Mugen Souls Review

Complex but repetitive and grating, Mugen Souls is overwhelming for all the wrong reasons.

There's a lot to appreciate about the anime-style trappings seen in many Japanese role-playing games. The influence of Japan's rich history of cartoon and comic art can translate to colorful environments, outlandish characters, and even some offbeat humor. Mugen Souls is one such RPG. But while it wholeheartedly embraces the anime-loving, game-marathoning otaku culture that inspired it, Mugen Souls seems to have completely forgotten to be a good game first and foremost.

That…sure is a lot of stuff in the HUD.

The premise of Mugen Souls is novel: rather than saving the world from imminent destruction, antiheroine Chou-Chou wants to turn every being in the seven corners of the universe into her loyal servant. She has a knack for getting people to surrender to her will, thanks to her unique ability to pander exactly to anyone's taste in character stereotypes. She also has a commandeered spaceship and an ever-growing army of subservient lackeys under her rule.

The character designs are cute and appealing (if a little uncomfortable at times--some of the characters look quite young), and the theme of conquering the universe with your egotistical charm is inherently appealing. But the problems with Mugen Souls emerge from the get-go. Chou-Chou's one-note appeal fades quickly as she and the supporting cast fail to undergo any satisfying character development, even after Chou-Chou displays her ability to assume seven different personality types.

The one-dimensional characters might be forgiven if their interactions were as funny as the game seems to think they are. Alas, attempts at humorous exchanges between the characters fall flat with resounding thuds, save for a few cute digs at video gaming conventions. There's little to the story besides the supposed humor, so when the funny fails, every lengthy dialogue exchange turns into an excruciating experience.

Solid gameplay can rescue an RPG with a weak story, but the gameplay of Mugen Souls is a superficially complex mess of disparate mechanics that fail to gel into anything cohesive. Chou-Chou, her seven personalities, and her servants traverse small, sloppily designed, uninteresting overworld areas, which chug along at incomprehensibly low frame rates, despite their simplistic visuals and object models, unless you lower your display resolution to 720p. There are mobs of endlessly respawning enemies on each map, and though you can see them before you fight, they tend to move so quickly that avoiding them (or slashing Chou-Chou's weapon fast enough to enter battle with an advantage) is extremely difficult once they notice your presence.

A speedy enemy could be lying in wait just offscreen.

When you enter a fight, there are lots of options available to you, all of which are explained only one time through poorly presented tutorials--which then become completely inaccessible should you want to review anything you've learned. You've got a fairly standard RPG array of basic attacks, special skills, and items to use, as well as a positioning-based combat system that lets your party and the enemies run around the field. Characters can also perform team-up attacks that have some amusing animations, but they become so drawn out that you are quickly tempted to turn off the "battle animations" option.

Chou-Chou has access to some unique skills, however. She can shift into one of her seven personalities mid-combat, which changes her affinities toward special attacks; rather than being based on traditional RPG elements like fire, wind, and water, skill and character affiliations are based on personality traits like bipolar, graceful, and sadist. Chou-Chou also has an ability called the "moé kill": by pandering to enemies' particular tastes, she can transform them into willing peons, who then power up her spaceship. This is accomplished by trying to match a series of three action selections to an enemy's taste and current mood. Make the enemy happy, and you are rewarded; pick the wrong choices, and you get an agitated, more powerful foe to contend with.

As novel as they may sound, moé kills turn into an exercise in tedium. Since the moods of enemies are constantly changing--as are your choices for moé kill actions--it's hard to get any sort of consistent reaction from them, even when you've matched their type perfectly. Choices that might seem logical given a foe's current mood can inexplicably make them upset. It also takes a very long time to complete moé kills on certain foes, and since Chou-Chou is the only one who can initiate them, you waste time having everyone else onfield defend while you hope you're making the right choices to win a foe over. If you fail, prepare for an even longer fight.

Intense pandering action!

Other elements are thrown into the combat system with little regard as to how they interact with each other or add anything meaningful to the gameplay. Special attacks can be imbued with a "blast off" effect that sends enemies ricocheting off each other and onfield objects, which looks pretty cool but never does the sort of damage you'd expect. Hovering crystals offer various ranged effects and rewards when broken, but can be targeted only by the aforementioned blast off attacks and moé kills. An object called the "peon ball" amasses power as the battle drags on and can be summoned to deal damage to every foe onscreen, but its potential to backfire goes up in proportion to the health of your party, making it dangerous in the sort of last-ditch situations where you'd logically want to use it most.

