The original Mugen Souls game was… not my favorite. But hey, that’s okay! That’s what sequels are for, right? Compile Heart has been able to come back from this before, making substantial improvements to the Hyperdimension Neptunia series of games for example. While I’m not quite ready to render judgment on the game just yet, I can say that Mugen Souls Z has made some beneficial tweaks to the core game, which is certainly a good thing. Here are my thoughts based on the first couple of chapters:
1. The game begins seemingly right after the previous one, with Chou-Chou having successfully bent the seven worlds to her will. She now flies on G-Castle with her peon army to a new region of the universe, containing twelve worlds for her to conquer. After touching down on one of these worlds, she encounters the hero, Nao, who had just released the Ultimate God Syrma from her casket prison. Upon making short work of both of them in battle, Chou-Chou unwittingly stumbles into the coffin, draining all of her power, and shrinking her down to the size of a marshmallow. Syrma theorizes that if she traps the other gods in her casket that Chou-Chou’s power will leak out and she’ll become whole again. Thus, their adventure begins.
2. The tutorials are presented in a more accessible manner than before, as the first few encounters introduce you to the mechanics, while a simple menu describes how they work in a concise and non-confusing manner. If you forget anything, the menus can be pulled up at any time for reference.
3. Ship to ship battles involving the G-Castle makes a return, employing the familiar rock-paper-scissors gameplay that became a core part of the Mugen Souls experience. As before, you select an action based on what you think the enemy is going to do, and guessing correctly can deal mega damage while potentially walking away unscathed yourself.
4. The standard combat is much the same as it was before as well, with a few notable improvements. Your characters still have a certain radius to move around in during their turn, allowing them to approach enemies or get within range of various crystals. Unlike before, the crystal effects are readily known and their range is visible with varied colored circles. You don’t have to spend time trying to use Moe Kill on them either.
5. While you don’t technically control Chou-Chou anymore (but rather Syrma with Chou-Chou riding on her head), the ability to transform hasn’t gone away. In the previous game, you could take on one of seven different personalities in order to please a particular person’s… uh… fetish, and it would make turning them into a peon that much easier. After you’ve selected a persona to adopt, Syrma can perform a move at the beginning of each turn where she chooses three poses to display to any surrounding enemies. Depending on their reception of it, they can either transform into peons, items, or become enraged. Unlike before, it’s much easier to determine the outcome, since each pose has visual bars illustrating which direction their mood is going to take.
6. Speaking of peons, they’re still a core part of the experience. When you defeat or enslave enemies, they become your peons in the form of Shampurus, a form of unintelligible bondage rabbit that follows your every whim. The more you have, the more powerful your G-Castle is during ship to ship battles, plus it powers up the Peon Ball move. In fact, it’s not even referred to as a Peon Ball anymore, as the time that I used it had Chou-Chou emerging from the coffin in a ball of energy and creating a cyclone around her, though it’s a devastating move all the same.
7. Mugen Souls Z is presented in much the same manner as its predecessor, with the story told primarily with text boxes and still images that occasionally move their mouth flaps. Since many of the characters return, a lot of the characters and the voices are the same, with some battle quips even being reused from before. If this is your second outing, you should feel right at home.
8. While the first chapter is primarily setup as a tutorial to introduce you to as many mechanics as possible, the flow of the second chapter seems very similar to the first game. As you explore a world, you are bombarded by randomly spawning enemies on your way to the next checkpoint, where a cutscene unlocks. At some point, you’re asked to do battle with one of the gods, sometimes more than once. During your pursuit, you’ll have to enslave the land as well, performing such tasks as bringing items or doing one of Syrma’s infamous poses. I haven’t progressed far enough into the other chapters to know if this pattern continues, but if the early going is any indication, fans should again be in their comfort zone. Oh, and the R1 button acts as a shortcut to use items that can be activated to prevent encounters temporarily, which is a neat addition. Cutscenes can be skipped with R2.
9. The G-Castle has a few shops open, as well as other amenities that unlock as you get further in the game. Weapon and item shops are available for upgrading gear, plus there’s a bathhouse that can apply temporary stat boosts to your characters while you’re exploring one of the worlds. I expect other features, such as Mugen Field, to unlock as well, though I hadn’t yet reached that point at the time of this writing.
10. Upon defeating one of the gods, Syrma traps them in her coffin and absorbs their powers, which in turn grants her new abilities in the field. The first one I defeated gave me the ability to jump, which seems like a minor thing (and Chou-Chou certainly plays it off as such), but it allows access to treasure and such that simply walking couldn’t do for me. This gives incentive to to revisit older worlds in order to claim new and better items, though it remains to be seen what the newer abilities will be.
I’ve barely just scratched the surface of the game, but I already like the new characters more than the original cast, and a lot the mechanics that needed updating have certainly gotten that. There’s still a lot to see, not just in the story department, but how some of the returning features that have not been introduced are being implemented. Keep an eye out for the full review!
Mugen Souls Z releases on May 20th for the PlayStation 3, and it comes in two flavors: standard and limited editions. The latter is at less than 25% stock over at NISA’s online store, so get it while you still can!