Here's a fun fact about Mugen Souls, a quirky little role-playing number from Idea Factory: the game was produced by an unnamed developer calling himself the new Keiji Inafune (that is, the Mega Man creator who left Capcom to form his own studio). The "new Keiji Inafune" stint was nothing more than a publicity stunt to get people turning their heads to the game. What's even more surprising is that the real Inafune is in fact contributing a few character designs to the game.
With recent news of the former Capcom producer turning to Idea Factory and Compile Heart, it's no surprise that the company's PR would use his name for self-promotion. Does that automatically mean that Mugen Souls needs a bit of help in the image department? If you're judging it from first looks alone, then yes. However, this role-playing game has a few tricks up its sleeve in terms of personality.
You control a girl name Chou Chou (pronounced "Shoe Shoe"), whose sole goal is to conquer the seven universes. Accompanying her is an angel named Artis and a manservant named Lute. The former wishes to turn back into a demon by going along with Chou Chou's plans, while Lute was Chou Chou's first servant who somehow managed not to be turned into a shampoo rabbit. Yes, we forgot to mention that the majority of servants piloting Chou Chou's ship, the G Castle, are rabbit creatures called shampoos.
During battle, you can move the party members within a designated pink circle and choose any attack command made available. To keep with the recruitment-by-force theme of the narrative, Chou Chou can convince enemies to join her cause and subsequently turn into shampoos. We were offered three empty brackets to fill up with random choices of text, and we could form a love confession at the start of a sentence, before capping it off with a rejection.
Depending on the combination you make, you either raise or reduce an enemy's emotion level. Saying the wrong things can make your enemies go berserk, rendering them immune to being servant candidates. Since it takes a lot of shampoo minions to pilot Chou Chou's flying fortress, she needs as many as possible to fulfill her world domination plans.
When all else fails, just bash them to bits. In addition to your standard attacks, you can team up with your party members within the pink circle to initiate a coordination attack. Whether it's with another party member or two, each attack is different and deals different amounts of damage.
Combat isn't relegated to on-foot party battles. You will also have to take your flying fortress into air battles against other uniquely shaped enemy ships. This, too, is turn-based, meaning you'll need to select the appropriate command depending on what your first mate Lute says on the bottom left of the screen. From there, you can choose to either fire, reflect projectiles, defend, or dodge against enemy retaliation. The effectiveness of your commands depends on the number of servants you have together with how well you read your opponent's attacks. We had fun engaging in these fights, as each of our attack and defensive commands were presented in '70s space anime opera style.
Chou Chou also has the ability to turn into one of her seven different personalities to bolster her combat and linguistic skills. While the masochistic personality is more childlike and klutzy in nature, the tsundere personality is more cold and eventually warms up to people over time. All seven personalities are obvious parodies of anime stereotypes.
Dialogue options to win minions over change depending on the personalities adopted. A dominatrix-style sadistic personality would be better suited against submissive opponents, while a vigor personality would fare better in winning over hyperactive enemies.
From what we've seen, part of the game's presentation could benefit from improvement. Frame rates when moving around overworlds were horrible, while the overall aesthetic, while keeping in tone with its comic nature, looks more like a budget title.
Regardless, we felt that there is still potential to be found within the game's odd combat system and bizarre narrative. It's not every day players get to woo minions to their side by uttering seductive or damning praises, all while doing party tag team attacks involving spinning rainbows of death and slot machines.
Mugen Souls will be out in English this fall.