Mugen Souls Playtest: What’s Your Fetish?

By Kris . October 5, 2012 . 2:00pm

Each chapter in Mugen Souls starts with the word “overwhelming.” Main character Chou Chou’s win quotes have her talking about her overwhelming power and her overwhelming victory. Her rabbit-like peons (called Shampurus) comment about the overwhelming strength of her flying pirate ship/castle known as “G-Castle”. Mechanically, that’s pretty on-point when it comes to Mugen Souls.


Bear in mind, the core of the game’s combat isn’t that complex. Every battle has a turn order at the top of the screen, and when it reaches one of your characters’ turns, you can move them around within a specific movement circle (barring any friends, enemies, or environmental barriers in your way) and issue a command. You can move freely in your circle, and your move ends when you complete an action.


Should you have multiple character moves in a row (and the game feels like it), your attack option will be replaced with the option to use link attacks. These are ridiculously over the top special attacks that have your characters calling in tanks, spun like tops, or throwing each other at your enemies. Occasionally, sometimes three-person team attacks will do less damage than two of the same characters working together. Outside of the occasional oddity, there is no real downside to using the link attacks.


Most characters just get your standard attack/skill/item/escape/defend actions, but Chou Chou is special. When you play as her, you get the option to change forms, attempt Moe Kills, issue peon orders, and use your Peon Ball.


So, what is a Moe Kill? Basically, you find what turns your enemy on and exploit it until they submit to you and become your peon. Each enemy you fight has a moe type. They might have a thing for sadists, or maybe they like tsundere personalities (somewhat oddly localized as “bipolar”) girls.


When a Moe Kill is initiated, you’re given three sets of two (seemingly random) actions that you have to combine in such a way to win an enemy over and add them to your Peon ball, which effectively acts as a single-use bomb that’s handy to use in a pinch. The Peon Ball can also have its size increased if you turn on “peon orders”. These will have Chou Chou call out an arbitrary requirement like “use physical attacks!” for each of her party members, and if you listen to her, you get a Peon Ball bonus. Overwhelmed yet?


While Chou Chou brags about her ability to make anyone obey her, her friend/bad influence, Altis, points out that given her appearance, she can only win over people “around [her] age or with ‘underdeveloped’ taste in women” (scare quotes included). This is where her ability to change forms comes in. Chou Chou can transform into 7 different forms, each with its own moe type: Egotistic (her standard form), Sadistic, Masochistic, Terse (basically goth), Bipolar (tsundere), Hyper, and Ditz.


Being in the right form doesn’t necessarily mean that a Moe Kill is just handed to you. You also have to deal with the enemy’s fluctuating emotions each turn, meaning that some actions might please an enemy on one turn and might anger them the next. If you completely anger an enemy it will go into a frenzy, restoring its health and becoming more powerful.


Amplifying the risk/reward system is the fact that each battle you fight contains a large crystal. If Moe Killed, this crystal will turn every enemy on the field into your peon, but by the same token, if it’s enraged, all of your enemies will power up. Strangely, enraging all of your enemies will play a really upbeat song and send the battle into Frenzy mode, which plays exactly the same, but nets a little bit more experience.


While I like the Moe Kill system, it feels a little unwieldy and given the relative strength of my characters, by the time I’d Moe Killed a single enemy (even with the proper type it would take two turns with Chou Chou), I generally would have killed off the rest of my enemies. I actually kind of had to force myself to use Moe Kills, making all of my characters block while I whittled away on a large crystal in an enemy-heavy map.


On top of that, you’re limited to a limited number of form switches per time you enter a map. While this limitation gets less severe as you level up, at first it’s kind of a pain, since Moe Killing multiple enemies in a single battle could mean that you’re significantly limited as you continue grinding and exploring. Bear in mind, you’re free to switch forms as much as you want when you’re not in combat, but you can’t replenish your in-combat form switches without leaving the map. It’s a small annoyance, but an annoyance nonetheless.


Bear in mind, that’s just one aspect of one kind of combat. There are all sorts of additional layered mechanics at play, like smaller crystals that impact a certain part of the playing field with various helpful and harmful status effect and the ability to make a  skill “Blast Off” an enemy, sending them ricocheting off of walls and other characters on the battlefield. The game also contains rock-paper-scissors-like ship versus ship combat, which is pretty fun, if not particularly frequent or deep. The problem is, with so many mechanics that I didn’t have to manage to win, I simply stopped dealing with them. I could get through just fine with standard attacks and Moe Kills.


