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RPGamer.com has not had much love for Compile Heart in the past. Between Cross Edge, Trinity Souls, and Hyperdimension Neptunia, their average score is less than two. Had any of our staff actually been able to complete a Record of Agarest War title, that record might be significantly lower. To date, the only Compile Heart game that hasn't been completely lambasted by one of our staff members is also their most recent, Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2, which actually brought with it some decent game design.
Compile Heart's record may be set to change with the upcoming release of Mugen Souls, a turn-based RPG which takes many of the mechanics introduced in Neptunia mk2 and expands on them, while simultaneously engaging in the sort of ridiculous, over-the-top insanity that the company has become known for. During our visit with NIS America, we were able to put in some time with the game, and impressions are surprisingly positive.
Mugen Souls follows the adventures of Chou-Chou (pronounced shoo-shoo), a girl who wakes up in the middle of space, sees a bunch of nearby planets, and decides to conquer them. The story and style bears a major resemblance to the Disgaea franchise, which may not be surprising considering the two titles share the same character designer.
This is why her head is so enormous.
Though the combat system appears to be a modified version of the one seen in Neptunia mk2, Mugen Souls has a whole slew of bizarre new mechanics which add not only to the flavor of the game, but to the flow of combat as well. One of the most amusing mechanics is Chou-Chou's ability to change her mood at will to seven different varieties, such as hyper, bipolar, and masochist. These mood swings radically alter her appearance (to the point where each mood is essentially a brand new character), but they also play a role in combat. They come into play when she uses special 'Moe' attacks, which are used on inanimate crystals that litter the battlefield. Successfully using these abilities creates monster peons that power up Chou-Chou's ship, and can then be used to power said ship's weapon, dealing massive damage to the monsters in the area.
Other attack skills can also be used in a weird and unexpected way. Every skill has a "Blast Off" mode that can be either turned on or off. While it's on, the attack will cause monsters to fly across the battlefield, ricocheting off the walls and off of other enemies like a life-sized game of pool. Blast Off attacks draw from a special, shared gauge, and skills must be used with the mode turned off in order to charge it, so it can't be used excessively.
There's a lot more to the combat that we saw, but much of it remains a mystery as to how precisely it functions. We saw several special modes activate, few of which we could make sense of in our limited time with the game, so it seems that there will be a lot of complexity at play. However, it was the visual style that stood out the most. The attack animations were off the wall and entertaining, and the chibi-styled character models all sported simple but attractive cel-shading.
Playing around with the characters seems to be a major theme in the game, as all of them can be dressed up in a wide assortment of costume pieces that can be acquired over time. They can even be stripped down and made to fight in their underwear, a questionable inclusion but fairly amusing nonetheless. We were told that players will even be able to create their own characters, customizing faces and hairstyles, but we were unable to see that in action.
Although we didn't see a lot of the localization, what we did see was the usual NIS America goofiness. The battle voices during the Moe attacks provided us with a lot of amusement, as they were all ridiculously overdone and hilarious to listen to. Mugen Souls is a fairly risque game, and NIS America says that they've stayed as true to the original Japanese as possible, though a small handful of scenes had to be cut in order to avoid the dreaded AO ESRB rating. Surprisingly, with those scenes gone, Mugen Souls only wound up being rated T for Teen.
Mugen Souls will be released on the PS3 on September 18th for $49.99.