Royal Cuteness Seeks World Domination – Mugen Souls Review For PS3
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
Compile Heart has recently graced North America with the junior role-playing title Mugen Souls, available exclusively for PlayStation. The game begins in typical anime fashion, with the main character Chou-Chou (the undisputed god of the universe) dancing on stage with her friends and singing to an audience of fluffy bunnies that you will come to affectionately refer to as Shampurus. Shampurus are Chou-Chou’s peons; they are people and monsters from across the universe that have become utterly devoted to her royal godliness. Chou-Chou’s main goal in life is to obtain all seven of the “pretty looking planets” in the universe and turn everyone into her loyal subjects.
After the opening scene, a dialog between the characters helps you to understand the main objective of the story (i.e. dominating the known universe), and gets you better acquainted with Chou-Chou’s two sidekicks: Ryuto and Altis. Ryuto is a quirky little love-struck pilot, and Altis is a demon-turned-angel who is hoping to lose her wings and return to her demon form by helping Chou-Chou with her seven-world domination scheme.
Upon arrival at the first world, they realize that they have their work cut out for them. Since it is too much trouble to turn each individual person (and Chou-Chou is sufficiently lazy enough to cut corners), they decide to take down the two most powerful beings on each planet: The Hero and the Demon Lord (on every world, there is a Hero who must defeat an evil Demon Lord that terrorizes the villagers). Chou-Chou figures she can gain the loyalty of the people if there is no longer anyone standing in her way.
Chou-Chou runs into some problems turning certain people into her loyal peons after Chapter 1. To combat this, she comes to understand that maybe her cute little pink outfit, bubbly personality, and small chest size are not enough to win everyone over. Luckily, Chou-Chou can transform herself into seven completely different girls with their own unique personalities, which she uses to win over people and monsters alike. These alter egos have very fitting names: Graceful, Ditzy, Terse, Hyper, Masochist, Sadist, Ego, and Bipolar. Beware though; you cannot transform into Chou-Chou’s alter egos very often. The ability to switch builds up over time, so you are limited to doing so once every three or four battles.
There are also Peon Points throughout each level that need to be charmed into submission. The Peon Points are invisible posts that become visible as you approach them. Sometimes, you must bribe them with coin or talk to them as one of Chou-Chou’s alter egos to get them to fall in love with you. Once you obtain enough Peon Points, other parts of the world are unlocked.
Players will soon understand why this Junior RPG is rated T for Teen as the game progresses. The amount of innuendo is almost so overwhelming it’s comical. The opening song flashes to Altis’ glorious under-cleavage and peons randomly playing her like bongos. Bath-time with all the characters is a regular theme throughout the game, and there are very open references to sadomasochism – in and out of the tub. Thankfully, the very young will not catch on that anything inappropriate is going on, with many of the references ending with phrases like “um… never mind” or “moving on”. The problem with the innuendo arises mainly when you are actively playing the game. Many of the hints to defeat enemies and tactics are reliant on your understanding of these adult themes. If you come across a Peon Point that you must defeat, and the hint is “it wants to be scolded”, you have to figure out which character Chou-Chou needs to turn into to effectively win its heart.
Convoluted is the word that comes to mind when thinking about the fighting mechanics. RPGs are turn-based and rely on strategically using attack, defence, special abilities, and items in each fight. Mugen Souls tries to keep the player interested by complicating this scheme with moving space, Links, Crystals, Moe Kills, Fever Mode, Peon Balls, and Peon Control. It’s a good thing you have the Explanatory Shampuru who pops up and gives you advice, or you’d get lost very easily!
During a fight, Moving Space determines how far the player can move, and each player has a certain range based on his or her weapon. You control all of the characters on your team (Chou-Chou and her allies) in a turn-based system, meaning each character can perform one action per round. Your team and the enemies take turns battling one another one until one side is left standing. The enemies scatter all over the playing field, so getting closer to them will take up many of your turns. Your foes aren’t bound by Moving Space, to ensure there is an extra difficulty added to the fight. Once you are close enough to an enemy, you can use offensive tactics.
Each enemy or ally has a certain number of Hit Points (HP), which is essentially the life metre. With every attack the HP slowly depletes; when it hits zero, that character will die . If either side defeats all of their opponents, they win the battle. Special Ability Points (SP) are used for Special Abilities in the Skills option of your menu. They are just like the Attack option, only more powerful, and each character on your team has their own unique abilities to use, such as Altis’ Fire ability, which shoots fire from her gun at multiple targets within range. Players will have to be strategic with using Special Abilities, because if you spend too much SP, you’ll find that you won’t have enough to use these abilities.
Of course, you’ll still have your basic attacks that do not use SP if you are in range of an enemy; however, if you are too close to another party member, you will only be able to ‘Link’. Linking creates a special attack that triggers two or more players in a video sequence in which the targeted enemy is beat up. My personal favourite is ‘Tank’, where you and your friends jump into tanks that fall from the sky and blast the enemy into the ground.
