I was raised on the mantra that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Unfortunately, this is quite a difficult thing to do if you’re a reviewer. Bearing this in mind, the best thing I can say about Mugen Souls Z is that it’s a fairly solid JRPG. Mechanically it ticks all the boxes: turn-based combat, exploration, hundreds of items, and character customisation. But while the components are all present, they’re not all welcome.
Combat is turn-based, with real-time movement around the battlefield preceding action choice, be it an attack, a skill (ie. Magic), defending or using an item, all set to a turn meter in the top right of the screen. So far so generic, then. The standout feature is the ability to “Captivate” opponents, turning them into little fluffy Shampurus that power your space-ship/transformer, the G-Castle, which is used to fight other ships in a separate battle system. Successfully captivating an enemy also provides a bonus on the battlefield if there are any enemies left, such as dealing damage or healing allies, for example.
Captivating itself revolves around picking a “Fetish Pose”, such as Sadist or Masochist, then picking three poses that the enemy in question will like. These range from a hug, to the main character Syrma bending over until she shows her underwear while moaning “I’m sorry.”
And this is the main issue with Mugen Souls Z. Sex in games itself isn’t necessarily a problem. Rarely is it done well – in fact nothing springs to mind – but at least the characters aren’t the children that Mugen Souls Z exploits. I know it’s a manga style to have ridiculously proportioned women who happen to look like little girls, but Mugen Souls Z acknowledges that these are all prepubescent girls while they are having a naked steam bath together with several men present. “Artful” placement of steam stops the game short of actual paedophilia, but I still had to play it with the curtains closed in case passers-by called the police. You could argue that these girls, despite their looks, are all ageless Goddesses, but the terminology used to describe them is hard to look positively upon.
The sexualisation is constant as well. Those Fetish Poses I mentioned? Well they change Syrma’s dress: the Sadist outfit is an open trench coat, a bra, tiny knickers and fishnets held up on suspenders. Early in the story, the Undisputed God Chou-Chou is pseudo-raped by a mystical coffin that steals all her powers, all the while she is crying, and I quote; “A bunch of things just came and they’re all drippy and gooey and squirming and… nooo… Gross, gross GROOOSSS!!!” Meanwhile, her main male manservant gets a “nosebleed” after moaning like a pornstar. And, in case you missed the subtle sexuality here, another character tells him he “Needs to wipe this mess up”, while a fourth pretty much yells “Phrasing” like Sterling Archer.
Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, I was talking about the mechanics. Well the exploration is poor, for a start. You’re forced to traipse from one end of a world to another multiple times between cut-scenes, in apparently-open-world-but-actually-linear-areas put to shame by the original Spyro the Dragon. At least the different worlds are varied, with a Medieval town followed by an electronic plaza.
The story is a bit of a mess, too. The Undisputed God Chou-Chou has gotten bored with her seven worlds from the first game and has set out to conquer twelve new ones. Almost straight away she accidentally loses her powers to one of the Ultimate Gods, Syrma, and it becomes a quest to regain her powers, with Symra’s help, by defeating the twelve Ultimate Gods, one on each world.
It doesn’t help that all dialogue is delivered via static pictures of the characters talking, only some of which is voiced. It means hammering X to get through ten minutes of dialogue before you get any action. But at least these bits look good, as the engine that runs the third-person combat and exploration could be a relic from the PS2 days.
VERDICT: Mugen Souls Z is a bland, generic JRPG. The only thing that makes it stand out from the crowd is the rampant sex that runs through it. Personally I found it distasteful; games are better than this, and Mugen Souls Z is the precise reason why the entire medium gets viewed as juvenile. If you like JRPGs you could probably do worse – nothing about it is broken – but you could also do a hell of a lot better.
POOR. Games tagged 4/10 will be playable, perhaps even enjoyable, but will be let down by a slew of negative elements that undermine their quality and value. Best avoided by any but hardcore genre fans.
Review code provided by publisher.