As unorthodox as Moe Kills are, I was amused by the way that the game works the mechanic into the story and even exploration. For instance, in order to take over each of the seven worlds in Mugen Souls’ universe, Chou Chou must prove her worth by making the world’s strongest beings her peons. Fortunately, each world’s two strongest beings are its hero and its demon lord, so it’s Chou Chou’s job to hunt them down.


As creepy as the idea of the childlike Chou Chou seducing her enemies (even with her more mature-looking moe-types) is, if anything, the game is poking fun at the idea that people will throw themselves at whatever they find moe. While Chou Chou knows how to manipulate men, women, and even inanimate objects by playing into certain fetish types, immediately after she gains control over them, she returns to her typical, flippant, uninterested self. Even though Chou Chou treats her peons like toys, the ever devoted, otaku-like Ryuto still claims that he’ll “follow her to the end of the universe”. This is made even more amusing by the fact that because of her ability to change into these different archetypes, she can control anything.


For instance, as Chou Chou explores the seven worlds, she will occasionally have to cross from one continent to another. Because she obviously doesn’t have the currency required for each world to afford a boat or something, she simply makes the continent she’s on a peon and has it crash into the next. While this conceit is wrapped around a rather annoying mechanic where you have to find various floating text boxes on the continent with the limited hints they give you and impress them with moe (find the continent’s type and Moe Kill them), money, or murder (have enough monster deaths under your belt), it cracks me up that Chou Chou’s self-granted title of “Undisputed God of the Universe” proves somewhat accurate because of the sway of moe alone.


Mugen Souls also plays with the JRPG cliché of heroes and demon lords in some interesting ways. For instance, the first hero you meet “Sir Soul Skyheart” has a tendency to simply root through other peoples’ drawers and break their pots, something that Ryuto calls a “Hero Inclination” and that the demonic Altis sees as “mental illness.” He also enjoys equipping his shy princess party member in a “high defense bikini.”


Given that a hero’s sole goal is to destroy the demon lord (and both titles can simply be thrust upon people) it makes sense that some heroes feel some remorse towards the idea of killing a demon lord (and losing the perks of being a hero) and that some demon lords are absolutely terrified by the heroes, no matter how kind-hearted they may be.


All this having been said, it’s frustrating to me that Mugen Souls looks at these tropes with such a critical and satirical eye, the mechanics at work weren’t refined with quite the same critical eye.


You spend a lot of time running around uninteresting maps looking for cutscenes or to find peons. Combat has so many mechanics that they don’t all fit together quite well and many can simply be ignored. It’s a game that is willing to poke fun at how bloated RPG narratives are, but still remains bloated itself.


Mugen Souls also has its share of technical issues. While I had the game installed to my hard drive, I was somewhat taken aback by how long certain things took to load. Loading G-Castle, your general base of operations, took about 23 seconds.


While this wouldn’t be so bad if G-Castle was an explorable town, it’s essentially one giant room with a few unvoiced people you can talk to. Compounding that is the fact that exploration is often accompanied by a jagged framerate, which has a tendency to stutter if you have the audacity to rotate the camera. There’s also a noticeable (4 seconds or more) load time when you get to a point on the map that leads to a visual novel-style conversation.


Fortunately, Mugen Souls’ combat feels unhindered by these technical issues due to its menu-based nature.


Food for Thought:

1. Between the genre parody, the Takehito Harada art, and the focus on heroes and demon lords, Mugen Souls practically demands comparisons to Disgaea.


2. Curiously enough, Mugen Souls also includes an analogue to Disgaea’s item dungeons, providing players with an area they can go to that’s entirely combat of escalating difficulty until they reach a certain level. While this doesn’t let you improve the power of your items, you can wager “Mugen Points” and success will provide you more of them to upgrade your skills .


3. I found it particularly amusing that the feudal Japan-themed world was the one that contained a Gothic Lolita cafe.

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  • riceisnice

    Disgaea 5 isn’t gonna be a harem as well is it? 

  • ‘What’s your fetish?’