Another volatile item is the Peon Balls: giant exploding balls that can be only activated by Chou-Chou and will inflict massive damage. The more hit points you deal to an enemy during battle, the more damage your Peon Ball will do when you use it. Players will have to be careful, as Peon Balls are double-edged swords. A ‘death meter’ looms threateningly on the screen, reminding the player to balance the use of Peon Balls: if you over- or under-use them, the percentage on the Peon Ball will reach 100 percent and it will explode, wiping out your entire party. To combat this horrible fate, Chou-Chou can use a Peon Command on her turn, which has her uttering random tasks for her team-members to carry out. For example, when the Peon Command is on, you’ll see a suggestion box that states something random such as “use an item”. If you use an item on this turn, the percentage on the Peon Ball goes down. If you disobey the command, however, the Peon Ball percentage will go up.
In some fights, you’ll have a giant crystal just sitting in the middle of the field that you cannot attack; however, if you defeat it with a Moe Kill, the fight is over, and all enemies become your peons. A Moe Kill is a Chou-Chou-unique ability to win over the opponents with her charm, and can only be used before you attack your target. Activating this skill will give you dialog options, and allows you to see the moods and affinities of the enemies who are in range. For instance, if you come across a Sad Sadist, you’ll want to transform Chou-Chou into her Sadist and talk to your enemy, making sure to say nice things. If you fail at these conversations, you can anger the monsters. When your foes reach boiling point, you’ll enter Fever Mode: extra crystals will appear that your characters can be knocked into, and all enemies are harder to kill.
Sometimes, you’ll only be able to rely on base attacks to defeat your foes. These are the battles when items will come in handy. The items are probably the most entertaining part of the fights. For example, Sour Milk will help restore some of your SP, and “lumps are just for added flavour” is a fun explanation they add just to make you smile. You’ll come across many more neat items, such as Bacon and Eggs, or Tofu (both of which help to increase your HP). You can obtain these special objects as loot when you defeat enemies, buy them from a store, or sometimes you come across them randomly scattered across the different worlds. They each have their own distinct purpose that are explained in their description, and are very useful for removing spells cast on you by your enemies (like poison that slowly drains your Hit Points), restoring some of your Hit Points (or SP), and some can even revive defeated party members!
Starship Wars are a little less complicated than the regular combat, creating a “rock-paper-scissors” turn-based system. You have your Attack, Reflect, or Pierce abilities to use against your enemy. You and the enemy both pick what your action is before the start of the turn. An Attack shoots bombs at the target, while Reflect bounces incoming attacks away from your ship, and Pierce rips through the reflectors, but does less damage than the basic attack.
Anime has always had its own unique appeal, and Mugen Souls is true to that tradition. Each character is flashy and wide-eyed, full of colour and vigour. Compile Heart beautifully designs each world to exhibit the characteristics of the theme. For example, Sun World comes alive with lush grass, rolling hills, and vibrant red houses. The worlds have a polished-off look, although the third-person view, when moving around, is a little disorienting. Everything but the enemies and the main characters is static in game play, but inverted or not, being able to look around is more difficult than it should be, and the centering option seems to spin the screen instead of center the character view.
When you successfully complete the main storyline in an area and get at least 100 peons to follow you (by defeating the Peon Points), the land from beneath you physically moves to converge with the land beside it. This is the next section of the world you need to move to. When you first move continents; you get a cutscene of the islands coming together, and your controller shakes. The issue you run into is, as you progress through the game, intermittently, you no longer cut to a visual of the islands, and the controller does not shake. Eventually, you lose the effect of shaking and converging altogether and simply get a scene of the islands with hearts flowing between them to indicate the convergence. This is a very small issue, but the inconsistency makes you wonder if the developers assumed players wouldn’t be as interested in the cutscenes as they got further into the game.
Music can make or break a game, and Mugen Souls really comes through on this front. The game doesn’t have dubs or subs of the original Japanese songs, which is something that only adds to its authenticity. Every planet or game transition has uniquely defined tracks that magnify the feel of the entire planet. When you hit Fever Mode or important action scenes, the music jumps to a hyperactive pace, getting your blood pumping and ready for a fight. The voice acting is diverse and really breathes new life into the characters. Each one of Chou-Chou’s characters has her own voice to match her personality. For example, Ditzy often sounds very slow and confused, while Sadist is very haughty. Main characters aside, every level is introduced like an anime TV series, including the cheesy over-exaggerated announcer proclaiming vague titles like, “Chapter 4! The Overwhelming Idol! The One Who Stands Out the Most Wins!”
If you are an anime fan at heart, Mugen Souls is exactly what you are looking for. There are also several inside jokes for us gamers in general. For instance, when you first come across a hero, he is running around breaking pots. According to legend, heroes are compelled to break any pots in shops or homes they come across in their travels; it’s one of their weaknesses, and the villagers always overlook it because the hero is constantly on an important mission. The game is riddled with jokes that help the nerd inside everyone get attached to the story and its characters. By the time you are familiar with the characters, you’ll be excitedly awaiting the next instalment of the “Journal of the Wicked Young Altis and her World Dominating Crimes”.
Mugen Souls receives a rating of 4.5/5.0
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