What do you get when you mix heroes, demons, giant robots and goddesses? If you guessed something Japanese, you'd be right. Mugen Souls Z aims straight for the heart of otaku culture, almost to the point of parody. Can a game that's so intentionally over-the-top be a crowd pleaser? In this case, the answer is yes.
The battle system in Mugen Souls Z is an interesting take on the standard turn-based JRPG formula. When your turn comes around, you can move within a limited range to choose which enemy within your area you can attack, the interesting twist, however is the crystals.
Each field has crystals of varying size scattered about. These crystals can have either favorable or adverse effects, meaning it can behoove you to get close, or try to trick your enemies into getting near while keeping your distance.
The main character, the goddess Syrma also has the ability to charm opponents, turn them into items, or, in the event she fails, give them a rage-induced boost to all their stats. If you successfully charm your opponent, they'll become your peon, and more peons means more power for your giant robot, and who doesn't love giant robots?
In Mugen Souls Z, your castle can transform into a giant robot, because why not. Using G-castle to battle various space-faring enemies is simple but great fun. The battles are less strategic, and more a game of predicting your enemy's next move out of four possibilities. You have your standard attack, two types of shields which can absorb and convert attacks, and a piercing attack designed to shatter shields. Guess correctly and you can deal huge damage.
It's a simple enough system, but one that's fun nonetheless.
Of all the RPGs I've played, Mugen Souls Z is the only one I can recall that offered stages with the same objective. In each world, Syrma must travel between what are called Planet Spots, fulfilling their requests (usually for an item, or to be charmed by a series of Syrma's fetish poses) in order to make the planet of her (or Chou-Chou's, depending on how you look at it) peons.
Once a planet has been made your peon, you will eventually encounter that planet's Ultimate God, whom you must defeat before Syrma can throw them in her coffin and make their power her own.
It's a refreshing difference from many RPGs available in that it's almost on-rails, as it were. It makes Mugen Souls Z an ideal RPG to pick up for those like me that just don't have a lot of time to play in one sitting, or possibly even for those that just don't like RPGs due to exploration factor present in so many.
Mugen Souls Z's cast is interesting, to say the least. There's a wide assortment of types in The Undisputed God Chou-Chou's crew, all of whom have their own strange fetishes and weaknesses for one of Syrma's fetish-based personalities.
The personalities on offer include bipolar (called tsundere in the Japanese version), ditzy, hyper, masochistic, terse and sadistic. Each enemy, as well as some of the game's Planet Spots have an affinity to one of these personality types meaning Syrma can charm them more easily if she's in that form.
Banter between the various characters can be entertaining at times, and watching them— especially with Japanese voices on— feels like watching anime. In that sense, Mugen Souls Z succeeds without question.
At its core, Mugen Souls Z is a fairly simple game. All the stages follow a basic formula, the battle system is what you would expect from a JRPG and the whole game is driven by a story. The further you progress, however, the more you uncover.
There are various systems bolted onto the base game, most of which don't really add or subtract anything the end product. If it's existed in an RPG, it's probably found its way into Mugen Souls Z in some way, shape or form.
Weapon crafting? Check. Weapon customization? Check. Custom character creator? Yep. Battle arenas? You got 'em. Strange battle systems? All here. You'll be halfway through the entire game and still be getting hit with what the game calls overwhelming tutorials. They probably couldn't have named these more aptly, some of these systems (including one that allows you to bat enemies around the field as though it were a pinball game) were so hard for me to keep track of, I found myself forgetting how to make use of them by the end.
These system don't really detract much from the game, and some are going to undoubtedly like them and use them to their full potential. For the vast majority of players, however, these systems will fall by the wayside, meaning they won't add much to the game, either.
As I mentioned before, the characters of Mugen Souls Z are charming in their own way, but too much of a good thing can be bad, and this game pushes that limit. You can spend 20 minutes listening to the characters have conversations that barely move the plot forward between chapters.
It's just rough and you'll find yourself wanting to just push through these scenes to get back to the game, and that's just a spot you don't want to find yourself stuck in.
Mugen Souls Z is a simple RPG that aspires to be more, but ultimately doesn't quite get there. But that doesn't really matter, the core game is absolutely fun and reminds me of some of my favorite games of the Dreamcast era. Mugen Souls Z has enough interesting characters, and simple, straight-forward enough objectives to have something for everyone that can get past the gratuitous jiggling breasts and bathhouse scenes that come part and parcel with the moe characters.