By: Matthew Striplen
I’m a weird dude and because of that, I like weird things. Anything kooky or just plain bizarre will usually get my attention, so when I saw a tiny anime girl fighting with a huge coffin on her back, I was intrigued. Soon after starting up the game, I was greeted with a short but thoroughly overwhelming music video. I like strange stuff, but when your definition of weird includes material Pedobear would love, I believe things have gone too far.
Most of the controls are fairly straightforward. The combat sequences are easy to navigate, and the cut scenes have a few very welcome additions. In most JRPGs, the player must advance through each line of text manually, but Mugen Souls Z allows the game to automatically scroll ahead. Major points for this convenient inclusion. The game also allows you to skip cut scenes entirely.
Unfortunately, traversing the overworld is awkward. The camera moves too slow, and manually controlling doesn’t help, either. A good deal of time is spent in the overworld, so frustrations are sure to mount.
Where to begin? The graphic quality is very subpar. Textures are grainy or plain. Character designs look cheap, simplified and blocky. Even the cut scenes are unimpressive. The environments are unimaginative, and the frame rate while traversing the world is disappointingly low. Many female characters are uncomfortably sexualized, especially since almost all of them look to be pre-pubescent.
The sound effects meet a similar fate. The soundtrack itself, while not poorly composed, uses a very low quality synthesizer. Voice acting is mediocre at best, with many sections lack acting altogether. However, the game gives the player the option to switch between English and Japanese voices. Many voices are obnoxious or overdone as well. An especially egregious example is when Reu cries. It’s just awful.
Mugen Souls Z is a bizarre hodgepodge of combat and game styles. The majority of the game is spent in cut scenes, listening to (or reading) dialogue, meaning this is a very text-heavy experience. Although being text heavy is not necessarily a negative quality, the writing here is very poor.
The numerous characters are zany, constantly cracking unfunny jokes or participating in equally unfunny situations. Most of the time, these scenes don’t give the player information about what is actually happening. The characters’ drawings in the cut scenes are mostly static with sparse animation primarily to simulate speech. Sometimes, when an important character speaks to a generic NPC, the developers don’t even bother to show the NPC on screen. Also, the cut scenes contain several action sequences, none of which are actually shown, only described.
When not in cut scenes, your party will roam around an overworld. Enemies infinitely spawn at set locations, but they can be avoided if you move fast enough. To engage an enemy, simply run into them, although you can gain a tactical advantage if you hit them with your weapon before transporting to the battle screen.
The melee battle system is by far the most interesting element in Mugen Souls Z. Your party will deploy in an arena along with your opponent. Even though battles occur in a strict turn-based format, characters can freely roam around. Crystals also appear, which grant any number of different perks within a small area. Unfortunately, most of the battles are too easy to be of much interest.
Each character has a set number of abilities, but the main protagonist, Syrma, possess several unique ones. The most important is Captivate. The goal of Captivation is to convert an enemy into an ally or “peon.” This is where things get weird. To increase the chance of successful Captivation, Syrma must figure out the fetish of the targeted enemy.
These fetishes can range from Sadism and Masochism, to more random attributes like Hyper or Terse. Once a fetish is selected, Syrma transforms into an embodiment of the attribute, complete with revealing outfits. This is especially uncomfortable because she doesn’t look old enough to drive, let alone vote, if you catch my drift.
She then strikes a series of poses to entice the foe, paired with supposedly seductive catch phrases. Keep in mind, most enemies are beasts or monsters, but don’t think too much about it. That’s just gross. Oh, you can also seduce the very planet upon which you reside, because why the hell wouldn’t you want to insinuate bumping uglies with a planet?
As I roamed the overworld, numerous problems presented themselves. I encountered a number of invisible walls near buildings, which is a product of poor programming. In order to progress the story, the player must find a series of floating symbols, the placement of which seems totally arbitrary. The problem I have with this mechanic is that the symbol is just a placeholder that lacks real context to the situation at hand.
Another odd addition is the inclusion of the spaceship G-Castle. This serves as a base of operations. By the way, G-Castle bears a striking resemblance to a Megazord from Power Rangers. A separate combat system is used when onboard. Since most of Mugen Souls Z has a fantasy-esque RPG feel, the futuristic mecha seems a little out of place. This new combat system is also considerably less interesting.
Between the distracting story, technical problems and its sheer randomness, Mugen Souls Z is a bit too much to handle. Perhaps this game is targeted at a Japanese audiences, but this does not excuse the bad writing or graphics. Although the non-G-Castle combat system is intriguing, it too becomes repetitive.
The Captivation mechanic also holds plenty of promise, but the awkward inclusion of sexual fetishes combined with very young looking girls made me feel uncomfortable. If you’re looking for a hardcore JRPG with a great story, I would look elsewhere.