The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
With a lull in the traditional RPG genre, this is the perfect time for niche series to captivate new audiences. Mugen Souls has that potential, but then totally eviscerates it by trying to do too much. From the battle system to the character personalities, everything is dialed up to 11, and not for the better.
Multiple personalities are tricky. Just ask main character, Chou Chou, who is set on dominating seven disparate worlds and combining them into one super continent. She’s sassy and she changes her personality on the fly to charm others into being her peons. Obviously, the game doesn’t take itself seriously; the characters are kooky, outlandish, and openly talk about their sexual fetishes. If that sounds like your type of party, then Mugen Souls definitely caters to your interests.
While seeing characters show some levity is refreshing, the majority of the jokes lack wit, and plenty of the dialogue feels like filler. That being said, characters building a close camaraderie is Mugen Souls’ most interesting dynamic – they’re a memorable bunch. Unfortunately, they’re so over-the-top, it often leaves them more off-putting than charming.
Compile Heart, Mugen Souls’ developer, is known for creating extremely convoluted battle systems, and Mugen Souls definitely follows suit with its turn-based combat. The game overwhelms by throwing plenty on you from the get-go; in fact, just when you think you’ve got things figured out, another new aspect is unveiled. If these systems were fun and worthwhile, I wouldn’t have a problem. But as it stands, most don’t add value to the gameplay. They just tack on unnecessary options that aren’t deal-breakers for winning, instead of providing fun new additions to battles.
Some of these systems are also flat-out broken. Moe kills, where you try to charm the enemy using one of Chou Chou’s multiple personalities for bonuses, follow an unpredictable pattern. You choose dialogue responses to charm enemies and match Chou Chou’s personality to the enemy’s to up your success rate. The issue? Say their personality type is sadist. You’d think being callous would win them over, but if they’re in a bad mood, you’re actually supposed to be nice to them. The mismatch doesn’t make much sense, but I found it hard to successfully charm enemies even when following their mood as the game instructs you.
A similar frustration occurs with ship battles, which are a game of rock, paper, scissors. Here, you must correctly anticipate your enemy’s next move by their dialogue cues. Initially I loved this mode, but after the third battle, the ship battles stop following a dialogue pattern. Sometimes an enemy would repeat the same dialogue response, but perform a different action. These become matches more about trial-and-error than an opportunity to strategize appropriately. The pill is hard to swallow because these gameplay ideas aren’t awful. They’d be fun if they functioned well, but that’s far from the case. To add insult to injury, Mugen Souls requires a significant grind, and with the broken battle system this stings tenfold.
Some ideas here might have worked well if the developers had honed in on a few systems to perfect. Instead, the game throws so many overwhelming systems at you that many get lost in the shuffle. As much as I like to root for the underdog and want to see niche games catapult to new heights, Mugen Souls needs so much refining that I can’t cheer it on.
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.