    [wall of text]

    Oh god…

  • Quinton Cunningham

    “He also enjoys equipping his shy princess party member in a ‘high defense bikini.'”

    Felt a bit of shame when I read that, as I had Yukari and Mitsuru in Persona 3’s High Cut Armor for the longest time because of how high it was compared to everything else that was available.

  • I still can’t get over it, the censorship. :(

    • Luna Kazemaru

      Its still a fun game even with it just pick of the japanese version if you want not missing much.

    • Godman

      I know that feel man; I’m still going to get it, but the burn of censorship will never heal.
      I tend to pretend it never happened T_T

    • Ladius

      Honestly, nothing of value was lost this time. They simply removed some CGs from a minigame, and considering the kind of message the game is trying to convey with its systems and plot I can say they actually made the game more consistent. The game itself is a lot of fun, you would do yourself a disservice by skipping it for this reason.

      • CirnoLakes

        What message? It looks like a goofy comedy game not meant to be taken seriously.

  • CirnoLakes

    I can’t wait for my pre-order to get here.

    Though I worry about it. I heard they removed about a quarter of the game in the censorship instead of just a couple of over the top bits. I’m planning on importing the Japanese version anyway, but it’s kind of a downer if my American copy has so much removed from it.

    Anyway, I don’t know what “moe-kill” would be my favourite. But I think I remember seeing Kuudere. I like that.

    • James Eder

      A quarter of the game? That’s just silly; nowhere NEAR that much has been removed. Even 1% would probably be pushing it; the edit basically consists of removing a minigame (and associated CG’s) when it was felt to be pushing it too far. It still has tons of perverted content, though.

    • Xerain

       I’m just buying it for the puchi nendos. I suppose if I like the game I’ll buy an artbook which should surely have all the missing CG scenes in it.

      I too have considered importing it, but I have a feeling the game might not be *that good* to be worth it. I’d rather hold onto my import money until I find out what’s gonna happen with TokiTowa.

    • Ladius

      That’s absolutely false, I know some fans have overblown the censorship issue but, as James Eder said, the censored bits are probably less than 1% of the time you will spend on this game.

      Also, to be completely honest I think they made the right choice: I hate censorship on principle, but the message this game tries to convey would have been hampered by an excess of fanservice.

      • M’iau M’iaut

        The only issue I take (speaking as me not a a mod or a site rep) is that there are other wished for titles they could have chosen without the 800 pound oversexed loli in the room. NISA has been very daring with their anime selections (I adore Demon Enma) but I do think they painted themselves into a corner with this title. There is no way in he*l they were going to be able to explain away these virtual 12 year old girls moaning away (I don’t care about their ‘posted’ ages) in a soapland environment. Perhaps they should have looked elsewhere.

        • Ladius

          The issue is that those fanservice scenes weren’t only a completely optional and unimportant part of the game, but, as Kris himself pointed out, went against the core message the game tries to convey with its story and gameplay. This is one of the extremely rare examples of censorship actually improving the coherency of the censored product, and that’s why I think they did the right thing to localize Mugen Souls the way they did.

          As someone who enjoys IFCH games for what they actually are (1% overblown, rather useless, usually optional fanservice, 99% gameplaystory) and is tired to see them treated as if they were nukiges, I would be glad to see the most extreme bits censored from now on, if that meant avoiding useless controversies and giving them a chance to be appreciated or judged fairly for what they actually have to offer.

          Regardless of the tons of debates we could have on the subject, things have gotten to the point where I believe anime fanservice is actually becoming a rather big cultural barrier and, as sad as it is, a smart use of censorship can help us bridge that gap when removing those contents doesn’t damage the game’s experience (obviously things would be different for, say, a nukige).

          • M’iau M’iaut

            Fully understood and recognized my friend, you know quite well I’m not adverse to a little perversion in my gaming.

            I’m just not sure how many folks draw the line between what this game or an Agarest does and a nukige. Even with sensible censorship. I certainly need not remind you of where the VN and early Nep Nep threads went in the old days. Even among a much smaller audience there were so many who had long decided moe = child rape. I’m just not sure any amount of sensible cuts will ever change their very loud tune.

          • Ladius

            Yeah, those prejudices will probably never go away even with censorship, since they relate more to character design, tropes or whole subgenres rather than the actual relevancequantity of fanservice.