You can play through battles trying to follow a list of specific orders for more potential winnings, which are rarely substantial. Ultimately, even when you try to use all the crazy options the game gives you for fighting, you usually wind up feeling like your effort didn't yield adequate reward. It's easier to try to ignore enemies on the field (or mash fight through the battles) and instead build up levels and collect rewards in the optional Mugen Field, a series of random battles with handicaps that can deliver bigger experience point yields and rewards than normal.

Conquering the territories you need to proceed is yet another ill-conceived gameplay element. Chou-Chou needs to go to specific places on the field (which are only vaguely hinted at) and assert her dominance in one of three ways: by paying a certain amount of money, by beating a certain number of enemies, or by performing a successful moé kill. All of these involve guesswork: it's never stated exactly how much money or how many defeated foes you need to proceed, so if you don't have enough, you have to grind until you think you do and try again. Failing these attempts sends you into combat, which only adds to the annoyance.

That's one way to conquer the world.

Finally, there are the spaceship battles, which pit Chou-Chou's warship against that of a single foe. These battles play out like an augmented form of a rock-paper-scissors fight, with certain choices overpowering others (for example, pierce attacks beat defensive barriers but lose out to fast missile strikes). As Chou-Chou recruits peons, the ship grows stronger, and more attack and defensive options open. But these options are almost unnecessary, because most of these battles are easy. There is always a hint displayed as to what action the opponent will take, and after you figure out exactly which attacks the hints correlate to, space dogfights become a breeze…which further defeats the point of putting a lot of effort into standard combat.

There are a lot of character-building and gear customization options--all of which seem to involve a separate point currency--but it's just more empty complexity layered on a game that's weak at its core. "Overwhelming" is a word seen often in Mugen Souls' vocabulary, and it's presented in a positive light. Ironically, the game is blissfully unaware that its faux depth is overwhelming in bad ways: the gameplay is ill-explained, none of the systems supplement each other, and the game is shrill and unrewarding. Compared to many other Japanese RPGs for the PlayStation 3, Mugen Souls is underwhelming.

The Good
Well-drawn character artwork
Some cute digs at RPG conventions
The Bad
Gameplay systems don't intersect well, and are rarely rewarding
In-game tutorials don't explain mechanics well and can't be viewed later
Field environments are boring and sparse
Space battles are much too easy
4
Poor
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Flaon
Flaon

Iv'e only been playing this game for a little while and so far the worst thing is the loading times, Gamespot do tend to pick on the "smaller" JRPG's and favour the "larger" series such as Shin Megami Tensei and Final Fantasy because god forbid they ever make a bad game, I'm looking at you Square Enix whoi have fucked up pretty much every FF game with a few exceptions like FFX, FFXII, FFIV DS and Theatrythm, the Crystal Chronicles games were meh, the FF13 series has so far been all flash and no substance, a pathetic excuse for an MMO and a half decent one, not to mention the many gawd awful iOS ports and games with again few executions, if you want an unbiased review then don't go on a game review site because these guys give CoD a good score and anyone who does that doesn't even deserve the time of day, and I completely agree about that we don't get any of the really awesome JRPG's, my guess if it's because the western society is so censor heavy that Japanese games are a little too hardcore for the western gaming populace, we can have guns and killing but a slight bit of nudity and all of a sudden it's too mature. By the way when I said Square Enix I meant Square Enix, not Squaresoft or Square, those guys could actually make good games.

advocacy
advocacy

There a tons of awesome JRPG's that will never make a U.S. release.  It's too bad that the wretched excess ends up here.

metalkitten
metalkitten

i gotta admit that when it comes to the really really jrpgs - i do not read western reviews

why bother?i found several who scored superlow to be great games

 

it doesnt mean this one is - i just got it so i have no opinion - just saying i dont look at review numbers when it comes to games like this (idea factory, compile hearts and nis - even thouigh nis got disgaea which score decent but to me disgaea is one of the best games ever made so... different taste)

 

 

Shenmue_Jehuty
Shenmue_Jehuty

Yet another example of Gamespot's hatred toward the JRPG subgenre. Gamespot has the most pathetic bunch of moron, dudebro reviewers in the industry. 

gix47
gix47

gamespot has always shown a great dislike for JRPG and Nis America.

It's a good game and if you enjoy Nis games then you will have fun with Mugen Souls. a 6.5 imo

fbgbdk4
fbgbdk4

To get the correct score, you have to multiply 4.0 by the "JRPG factor", and the result will give a new score between 5.0 and 6.0.

istuffedsunny
istuffedsunny

This is definitely nothing higher than a 6/10 but you won't find most American reviewers giving cookie cutter American games scores like that

QtrArt
QtrArt

top 1 in gamespot Wow is looking so awesome !

