumping into monsters, opening chests, activating cut scenes and finding save points as well as new game play mechanics that make Mugen Souls what it is. Battles in Mugen Souls is where the mechanics really shine and where the mix between the other games mentioned above start to become noticeable. When Chou Chou is running around the map players will be able to see monsters moving around, if players time it right, they can attack a monster and enter the battle mode. This little bit however, does get old really fast and having to hit every monster you see does make you think ... come on start the battle already. If the player attacks from behind it will make Chou Chou and her party have the advantage, if the player chooses to attack from the front and hit the monster they will enter a normal balanced battle, but if they run away and the monster attacks Chou Chou from behind, the monsters will gain the advantage and attack first.
Once in the battle it works a lot like Hyperdimension Neptunia. Each character has a move phase and an attack phase, the move phase allows the player to move the character around the battle map within the specified movement area (blue circle on the ground). They can then move to the attack phase and if a monster is range (inside the pink circle on the ground) they are able to use normal attacks or skills. Players can move back to the movement phase by cancelling the attack phase if they haven't attacked, normally this is done when no monsters are in range. The battle mechanics being a lot like Hyperdimension will probably sell it to the fans of the game. For other gamers both veteran in the RPG background and not may find it repetitive after a short while. This can be where other parts of the battle mechanics come in to give you a bit more flavour to the game.
Chou Chou in battle has a fair number of unique skills and mechanics which tie into the main game itself, the one to mention is her skill called Moe Kill. Moe Kill is a move that can only be done before the attack phase and allows Chou Chou to try and charm a monster with one of her seven personalities and turn them into one of her peons. The Moe Kill allows the player to select three different "phases" which are basically actions made by Chou Chou. Depending on the enemies mood and affinity it will fill the enemies emotion gauge that is spilt into three parts Peon, Item and Frenzy. When one of the gauges becomes full it has a certain effect on the monster.
Moe Kill and other features in the game become a lot easier to work out as time goes on and the player starts to understand what action effects what bar on the monster when it has a certain mood and affinity. Turning enemies into peons is an important aspect of the game and becomes a lot more apparent later on, so remember to capture those peons!
Certain parts of the game like creating your own peon and linking attacks between characters in battles are a lot like Disgaea, but these mechanics are not a bad thing to have in the game. They add extra depth within the battles and allow for players to tune the character they create around their play style.
One mechanic that is not as great is G-Castle battles. These battles consist of Chou Chou's space ship and an enemy space ship fighting it out in space, now it sounds interesting although the actual battles are just glorified rock, paper, scissors and is to the point where the game itself tells you it is like that game. Some players may find this mechanic fun, except for us, we thought it was not really needed and just drags out the game in between other battles, more time could have been spent on other aspects of the game like adding more peon classes or the option to have co-op in battles. The one good bit about G-Castle battles is you do gain items and experience for winning, so it is an easy way to level up some characters.
Overall the game works like a normal weapon based RPG combat with magic and skills thrown in there. To get the most out of the game. However, you will need to utilise Chou Chou's Moe Kill skill and the other areas of the game like peon creation and blast off mechanics to get the full experience.
If you have played RPG games or NIS America games before you will not find the game all that hard. Some of the time will come from understanding how all the different mechanics work and working your way through the different menus. The game does have the problem of not really explaining all the mechanics that well and some of the tutorial still don't explain exactly how all parts of the game work. This will make players have to do a lot of trial and error to understand what mechanic does what. The most frustrating is the Moe Kill system, as it is the fundamental battle mechanic of the game it should have a longer tutorial. This means that you spend a lot of your time trying to understand how it really works and what actions effect what type of enemies mood with what Chou Chou personality you have currently active. Even after you think you have mastered it be prepared to not always have it work the way you want it, not having a grasp on it means that you will also not have as many peons as you need for certain parts of the game. As we said earlier the number of peons you have 'charmed' does have an effect later in the game like overcoming obstacles or making enemies harder to kill.
Even with the problems of understanding the mechanics the game play is still enjoyable and when you do get the hang of it, you will find yourself taking on the harder enemies with more ease. Don't worry though, if it gets too easy it only takes one wrong move to put an enemy into a frenzy and have the battle lasting hours!
Overall the game is a nice addition to the NIS America library. Mugen Souls is great game for anime fans or fans of games like Hyperdimension Neptunia. At the same time, having some similarities to games like Disgaea, makes it take the 'best bits' from those games and add to them with extra mechanics, to make battles both different and enjoyable. The story can be quite basic at times and predictable however, does win you over with the range of different characters and their interesting personalities which makes the cut scenes and little skits funny and inviting.
This game does fall under a certain type of niche market and is normally only be bought by people within the niche, but once you do take the time to learn all the different systems and mechanics you will enjoy both the game and the story. Newcomers will have to note that this game is not for the younger audience, even from face value it has a cute appeal there are a lot sexual themes and provocative images. You can also by skipping the cut scenes and playing only the main game, still be able to enjoy it. That's what we like most about this game, even without the story the game play is still very addicting, fully customisable and overall a fun game to play.
The presentation of the game does feel a little sloppy at times, with the noticeable hangs between battles but makes up for it with gameplay you actually enjoy.
NIS America never cease to make good looking games. The anime styled art is fantastic and in game models are decent enough to have you play the game for long periods and still like what you see.
The music in the game is really catchy and if you listen and play for long enough you will end up singing all those lovely Japanese tunes.
Games have their holes and so does this one but overall, it feels like a really nice game to play and to lose yourself in for hours. With the funny characters, easy to follow story and humorous stereotyped games jokes you cant go wrong.