Gaming often takes itself entirely too seriously. There aren’t enough games that embrace ridiculous, silly ideas and run with them without coming across as shallow and one-note. Mugen Souls Z half succeeds at this; its opening scene includes a spaceship transforming into a giant robot for an epic space battle and it only gets weirder from there. It just gets in its own way far too often for anyone to enjoy the silliness.
A sequel to 2012’s Mugen Souls, Mugen Souls Z first made its way to consoles a year later. Now fans can dive into this endearingly strange world as Chou-Chou, the so-called undisputed goddess who captured seven worlds in the first game, sets her adorable sights on a new set of worlds to conquer. This time, though, she’s been stripped of her powers so a new goddess named Syrma has to throw other deities into a mysterious coffin to drain away their powers.
Like we said, the story is weird. In fact, one of the biggest problems with Mugen Souls Z is how incomprehensible the plot is. There are so many characters that are introduced in such a short amount of time that they all become reduced to the paper-thin anime stereotypes they embody. Add in the fact that the first several hours of the game are walls of text punctuated by the occasional battle in an open but barren world and it is difficult to get to the parts of the game that are entertaining. By the time we got to use some of the mechanics from the earliest tutorials, we had been playing for five hours and completely forgot how to use them.
The worst culprit of this is the G-Castle, which doubles as both a home base and a giant fighting robot that you can ride into space battles. These sequences might just be an elaborate game of rock-paper-scissors where you try to guess what the enemy will do and counter it, but they are fun to watch and simple enough that you can largely sit back and enjoy them.
It’s a shame that the plot is so weak because the combat system is a good blend of strategy and turn-based, with position on the battlefield playing a key factor. Your party, which is made up of a mix of new characters and returning faces from the first game, is plonked down on a battle map when they make contact with the enemies roaming the world map.
From there, they can move around as they wish so long as they don’t try to extend past their severely limited movement. It isn’t uncommon for the first round of combat to just be groups moving toward each other. There are crystals scattered around the map that give buffs or debuffs, so finding the sweet spot between enemies and multiple crystals can be hugely rewarding.
Your party members have their basic attack and a collection of special skills to wear down the many enemies you'll encounter in each world. The power scale in Mugen Souls Z is tilted toward the obscene, with late-game attacks dealing billions of points of damage, particularly if you’ve used the crafting system effectively throughout. There are group skills that combine the power of different characters depending on your party makeup. Though the graphics are dated by 10 years and two console generations, it is still fun to watch how utterly broken the game can be if you spend the time to grind and unlock the best equipment. Many of the attacks are wonderfully stylised and fun to watch play out.
The Switch remake is remarkably faithful to the original. In addition to slightly upgraded visuals, fans of ecchi material will be pleased to know that this new version is uncensored. That means that there are several still images of the female characters taking baths and a minigame where you scrub them with soap between quests, both of which had been removed in the game’s previous Western release.
Don’t get too excited, though – these characters are far more cute than sexy. The anime style is decidedly moe, something that it goes out of its way to remind you of throughout the game. Despite the occasional bathtub scene sprinkled in, this is not meant to be a titillating game. It is an RPG with a shockingly deep crafting system just waiting for you to exploit to become an unstoppable force among these new worlds. If you hear the word 'uncensored' and think that is going to be the focus of Mugen Souls Z, you’re going to be disappointed. Even the Captivate System, which allows Syrma to recruit monsters by using a Fetish Pose, is only superficially sexual.
When it is mentioned, sex is usually the subject of ridicule in the dialogue, but there is just so much dialogue that it is hard to enjoy the good writing that is there. Some cutscenes last upwards of 30 minutes, with a parade of characters and a stream of dialogue on static drawings. If this were a visual novel, we would be more forgiving but neither the characters nor the story is strong enough to justify the long gaps between getting to play the fun bits of the game.
The main story of Mugen Souls Z will take around 60 hours to complete, but this is a game that is made for players eager to dive into the crafting and Peon systems to reach the absurd level cap and unleash silly amounts of damage. Casual RPG fans are going to struggle with the underwhelming story and sluggish pacing, but, if you can handle the reams of text and weak story, and invest the 100-plus hours it takes to unlock everything, this might be the hidden gem you’ve been looking for.
The good points of Mugen Souls Z are certainly there, but it does its best to keep them from you for entirely too long. With a tutorial that drags on for hours, a frustratingly repetitive plot, and walls of dialogue that feel endless, only the most dedicated fan will have the patience to enjoy the game. Unless you love grinding and crafting more than plot, this is probably one you should avoid.