Lucky_Krystal
Lucky_Krystal

It makes me kind of mad when people whine that Gamespot hates JRPGs after reviews like this. I'd understand  a little outrage if GS threw out a 4/10 while everyone else is dishing out shining 8s and 9s, but that isn't the case. GS's complaints and score are pretty much the same as everyone else's. Doesn't mean they are biased against JRPGs.

 

To name a few newer ones, look at games like Persona 3, Persona 4, The Last Story, Xenoblade Chronicles, SMT: Devil Survivor 1 and 2, Final Fantasy XII, and Final Fantasy XIII, that have have been praised on this site and given solid scores equal to or even higher than the scores given to COD: Black Ops and MW3.  Now sit here and tell me with a straight face that GS hates JRPGs. 

 

If you like the game, that's cool, go ahead and buy it. I'm still going to get it. But remember that this kind of game appeals to a niche crowd INSIDE a niche crowd, meaning this game appeals to only a small crowd of people, and that not everyone is going to like it. 

Mushushu
Mushushu

I'm having quite a bit of fun with this game, however I just can't see the general populace enjoying it as much as I am.  It's very obviously targeted at a specifically niche demographic, of which there are better titles out there that service that particular crowd especially well.  Looking at the game from an objective standpoint, I couldn't see the game getting higher than a 5 or a 6.  However it's obvious that if you buy this game, it was meant for you... in which case I'd say it's definitely worth finishing at least.  Keep in mind this game was developed by Compile Heart and only published here in the west by NISA.  Although this is subjective, I find that NISA's in-house developed games are far superior than the vast majority of games produced by Compile Heart.

lokar82
lokar82

Really people, the Disgaea series has historically got 7-8 review scores so it's not like gamespot hates all JRPGs, Persona scores are always deservedly through the roof as well.  Some JRPGs are just better than others, sounds like Mugen Souls is not one of the better ones.  Some people got angry about Hyperdimension Neptunia getting low scores but almost every user and critical review I saw of that game was terrible.

AlmityGuitarist
AlmityGuitarist

Everybody whining about the review, yet no player reviews yet.

Oleg_Huzwog
Oleg_Huzwog

Reading through these comments, there seems to be a direct correlation between the likelihood of a user complaining about this review, and the likelihood of that user having an anime chick as their avatar.

feryl06
feryl06

Not sure why people are bashing the reviewer. From reading multiple reviews from varying websites, the consensus seems to be that this game subpar, or for that matter-sucks.

QtrArt
QtrArt

i see is so fun, i will buy it soon 

Barber228
Barber228

in all honesty this game isn't THAT bad, I usually don't play games like this and I think the game is pretty fun. I really don't think the game should have got a 4.

UnwantedSpam
UnwantedSpam

I sometimes wonder what happened to the good ol' days of jrpg's and anime. Before hypersexualized schoolgirls and ultra-ridiculous plotlines took over.

normpap
normpap

Hey this game is almost as good as res. 6, maybe its worth checking out

ArcticNinjaXXI
ArcticNinjaXXI

GameSpot sure loves making games seem worse than what they really are.

Xroalia
Xroalia

Ah Compile Heart, always getting terrible reviews. Gonna pick this up anyway, I've bought Compile Heart games with lower scores and loved them.

Kiigora_LoP
Kiigora_LoP

I remember a time when games didn't have tutorials. Mugen Souls'  systems are about as complex as tying your shoes.

lillywaters
lillywaters

Once again gamespot has given another poor review to a jrpg.  I wish they would get some writers who weren't just stuck on the call of duty games.  If you are a J-rpg player who doesn't need to over think, expect call of duty or typical westerner type video games this is a game you can relax and just enjoy.   When it comes to gaming your best bet is to listen to what the customers are saying not the reviewers(this is very true for the gamespot reviewers).  I have gone to other gaming sites where this game is getting 9.0 from j-rpg fans who understand this kind of game.  Games are supposed to be fun and yes at times just silly and light hatred and this is what this game brings.  The haters are going to hate and with the track record of the rating gamespot is handing out to jrpgs its clear they are a hater of j-rpgs.  If you need to wait for a used copy then do so but I would point this game out to try out for the jrpg fan.   I ended up getting the limited edition with the figures from NIS America very cute and a great add-on to my other anime figures.

