Despite a great legacy set by a renowned publisher, NIS America has been having some difficulty getting it’s less-known titles off the ground. Some titles are excellent and deserve recognition for various reason, while others are what one might consider dead on arrival. Mugen Souls Z might not be exactly dead on arrival, but it feels lifeless enough at times that it should be.
Taking place shortly after the original title of the series, players continue in the same universe as before, but not as original protagonist Chou-Chou. Players are introduced to the “Ultimate God” Syrma, who is in a frantic search for her 11 other incarnations to help restore herself to her true form. Somehow, this is supposed to save the universe. If the main character doesn’t seem interesting to you with that synopsis, then you won’t like much of the game’s characters or plot. Mugen Souls Z is completely ridden with cliché and uninteresting plot points and characters. The narration of the game just serves to take you from one set-piece to the next without a good intellectual reason behind it.
Mugen Souls Z wants me to take it seriously, but I can’t. If the plot wasn’t bad enough, the conversations will definitely are. Despite the fact that Mugen Souls Z does contain a rather large cast of characters, nothing seems to contribute to the story. Everyone seems to fit the stereotypical personality that stereotypical JRPGs contain. Ditzy heroine, the young male character with a short temper, pervy characters, and more. If you can think of it, it’s there for better or worse.
When not combing through conversations or cinematics, you get to attempt and enjoy the battle system. I say attempt because it’s not truly enjoyable. It does absolutely nothing different compared to recent JRPG games. Conception II, a game I reviewed just a few short months ago, is obviously present here as you do battle positioning the exact same way in Mugen Souls Z as you do in Conception II. You position yourself around an enemy, be it their front, back, or one of their sides, and then strike. Based on where you are positioned and the enemy you are fighting, you can do critical damage. There are Linked Skills which allow you to do some ridiculous things alongside the ridiculous amount of damage that comes with it, but it’s not enough to save the battle system. Once you have a strategy set up early game, you’ll more than likely stick with it throughout the rest of the title.
Also similar to Conception II is that there is a follower system where you have individuals you can create or obtain follow you around. In Conception II, they were your children. In Mugen Souls Z, you have “peons” that you can enslave. You can find peons with different abilities, or create your own. While the options are limitless and actually somewhat interesting, it’s not enough to get this game back on it’s feet.
When it comes to the artistic side of this title, it’s a mixed bag. The graphics are hard-drawn, sharp, and nice to look at. Polygon characters used for combat are actually nice to look at alongside their fluid animations. Backgrounds, environments, and UI aren’t as well crafted though. Bland and very uninspired, these items fall flat. Then there is the soundtrack, which can easily be the make-or-break part of a JRPG. No one enjoys grinding in a JRPG to a terrible song. Sadly, Mugen Souls Z isn’t terrible but it’s too incredibly upbeat for anyone to truly enjoy. I was tempted to go into options and turn down the music volume from time to time.
While Mugen Souls Z does aspire to be a great sequel, it doesn’t hold up well. It feels like they wanted to keep the same universe and same cast, but provide a whole new experience for players. This strategy could have worked if they didn’t through the narrative out the window and go with the “everyone likes to battle” thought process. The mechanic of making a party out of peons can be enjoyable and might even increase replayability, but I would be hard pressed to find someone who actually wants to replay this title.