It is a sad reality that as we progress through each console generation, some gems may be lost unless efforts are made by developers and publishers alike to actively keep their games distributed on the newest generation of platforms. One example of this that comes to mind was the Compile Heart / Idea Factory International RPGs of the PlayStation 3 era, from the likes of Cross Edge (Taken down) and Trinity Universe (never receiving a digital release), to the focus of today – the Mugen Souls trilogy.
Fortunately, with the latter, EastAsiaSoft stepped in earlier this year by bringing the original game in the duology to the Nintendo Switch, and shortly after, confirmed for its successor, Mugen Souls 2 – more commonly known as Mugen Souls Z. While the series was created in an era where Compile Heart was still finding their feet regarding both parody-driven fourth-wall-breaking RPGs and their first forays into 3D gaming, even if it were not at the top of my list to port across, it was one that without intervention from the likes of a niche-game publisher, would likely never have. So kudos to them. But as this is a review… is Mugen Souls Z any good? Read on to find out.
At its core, Mugen Souls Z shares many elements with its predecessor, presenting a fun anime-themed game with an adorable mascot character and many cute moe girls as the game’s protagonists during cutscenes and battles. It feels like a test bed or a springboard, if you will, for ideas that the development team would ultimately refine and incorporate into their future games, offering some gems amid less-than-stellar rocks in the bunch. Unfortunately, while these are the positives, the game is still let down, arguably even more, by a needlessly convoluted storyline that has a minimal lasting impact, one-dimensional characters and another dull, uninspired pseudo-open world that doesn’t do the surprisingly complex and sophisticated battle system well, although at least from that perspective there are noticeable improvements from the original game – even if at the end of the day the base concepts are the same. But I think for the most part, you should consider playing Mugen Souls and ultimately – if you enjoyed the experience then you will likely enjoy Mugen Souls Z just as much if not more. If not, this sequel might be a pass for you.
The big selling point for this particular port of Mugen Souls Z is that EastAsiaSoft doesn’t pander to any form of fanservice censorship, with all of the game’s hot springs encounters being comparable to the Japanese release, unlike the original English versions where extra amounts of soap and steam were introduced – although this tends to be a trend with many similar RPGs on the Nintendo Switch versus other platforms. If you enjoy the more fanservicey, the more erotic, ecchi side of things then you will enjoy this decision, otherwise, it is just nice to see that an artist’s original work hasn’t been censored to the nines. Keep in mind however that Mugen Souls and Mugen Souls Z games are still more about the cuteness than the lewdness, and any references to the game being uncensored or censorship-free are really just around the mini-games instead of being a complete rewrite.
Players can choose to enjoy the game’s original Japanese voice acting or the English dub, which was created for NIS America’s original Western release a decade ago. The voice casting is pretty good overall, and while this ultimately meant there were no major rewrites on EastAsiaSoft’s end, it was nevertheless nice to have dual-audio options. The port job is also pretty solid, with my comment about playing the game docked rather than in handheld mode ringing true, both for the sake of mitigating some frame rate drops and the user interface generally being more readable.
Mugen Souls Z truly adheres to the ‘If you enjoyed the first game and want more of the same but done better’ mantra. For those who are in the positive camp, then you can look forward to a couple of dozen hours of eccentric, sometimes irreverent fun, a slightly improved battle system and arguably an even better porting job than before. For those in the other camp, it is possibly more of the same slog, with uninspired worlds, a forgettable narrative and systems that seem half-heartedly and chaotically implemented. That all said, kudos must be given again to EastAsiaSoft for ensuring another generation (or two) of gamers get to enjoy this series from Compile Heart’s earlier years, and I hope they will continue to explore the shinier gems in the developer’s back-catalogue.
Acknowledgment: A digital Nintendo Switch review code was provided by publisher EastAsiaSoft for the purpose of this review.