Monday, 23 June 2014

Mugen Souls Z

You gottta hand it to Compile Heart, as they're one of the few developers that are huge supporters of the PS Vita. You see, the PS Vita hasn't sold amazingly well so far, which is pretty surprising as it's a fantastic little, yet powerful hand-held. So with that in mind, Sony need more supporters like Compile Heart, which are developers who will stick with a product to the bitter end. This is what I believe Compile Heart are also hoping to do with the PS3 which, despite still being a big seller, is slow but surely being edged out by the PS4. It's not dead yet by a long shot, but it's on that slope of being phased out. Now Compile Heart are once again offering up some goodness for Sony's every growing arsenal of gaming treats.

Developed by Compile Heart and out now on PS3 comes Mugen Souls Z, an RPG that might satisfy the anime enthusiast in you. Mugen Souls Z is a direct sequel to Mugen Souls, which was released on the PS3 back in 2012, and opens up focusing on Chou-Chou, the protagonist of the first game. As seen in the original Mugen Souls, Chou-Chou's life goal is to rule all the seven worlds. With that goal still in mind at the start of Mugen Souls Z, Chou-Chou finds herself on a new planet and comes face to face with Nao, a treasure hunter. His latest find is an old coffin, a prize that Chou-Chou wants for herself. However, inside the coffin is “ultimate goddess” Syrma. In a surprising turn of events, Chou-Chou is miniaturised and made powerless, while the player is then given control of the sleeping beauty, Syrma. Now, with Chou-Chou merely acting as a bite-sized supporting character, you must go on a quest in the role of Syrma to help Chou-Chou reclaim her powers. The story is cute and light hearted, and its cast of characters reflect that sentiment perfectly. If you're looking for a grimdark or even slightly emotional RPG here... look elsewhere. Mugen Souls Z is painfully aware of how fluffy and cute it is, but hell, it works.

Mugen Souls Z's gameplay is nothing new, and could easily be described as a balance between exploration and battling. That isn't to say it's not good, but we've seen it all before. The battle system in place is exactly what you'd expect from any self-respecting Japanese RPG, and once a creature is encountered, a battle kicks off. The player can use four characters at once during any given battle, though upon a team member’s death a more capable comrade can replace them. It's a turn-based affair, which ticks all the usual boxes, but Mugen Souls Z does have a few tricks up its sleeve that prevents it from becoming boring. Those tricks come in various forms, with the best one being that, when it's your turn in battle, you can move your character within a certain radius. This isn't just a throwaway gameplay mechanic, as where you stay for your turn will dictate both who you are able to attack, or who is able to attack you. Another nice addition is the use of items that add buffs and debuffs to characters within a certain area, as opposed to the usual RPG tactic of such items merely effecting one team member. This puts an interesting spin on gameplay, and though it doesn't stop Mugen Souls Z from being a little mediocre, it certainly adds a fresh element to gameplay. 

Outside of the main mission there's also a few side-quests to enjoy. These come in the form of different worlds that will test your battle skills. Whether it's placing Syrma in a tournament-like scenario in which she must battle creature after creature, or worlds that test more specific battle skills, Mugen Souls Z has a lot to offer outside of the main story missions. In fact, you also get to take command of G-Castle, your home/gigantic intergalactic robot, and fight other giant robots in epic space battles. It's like watching an episode of Power Rangers, complete with the awful, crappy acting. Awesome!

Visually Mugen Souls Z is alarmingly reminiscent to almost every other game in Compile Heart's history, but is ultimately a delight to behold. The graphics are understated yet stylised, while the level, character and creature designs are brim full of charm and wit. Strangely enough, the worlds I found myself in during Mugen Souls Z reminded me of Spyro the Dragon. There's just something so quaint and lovable about them that I just fell in love with its world.

Overall Mugen Souls Z is very fun, but it just doesn't do enough new to warrant a better score. Everything from the battle system to the exploration aspect of the game just feels a little rushed, as if Compile Heart merely built upon the original Mugen Souls a little. That said, if this kind of game is your bag, you'll have a lot of fun!

Miniaturise your expectations and you'll love it, but Mugen Souls Z gets a 3/5.


Denis Murphy

Mugen Soul Z at CeX

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