            That said, censorship can help in two ways: first, if said fanservice is removed it’s easier to avoid any kind of controversy since the objectionable material isn’t there to begin with; second, it would allow those games to be judged for their gameplay and stories, and their detractors would see how their fans are actually interested in those elements rather than in some optional CGs scattered in a 50+ hours game.

            I have no particular issues regarding fanservice, and I think those kind of debates in a fictional context have been really overblown in the last years (not to mention how sometimes they manage to go against their own principles, like those who called Tales of Xillia’s Millia a “bixch” in an old Siliconera thread because of her attire, showing that the actual disrespect for women was more in their minds than in some artworks).

            Then again, I can’t say I’m particularly fond of fanservice, either, and my favorite jrpg series (Suikoden, Ogre, Fire Emblem, Tales, LoH etc) are pretty tame. I find those elements quirky and funny if they’re used with moderation in a tongue-in-cheek way, but if they became a problem and manage to keep people at a distance I have nothing against them being eliminated.
            It’s not like fanservice is a core element of those games, since those scenes are almost always optional, separated from the main events and really short (the only exception among NISA-published games would be Ar Tonelico Qoga, since fanservice was deeply integrated in both gameplay and plot, something that really damaged the game and its ability to be taken seriously by many jrpg players who would have probably liked its rich setting and complex story).

          • CirnoLakes

            Excuse me, but I’m just a little curious as to how the “fanservice” scenes, were actually “against the core message the game wants to convey”.

            Also, the way y’all speak of the gaming industry seems awfully grim. Moe = child rape? Who the heck thinks that? Y’all are making it sound like cute is bad and fanservice is suicide for Japanese games. So, no fun no time no how? It’s not as if this game is representing the Japanese games industry.

            And from the sound of it, not only can people push any barriers. But they should avoid cuteness altogether and that everybody associates “cuteness” or “moe” with child rape. That’s pretty extreme and seems like some kind of pidgeonholding itself.

            Not that I’m saying that most jRPGs should be like Neptunia, by any means. But people ought to feel free to make and release something a little bit goofy or controversial from time to time. Games don’t always have to be an impressive story product or whatever.

            And you’re making it sound like Japanese game developers should not only avoid that, but cuteness in general. And cuteness is something a lot of Japanese gamers like. Not just the otaku, but cuteness sells so much in Japan it is also a way to appeal to the casual gamers. They Bleed Pixels is kind of moe, and it is Western. I’d hate for Japanese games to have to become less cute and more manly in order to appeal to Westerners.

            I kind of like the offbeat nature of things like Mugen Souls. In fact I’ll be getting the Japanese version eventually. It’s certainly an interesting novelty I’ll be happy to have on my shelves. I also feel very lucky and happy just as the fact that NISA actually felt it worth it to localize it.

          • M’iau M’iaut

            I was talking to Ladius about times two years ago or more where any visual novel or thread that was in any way related to anime girls were the quickest to degenerate. What I said was indeed where things went and where Ladius and I (among others) tried to explain what was behind the various tropes. And that serious VNs like Ever17 were not the same beast as a Peach Princess nukige release just because of the existence of a character like Coco Yagami.

            Those comments came from one long since tired of fighting as hearts and minds were never going to change. Those are things people with money listen to, and why in part we will never see a true exploration of the genre stateside.

      • CirnoLakes

        Then I was misinformed.

  • Muffum

    I think the explanation for tsundere being translated as bipolar was given by one of the translators on the forums. Basically, they didn’t want to keep it untranslated, because then it would stand out amongst all the other personalities with English names, and bipolar was the best approximation of the meaning they could think of.

    •  Exactly. An issue of “where do you draw the line?” in that if we left one, why not leave “genki,” or “tennen,” or the other mostly-Japanese terms for the personality traits. It was either all or nothing, and the ratio of common understanding leaned far more heavily toward “translate all.”

  • Kaihedgie

    If this means slime, color me instantly interested

  • James Eder

    “Occasionally, sometimes three-person team attacks will do less damage than two of the same characters working together.”

    That’s probably because Character Personalities = Elements in this game, and mismatched personalities reduce the power of your team attacks.

