Despite the incredibly similar name, Mugen Souls Z is a sequel and not just a remake of the original Mugen Souls title. Mugen Souls Z follows Chou-Chou, the self-proclaimed Undisputed God of the Universe. This title takes place immediately after the prior one, but events quickly spin out of hand for Chou-Chou as she is reduced in size and stripped of her powers due to what can only be described as comical circumstance.
The characters fall into typical stereotypes, yet are infused with enough life and personality that what could have easily been grating tropes actually turned out to be appealing if somewhat shallow characters. Whether it is the cocksure male, flighty female lead or any number of other familiar chet charming personalities, the characters of Mugen Souls Z almost immediately hooked me with their silly but enjoyable banter.
Graphics - 8:
Far from a technical marvel, the backgrounds and animations are really only average at best most of the time. Thankfully the character art has an enjoyable hand drawn feel to it, and the characters' expressive faces really help sell the dialogue along the way. There is a lot to read here - my first save point and open exploration took some time to reach, but it was refreshing that it never felt like a wall of text my eyes had to battle with. The colors are bright, vivid splashes throughout the game, whether it is the creative enemy design or character portraits.
Sound & Music - 6:
So I will start with the good, which is that the voice actors are actually pretty entertaining. Again, these characters are not the most complex, so it is a testament to how they are both written and portrayed that they are as likeable as they are. There is also an option for English or Japanese voices, so I opted for the former. Unfortunately many of Mugen Souls Z's sounds are far too often overused. Probably the most frequent and annoying example is the quick phrase when they attack. When the group is small with only a person or two, the repetition is more pronounced - and annoying, but even with a full group it gets old pretty quickly, and I could not find an option in the menu to turn this off. You can decrease voice audio, but that decreases it for all of the game's voice work, including the dialogue scenes.
The music itself is only sort of average at best. The upbeat, almost 'perky' music is okay and reflective of the overall tones of the game, but it just never really felt like it fit for me.
Gameplay - 8:
There are two different combat systems at work here, and they thankfully provide a nice variation from one another. The primary one is more of a traditional JRPG system, with turns based on character speed. You move around the field of battle, and then select moves from a list once you are close enough. Sometimes you will hit one enemy, other times you might use a skill that impacts everyone in a specific radius. This part of the combat does feel a bit grind-like sooner than later, and is not the most interesting system ever. There are crystals that get generated at the start of combat that have various impacts on battle, such as reduced damage or health regeneration, if you place a character within a specific radius of the crystal. This helps to keep things a bit more lively, but only for a time. My tactics really did not change much over the course of the game.
The best part of the above system is the ability to woo peons to your cause. You can also create and customize peons later, and these support group members are fun to work with and are probably the most innovative aspect of the above system.
The second combat system is more of a rock/paper/scissors mech mode. Your G-Castle serves as your home base as you move around the galaxy, and it can also transform into a giant robot. This system would not have worked as a primary or as the only means of combat, but as a sort of side distraction it pans out quite nicely, with plenty of upgradable options along the way.
Intangibles - 8:
The two different combat systems work well in that they provide variety that helps to keep the game from feeling too grind-heavy. There are plenty of side-things to do, from acquiring different costumes and weapons to acquiring a wide range of peons as you explore. Beating the game can be done in a few dozen hours or so, but time generally flew by pretty quickly. For those who really do like to grind and heavily level characters up to almost ridiculous statistical numbers.
Overall - 7.5:
Mugen Souls Z is obviously not going to appeal to everyone. That it is a JRPG already narrows the market a little, but we have seen a good surge of quality JRPG titles over the last six months to a year and it feels like they are making a comeback with fans. The characters are over-the-top to the point of being ridiculous, which makes for a story that is lacking in serious tonality but still a lot of fun to play. I personally enjoyed my time with Mugen Souls Z quite a bit. Time flew, and if you know the saying, I take that to mean I was having a good deal of fun.
Review by Nick