Games in which sex is a focus of the appeal always seem to fall short in my experience. There are a few exceptions (Ar Tonelico 2 comes to mind), but more often than not if you hear a lot about the sexiness of a Japanese game before it launches then the rest of it isn't going to hold up to the usual standard. Sadly, Mugen Souls falls squarely in that group.
Mugen Souls is the story of Chou-Chou, the self-proclaimed undisputed God of the universe. A whim sends her on a trans-galactic journey to take over seven worlds she saw glinting in the distance not too long ago. Along with her number one peon Ryuto and a demon-forcibly-turned-angel Altis she sets out to make those planets hers. It's a pretty crazy story all told through talking heads with minimal animation and a whole lot of dialogue, which usually details what just happened without doing anything drastic like presenting it visually. The voice acting is reasonably well done and none of the vocals annoy, but all too often dialogue goes unvoiced, which takes some of the punch out of the comedy. Overall, Chou-Cou's quest is pretty poorly presented and tells a story that, while humorous, isn't funny enough to make up for what it lacks elsewhere.
While she may call herself a God, Chou-Chou's powers are actually pretty limited and yet amazing at the same time. She has the power of Moe (cuteness) and if she can exploit a person's little fetishes and preferences they'll become her servants forever more. Not everyone is into domineering little know-it-alls, but Chou-Chou has a simple yet totally impossible solution: seven different forms. That's right, Chou Chou's most God-like power is the ability to switch between seven different versions of herself and she's got one for every type of person she might want to command. There are the more standard preferences like ditzy, graceful, or terse gothic girls to the more fetish-like masochistic and sadistic girls. These forms aren't just a plot device, though, they're also a large part of the gameplay.
Battles are done in a turn-based, vaguely SRPG style where each character has a certain distance they can move before attacking or using a skill, and the action they take determines their position in line for the next turn. Each character has unique skills but Chou-Chou has by far the most powerful one with her Moe kill ability. During her turn you can press square to enter in three enticing phrases to try turn the enemies in range into your peons. If you say the right things using the correct form you can either turn them into your peons, turn them into extra items, or mess it all up and they'll be even more powerful than before. It's a bit like some of the Shin Megami Tensei games where you try to negotiate with your enemies, but why some responses work better than others is based on the monster's mood and it never became clear enough for me to predict. Even though I never completely got the hang of using it it's easily the most overpowered ability in the game because it doesn't affect Chou-Chou's turn. You can perform a Moe kill attempt and then keep going about your turn after that, basically giving her two actions for everyone else's one.
But why should you care about the number of peons you have? Well, peons determine the stats for your spaceship in the crazy spaceship battles. It's a simple turn-based affair without a ton of options but it's a fun break every now and then from the more standard battles. Not only are there sometimes large jumps in difficulty that require grinding to overcome, but sometimes there are story-required objectives like “having killed 900 enemies throughout the game”. Haven't done that yet? Well go kill some basic stuff until you've gotten there. It wouldn't be too bad if the fighting were faster or more interesting, but even the easy fights can be a slog. Like the Disgaea series you can hold R2 to skip the battle animations, but for whatever reason when you do this the enemies still stare at you for about 2 seconds before each attack. Doing so also often screws up the camera by picking an angle where you can't see the damage done to your character during the attack you were trying to skip. Frankly. it's just a really poor implementation of a system that has had no trouble working in other games.
That's really my conclusion for the game in general: there are significantly better 'sexy' and funny games out there. In the end I spent 29 hours on the game. I was nearing the ending sequence and I'd just made it through a particularly hard boss fight using a plethora of items so that I didn't have to grind my way to victory. I managed to squeeze my way out with only a few party members alive. What was my reward for this hard fought battle? Another boss fight, without any time to heal, save, or bring my dead guys to life. It was at this point that I realised that not a single aspect of the game - from the story, to the gameplay or dialogue - was good enough to force the level of grinding required out of me to fully complete this game, even with my sense of duty to complete the games I review weighing into the decision as well.
I wish I could say that after all the difficulties with releasing Mugen Souls NISA actually have a winner on their hands, but it just didn't turn out that way. Hopefully their next release goes much more smoothly in every way.
This review is based on a PlayStation 3 copy of Mugen Souls, provided by the publisher.