    • Ladius

      Yeah, I think the personalities=elements comparison is really spot-on considering how the game handles them.

  • Yes! I cant wait for mine to arrive =^_^=

    What’s my fetish huh?

    “Goes and checks stuff on computer”

    O_O! Wow, I thought I deleted these…………

  • Hoshi星

    Moe kill? I want to moe kill everything!

  • Andrew Arndt

    i already  have my  copy XD moe kill its  da  best

  • Tom_Phoenix

    “I am the overwhelming, undisputed god of the universe…Chou-Chou!”

    …Well, if nothing else, you can’t fault her for a lack of confidence.

    That said, she better hope she doesn’t encounter one of the Shin Megami Tensei protagonists. Those guys have a tendency to kill gods.

    • CirnoLakes

      I absolutely adore her confidence.

    • Göran Isacson

      I now want to see her meet a Shin Megami Tensei protagonist SOLELY because it will be gloriously awkward to have that series super-serious protagonists face off against the rampantly anarchic Disgaea-style protagonists.

  • Learii

    day 1

  • Chris Hansen

    So, NIS let them try to recreate their own Disgaea, and they failed? Not a big surprise. You can copy the artstyle and the writing, but one thing Compile Hearts never seems to be able to do is good gameplay. I’d trade that for everything else. 

    • Ladius

      I don’t think Kris said they “failed” with Mugen Souls’ battle system, only that some of the systems they employed can be safely ignored if you simply want to bash the plot enemies and complete the story, something I can fully agree with after putting some hours into the game.

      What’s amusing is that Disgaea is exactly the same, since post-game is what really matters for enjoying those games’ customization options and mechanics, so I don’t really see why you should hate on Compile Heart for following the same logic.

  • margherita mastropaolo

    i bought the game and it’s actually good

  • … I need this game

  • Göran Isacson

    I gotta admit- I am intrigued now. This game sounds like a flawed but interesting work, criticising the appeal of moe and the crowd that is drawn to it while at the same time using it to appeal to that very same crowd. How hard will they bite the hand that feeds them? I really would like to know.

    Shame the gameplay sounds somewhat unrefined. Even if I am split on the moe-criticism/moe-usage, I fully admit I think the parodies of hero/villain tropes sound awesome and I’d really like to see that play out. But if the game inbetween cutscenes feels more like a chore than a joy, I can’t say I feel like making this game a priority of mine…

    • Ladius

      I wouldn’t say the battle system is unrefined, it’s actually really smooth and fast thanks to the animation skip feature and the quick transition between explorations and fights.

      Granted, it can get repetitive if you love to grind, and you won’t take advantage of all of its system in every single fight since some of them are completely optional and best reserved to Mugen Field battles, but it’s not like other jrpg series (starting with Disgaea itself) haven’t lots of possibilities that you can safely ignore till post game challenges.

  • personablaze

    I’ll buy this…When I find my wallet…Little guy is hiding from me XD

  • DesmaX

    I’ll be picking this up. I did enjoy Neptunia mk2 and Agarest 2, so I think I’ll enjoy this one too

  • Ladius

    I have been playing Mugen Souls since some days ago, and I must say Compile Heart has really surprised me with the script’s quirkiness and some of the battle system’s mechanics, from the Moe Kill monster interactions (somewhat reminiscent of SMT) to the bouncing enemies, frenzy time and crystal properties. Many ideas are obviously taken from Disgaea (the over the top link combos, for instance), but the game is different enough to stand on its own.

    The constant subversion of well known anime and jrpg tropes is another great thing about Mugen Souls and (as bad as it sounds, since I’m the first to hate the idea of censorship) I am actually glad NISA removed the excessive fanservice from this game since it would have been in contrast with the plot and with the satirical message about otakudom explained by Kris in his review.

    • FitzpatrickPhillips

      How would you know what the original message was if you didn’t play the original? And how would you know how that interferes when it was in the original game to begin with? You’re getting a watered down version of the game thats been translated through someone else’s interpretation. You get no say in what the message is.

      • Ladius

        I can assure you Mugen Souls’ story, dialogues and even its game mechanics give plenty of evidence regarding the game’s themes and its intent to parodize some of the key tropes of jrpgs, otakudom and the whole moe context. It does it in an entertaining and witty way, and the whole game is built upon that concept, mine (or Kris’) is not an analysis based upon some extrapolated, decontextualized line of dialogue that could have been re-created by the translators.