Max42
Max42

I have to say that who ever reviewed this game seems to be stressing more points -ive played games form this company before -the battle system isn't very hard to figure out ive played it and other games and its rather easy to pick up and its got some funny story to go along with it.  Plus considering that fps get perfect scores i don't think i understand what your rating system is based on.  First of all i have to ask what are you judging this game on -and do you even enjoy this sort of game if you don't which im starting to think is the case with many reviews i see like this of this type of game that the problem is that people who don't like it are reviewing it.  so please let us try to be objective.   Personally i think this game is fun and enjoyable -not for everyone though, first is the battle system easy to understand yes. though i think they should have done the tutorial a little better its not hard and you can always do what we all used to do before in game tutorials -read the manual.  I know shock right.  the second problem i have is that i don't think the reviewer tired hard enough to play it the battles aren't hard and if your worried about the enemies and hitting it with your sword -thats a bonus it doesn't effect your ability to normally win a fight its for an extra at the start.  Now do i think there are some issue yes personally the enemies respawn a little on the fast side-second i do think the sword speed is a little slow but that is a difficulty possibly put in so its not abused after all if you get it every time its too easy.  As for story im enjoying laughing a lot too.  Seriously i don't know how much you played but its not much if thats all you writen personally it sounds like you played about one level of the game and left.  Its not perfect but neither is halo or call of duty but everyone throws 10s at those -personally i don't get how your ratting system works if the game is funcional fun may have a issue or 2 but if it doesn't realy stop you from enjoying a game id say so far this game is at least a solid 7 or 7.5 granted also that i consider the last couple fps games ive seen only 5 becuase there isn't anything interesting or new and its all the same old thing.

jinseinoseikou
jinseinoseikou

As this mediocre review was written, thousands of fans flocked to Mugen Souls and did something that not many people seem to do these days; they had fun, they didn't over analyze, and they didn't care two bleeps about some review written by opinionated reviews. It was also an avenue of stress relief since my mother has been going through chemotherapy. If there's any time to be having fun in a game, without overanalyzing it down to it's nitty gritty core, it's when your stressed to hell. Right now I'm glad to be playing a sub-par jrpg. And when I say sub-par, I mean the general consensus that this game, if not most of the genre, as a rated b movie equivalent in the video game world. But frankly, sometimes that's just what I need.

I've been playing some great jrpg's recently, many of which have been poorly received by big review sites.

 

If your unsure, wait for the inevitable price drop and check it out. Worst comes to worst, trade it in towards a newer, bolder, grittier jrpg that will inevitably come within a year or two.

 

  I got the collectors set. It's awesome, and I'd highly recommend it for jrpg fans who like to have a bit of fun, but don't demand too much from their games.

Leonene14
Leonene14

WOW, i mean.... wow,  what on earth is going on with jrpg's nowadays, i can't understand how in the world such a great genre could become so depraved , perverted and terrible.

 

i mean how do you go from games like the persona series, or the KH series to... this! it's sad because out of all the games i've spent the last 15 years playing, none gave me more joy then a good jrpg. Hell i could say the same for anime(but that's another subject),

 

i don;t see amazing originality or engrossing worlds that i grew up loving as a kid, no epic battles., no feeling of connection with the characters, and poor(perverted/emasculated character design) and the music my goodness what happened to the captivating music scores or the awsome/catchy j-pop/rock

 

i truly can only say the tales series have yet to disappoint as far as next gen jrpg's go(and oddly enough the rpg's that have come out on the Wii like last story.)  and square.... i expected better.

 

on a side note for Dark/Demon souls i really don't consider them "JRPG's" but a solid(FRUSTRATING!) RPG.

 

also, i'm speaking about the genre as a whole not just individual developers. 

 

i apologize if this seems a little ranty or jumbled.

DinoBuster
DinoBuster

Waiting for Nis to take some kind of clue from Dark Souls, The Last Story, or Radiant Historia. Just because your RPG is Japanese in origin, doesn't mean it has to have this trite, ultra kawaii aesthetic and narrative EVREY SINGLE TIME. I honestly can't imagine anyone other than an overly enthusiastic anime fan, who never takes off they're cat ears playing and enjoying 85% of what Nis has put out in the last 10 years.

hhsquall
hhsquall

@Flaon  

You just spoke my mind!

I bought PS2 for FFX; bought PS3 for FFXIII (at the time I was on the impression that there is no way they can go wrong with PS3 capability and FF's track record, man I was wrong!), so I am an avid FF fan, but just HATED FFXIII. But the rating says 8 to 9 everywhere! FFXIII has no gameplay, let alone replay value - to me, a (J)RPG is 70% gameplay, 20% storyline & audio, and 10% visual! 

So, What you say is exactly what is wrong with reviews of JRPG here... I have Mugen Souls and found the gameplay engaging, it maybe not a 7.5+ but it is definitely not a 4!

