Title: Mugen Souls Z
Developer: Compile Heart
Release Date: September 14, 2023
Reviewed On: Switch
There are a few games that I wish I was in the room during their pitch to senior management. Mugen Souls is one of those series. Aside from the insane plot, it’s always felt like a jumble of strange ideas thrown into a game. Essentially, the series is a product of its time. Western game publishers seemed to eagerly support the PS3 with releases well after the PS4 was available. So, in 2014 we saw the release of Mugen Souls Z, a follow-up to Mugen Souls with the only goal of expanding on the series for no particular reason. Still, it managed to fix many lacking systems found in the first entry. However, during its release, it was largely discussed among fans that illustrations were removed from the Western version that was tied to the bath house mini-game. In fact, the entire bath mini-game was removed.
However, censorship-haters everywhere will be happy to learn that EastAsiaSoft saw this and thought, “Oh no, the West needs to experience everything this niche JRPG has to offer!” And so they brought it to Switch with everything intact. So, almost 10 years later, let’s see if this game still holds up.
The Japanese name for Mugen Souls series is Overwhelming Game, and that pretty much sums up the entire experience. The game will easily hook anyone suffering from ADHD with its loud characters, ever-changing environments, and fast-paced story delivery. The experience is non-stop and provides a little bit of everything when it comes to Compile Heart, really just creating whatever they want, likely to see if they could strike gold again with another Neptunia. So the game takes place after the events of the first title, where Chou-Chou has conquered the seven worlds, only to turn her sights to 12 Galaxies that each have a God that controls them. So…from the first hour, you’ll quickly catch on that this is very similar to the first game, but there’s a twist with the addition of a new protagonist, the Ultimate God Syrma, who has a similar goal to Chou-Chou’s.
Anyway, Chou-Chou ends up sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong and gets trapped inside Syrma’s coffin, which steals her powers and turns her into a fairy-like version of herself. Now, they quest to the other worlds to capture the Gods’ power for Syrma in hopes that Chou-Chou’s power is returned. There are a few fun plot devices that pop up as random characters make an appearance and other characters join your cause. Altis also returns and schemes her way into some shenanigans across a bit that lasts almost the entirety of the 20-hour game. Honestly, if you’re playing this game, please don’t skip the story because it is by far the craziest narrative you’ll ever experience. It’s goofy, cringy, long-winded, and absolutely amazing.
That’s kind of where my huge compliments about this game end. The gameplay is very much improved when compared to the first entry. The shopping area is condensed to make it easier to get around. The mission structure doesn’t require you to go through tons of menus to travel to a world. The game finally lets you skip attack animation with a button press; the list goes on.
So, the gameloop largely revolves around traveling to worlds, figuring out who you need to beat up, turning sections of the map into your Peon, and then fighting a boss. However, navigating the environments has not aged well, and the themes, controls, and camera work will remind you of how much games have improved in recent years.
It’s not unplayable by any means. Everything just feels floaty while you move around, and the enemies litter every area, so you’re constantly getting into fights when you’re simply trying to get to your mission mark, which usually has you going back and forth through the map to interact points of interest that you can find listed on your map.
Battles are pretty straightforward. You move characters around a field, and you get to unleash skills or attack enemies when they are in range. The more unique systems have you turn enemies and field objects into your peons. This opens a menu where you can choose from several phrases in hopes of woe the enemy in your favor. You can also do this trigger field effect, which is actually very reminiscent of Death end re;Quest’s battle system.
Here’s my advice: Although this game is far less grindy than its predecessor, the battle system just isn’t worth it. You’re here for the story and the bath mini-game, so let me help you. This Switch release contains all the DLC; turn it all on, and make your characters super strong to just breeze past these fights. You and your time will thank me because nothing will get in the way of you experiencing this narrative.
However, what element the DLC doesn’t really help is the G-Castle fights, where your ship transforms into a robot. You can upgrade the ship through various means, but winning is kind of luck-based. That said, it’s not as punishing as the first game, but it does get a bit old after a while.
All that aside, there are plenty of other in-game systems to make this game even more chaotic, but it’s not something that really weighs on the experience. When you take into consideration this Switch port, I think the team did a great job bringing this game to modern platforms. It runs and looks great, but they also went the extra mile to localize the removed content from the original PS3 release.
The bath mini-game in Mugen Souls Z has also been updated. Players choose a scrub and brush, and they clean a member of their party. The illustrations are very revealing, and although they are all wearing white underwear, there’s a special cleaning method that turns the clothing into a different color. It’s a fun mini-game and does provide bonuses, but if you’re playing this without DLC, you may get tired of it because you’ll likely be playing it more to beef up your party members for the tough battles ahead.
Mugen Souls Z may be a product of its time, but the West has finally received the full experience. The story is downright insane in a brilliant way, but the gameplay has definitely not aged well. The added DLC and mini-game definitely make this a release for all niche JRPG enthusiasts, as your 10-year-long wait has paid off, and you can finally take these hilarious girls to the bathhouse.
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