        A minigame that had no narrative relevance and was in the game only as a bait to lure in some players interested in that kind of material can be seen as out of context in a game like this, and considering its presence would have created needless controversies and impeded people from reasoning about the game’s message I think its removal has actually improved the game’s coherence.

        I’m well aware there isn’t a single translation that is able to conserve the whole array of meanings and subtleties of the original work, even only because of language differences, but overblowing those issues to imply that the whole game has been rewritten and the fanservice minigame was actually its core is simply false, since that feature was isolated and is the only thing affected by this choice (the game still has its fanservice story events and CGs for instance, as tame as they are).

        If you want to boycott the game because of censorship you are free to do so, and I actually understand where are you coming from since no one likes censorship on principle, but there’s no need to overblown those changes or to paint the game as something it isn’t. Some years ago I would have had another stance on this issue based on principles alone, but considering the kind of debates surrounding fanservice in the last years I can fully understand NISA’s decision.

        • FitzpatrickPhillips

          First of all, I wasn’t overblowing the situation at all. I plan to get the game, don’t care so much about the CGs – what I do care about is what they could have done to the translation in general as well as them rewriting one character. I understand japanese but purposely waited for localization all this because of my favorite english voice actors as well as wanting to support NISA – I’m doing the same thing with Neptune V. So I’m not overblowing anything nor planning to boycott, please don’t push what others have said on me.

          That said, I stand by what I said earlier than you don’t know the original intentions of the devs at all due to translation. The CGs could have been through in their to go against what you call the theme of the game in a satirical way. Plus, its completely option from what I’ve seen so I don’t see how it “interferes” with anything. Again though, I don’t care about the CGs themselves and totally understand why it as removed in the first place. They shouldn’t have done poor decisions to the translations either like rewriting sadistic characters or changing “tsundere” to “bipolar”. It’s like NISA forgot who’d be playing this game.Like you though, I hate the idea of doing it in the first place too. If they didn’t plan to bring the full product over then don’t bother in the first place. Poor localization choices like this is why I ended up learning japanese in the first place, and you could imagine how upset I am when I game I could have played months ago comes months later in a butchered way. This is all besides the point though. Like I said before, you can’t say what the mini-games were there for because you’re not playing the original game, despite having enough hints to assume. Compile Heart is a joke-game company for the most part, remember that.

  • FitzpatrickPhillips

    I wasn’t going to get this cause I don’t support all the censorship…then one of my favorite voice actors mentioned she was in it. Damnit all, now I have to.

  • $3587643

    It’s a shame it’s such a meh game, but I’m less bothered about not supporting censorship now. Just waiting until the next one, I guess.

  • Nuuu. But I want to play nowww! I ordered my Mugen Souls copy from GAME a few days ago, but sadly, the visual book only came and no game. Sent them an email and the issue was resolved? So, should be getting this shortly. Can’t wait!~

    • Glad to hear it. I had the same problem, with GAME, but in reverse, with Totori.

  • Crimson_Cloud

    While I’m grateful for translations, few last games from NIS America had translations that really irked me. They use a lot of liberty to alter sentences that in the end have meaning far different from the original Japanese. And I know what people will say that they must do it as for some sentences and jokes that can’t be roughly translated in English, but those who know few words of Japanese probably know what I’m talking about. 

  • skeptical..
    Compile heart often trick me, the same way idea factory does.
    i get fooled by the artwork and rpg sense of it all, then let down by how shallow and sluggish it is.

    •  It’s a con!

    • brian yep

      Compile Heart is a part of Idea Factory.
      But even Neal from RPGFan, a skeptic of Idea Factory games, really likes this one.

  • Oltheros

    My fetish is no censorship in video games.

  • I think I might pass on this one. As good-looking and as funny as these last few NIS RPG’s have been, I think I’d rather just experience that through a playthrough video than purchase and push myself through what seems like a mechanically unpolished game. 

    •  “As good-looking and as funny as these last few NIS RPG’s have been…”
      But…its a Compile Heart Game…

      • All the more reason not to spend money on it.

      • NIS x Compile Heart. Sorry, I just listed the publisher.

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