@Gamepot: Put someone whose interested in Japanese & anime culture to do the JRPG review, and compare them to other JRPGs  (and not just to FF & Tales series.) You know why? Because these games are usually of interested of those who like anime gimmicks and Japanese comedy.

Leboyo56
Leboyo56

@Shenmue_Jehuty Well, most reviewers have close to the same opinions, apparently. Look at the Metacritic and User Scores. It just so happens you're an outlier.

DSkinMasque
DSkinMasque

 @Lucky_Krystal If it is a good game it gets a good review. Look at the Persona titles. Also stop comparing OTHER GENRES. It doesn't really work that way love.

pcty
pcty

 @Mushushu I think CH did a fine job inHyperdimension Neptunia MkII.

tilroy
tilroy

 @feryl06 Just because a bunch of game review sites say similar things doesnt mean they are actually accurate. "Consensus" doesnt mean much.Game definitely is not worth more than an 7 but you dont see just as mediocre western games or nintendo games getting 4s/5s, this one gets more harsh criticism because it has fetishes or something.

kkxtrouble
kkxtrouble

 @feryl06 Yeah i don't get it. No reviwer seems to like it. People just see and Japanese game with a low score and they go to defend it as if it was a personal attack or something. I love my japanese games but we are far away from their prime. Still hoping for a Chrono Trigger 2 to save us all.

RyanSaotome
RyanSaotome

 @UnwantedSpam Its all about trends in anime. In the last 6 or so years, anime fans have wanted more cute girls and fanservice stuff over older 90s style anime, so JRPGs have followed suit since they are mainly played by anime fans. So in Japan, they really are enjoying these types of games, which is why they make them. On the other hand, ever since moe took over around 2006-2007, anime and jrpgs have been dying over in America... I guess Americans don't like cute girls.

ArcticNinjaXXI
ArcticNinjaXXI

 @UnwantedSpam I can agree with you on anime. Most of today's anime is crap, but JRPGs are still quite enjoyable.

Lord_Python1049
Lord_Python1049

 @normpap That's stupid logic buying a game because its a high score and not because you might like that type of game.

doc-brown
doc-brown moderator staff

 @lillywaters Do you know Heidi Kemps, at all? She is the biggest Japanese RPG fan that writes for GameSpot. 

tilroy
tilroy

 @Leonene14 one game that has fetishes that you dont like doesnt mean the entire genre is fucked. go play vesperia or something and get a clue

Kaiinel
Kaiinel

 @DinoBuster 

Mugen Souls wasn't made by NIS.

And releasing grimdark and serious shit like Dark Souls probably drive me away from NIS games. I like the niche, quirky qualities their games have.

RyanSaotome
RyanSaotome

 @DinoBuster The day that NISA goes away from being the only place to get otaku games is the day NISA loses my and many others support. They're my favorite publisher since hardly anyone else will take risks with these types of games.. I'd hate it if they just went to the same realistic or bland games everyone else does.

hhsquall
hhsquall

@Leboyo56 

It is the same thing with Metacritics. For JRPGS just search for Famitsu's rating (Mugen Souls: 31/40 -  a reasonable score).

I don't understand Western's hatred of the genre...

gamester1985
gamester1985

@Altazen @Shenmue_Jehuty

Yet another example of someone disagreeing with shenmue_jehuty because they cant accept the fact that what he/she says is the truth.

Leboyo56
Leboyo56

@DSkinMasque @Lucky_Krystal He wasn't comparing RPG's with Call of Duty and other FPS's to back up his own opinion, it was a rebuttal to the people complaining that, in their opinions, Gamespot gives low scores to JRPG's but gives every main COD relatively high ones.

sparkingconduit
sparkingconduit

 @RyanSaotome  @UnwantedSpam I think the problem is that when you say cute girls, you literally mean cute girls.  Pretty sure most Americans would feel very uncomfortable sexualizing what appears to be a 14 year old girl.

Morokoo
Morokoo

 @doc-brown  @lillywaters 

Just because she is a fan doesn't mean that her review cancels out everyone else's thoughts and opinions on the game.

doc-brown
doc-brown moderator staff

 @Morokoo  @lillywaters I was replying specifically to this: "I wish they would get some writers who weren't just stuck on the call of duty games."

Mugen Souls More Info

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  • First Released
    • PS3
    Mugen Souls features a free-roaming battle map, turn-based combat, and massive amounts of customization and growth.
    6.3
    Average User RatingOut of 43 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Mugen Souls
    Developed by:
    Compile Heart, GCREST
    Published by:
    Compile Heart, NIS America
    Genres:
    Role-Playing
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Fantasy Violence, Language, Mild Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes