E3 2012 Impressions: Mugen Souls (Sony PlayStation 3)

As much as I like the Disgaea games, I sometimes think of how nice it would be if the humorous over-the-top nature of the games can be applied to a more traditional RPG setting. And wouldn’t you know it, come this fall, the folks at Idea Factory and NIS America are going to deliver.

As you might imagine from Idea Factory’s previous works, the term “traditional” doesn’t exactly describe the RPG mechanics at work here. All the same, you play as the self-centered goddess Chou-Chou in her conquest to conquer seven different worlds. In doing so, she aims to make the residents of the various worlds her peons and be the undisputed goddess amongst all of the worlds. The description of her character is very reminiscent of that of Laharl though the key difference is that she can change her persona during battle. By doing so, she not only changes her appearance and general demeanor (from what I can tell), but her abilities as well. She’s basically your wild card character that can complement any set of peons that you decide to bring into battle with you.

I had an opportunity to sample the gameplay a bit (though the build I played didn’t have the menus completely translated yet), and from what I can tell, it progresses similarly to most JRPG’s that have been done in the past. You navigate an area filled with monsters that will initiate a battle once they come into contact with you. That’s where most of the similarities to RPG’s of recent years end. Once in battle, your characters as well as the enemies are littered around the field and each turn you are allowed to move about the map. The area that you can move in is limited by a circle surrounding your character’s starting point and your range of attack is similarly limited by its own circle. Probably the closest parallel I can think of in terms of how this works is Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria or even more strategy based games like Sakura Wars.

If you initiate an attack on an enemy and one of your comrades happens to be within your range as well, you can perform team attacks that can consist of anywhere between two characters or your whole party. And they seem to change up at random too. One time, my characters stacked on top of one another in a tower formation, picked up the enemy, and began spinning end over end while the enemy’s body deflected random objects (like soccer balls of all things), dealing damage all the while. They’re incredibly entertaining to watch, though if you tire of the animations, you do have the option to skip them as well.

While most battles can play out as simply as that, it’s really just scratching the surface. For the more hardcore RPG crowd, there are more variables that can be tinkered with, such as the ability to influence the emotions of your enemies. Things like making them upset will make them more difficult to kill, thus leading to more experience, or you can make them friendly towards you and even end the battle without a fight. You’ll also find crystals lining the battlefield and in the air, which you can smack enemies into and have them ping pong around like a pinball machine, leading to better rewards. And let’s not forget the Disgaea-like ability to inflict billions upon billions of damage in a single combo move. There are also plans to include airship battles as well, but they weren’t playable in the E3 version of the demo. If they’re anything like Skies of Arcadia though, they should make for a fun addition.

I’m a sucker for customization, so I was delighted to hear that the final game will also allow you to completely customize your characters, right down to the outfits they wear. You can also change the voice for the characters as well as pitch. The voice modification is only confirmed so far for the Japanese dub, however, though there will be an option for English voices in the final game.

I only got a mere taste of the full product, but what I’ve seen of it so far looks right up my alley. A turn-based JRPG aimed at both the casual and hardcore audiences, but with the art style of Takehito Harada and insanity of Disgaea. So far, 2012 has been a great year for RPG’s and I expect Mugen Souls to be more than capable of carrying that torch.

Look for Mugen Souls on September 18th for PlayStation 3.



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