Ten Hours With Mugen Souls Z
Mugen Souls Z is both the question and the answer at the center of this game.
What is Mugen Souls Z?
It’s Mugen Souls Z.
It’s a curiosity, an intentionally niche game that harkens back to titles from the early PS2 era — think the original Disgaea — that cemented the divide between gamers who grew up playing strange Japanese games because that was all there was, and those who actively sought out games with saucer sized eyes and leveling treadmills that soared into the thousands.
I’m about ten hours into it now and, despite having spent the last decade growing apart from my otaku roots, I’m finding myself smiling more and more, even if it has more in common with a late night skin-flick on Cinemax than anything Squaresoft has put out in the last decade.
But first, to understand exactly what Mugen Souls Z is…a trailer -
Yep. See what I mean?
Over the last few decades, there’s been a consistent effort to break down the outlandish oversexualization of female characters in Western media, to do away with the chainmail bikinis and sexy robots who thrust out their lady bits with every step and throw themselves at male characters with reckless abandon.
That…hasn’t really happened as much with Japanese games.
The word for doe eyed women with busts quadruple the size of their waists is fanservice, the idea being that the squeaky moans and conveniently messy ice cream sundaes that just get everywhere Oni-chan are in the service of the fans and their nefarious “interests”.
Mugen Souls Z is full of it. The mostly female cast is seemingly unable to afford a full bra between them all, with every outfit missing at least one key part from either the top or bottom. Levels are completed with a trip back to the bath house — I’ve yet to see the male wing — for some delicate touches and relaxing sighs. There’s even a related minigame that was removed for the US release that sees you applying the suds yourself.
Thing is, fanservice isn’t going away anytime soon. Japanese games development isn’t know for being exceptionally mobile when it comes to shifting social trends — ask Nintendo about how important online gaming is — so to expect games like Mugen Souls Z or Disgaea to throw out their dirty bathwater isn’t entirely realistic.
What’s nice about Mugen Souls Z is that, unlike other recent NIS release The Witch and the Hundred Knight, the over-the-top sexuality present in the game is entirely good natured. It might owe to the quality of the localization, which manages to take a game where the main character turns into a Dominatrix to force people into her service, and get it a T rating. Despite having countless ecchi (read: perverted) jokes and references, it never dips into the world of sexual violence or mean spirited teasing.
Sometimes there’s even a kind of funny self-referential weirdness to it all, with one woman casually dismissing comments about her outlandish breasts or with other characters commenting on how not-okay it is for some of the younger looking cast members to show off skin.
Sure, I might still roll my eyes everytime there’s a thinly veiled excuse to cover a female character in purple goop and shriek about how sticky it is, but — and this is weird to say, — it’s all in good fun. Everything about Mugen Souls Z is perky and upbeat, to the point where I’m finding myself forgiving a few trespasses in the name of fanservice. With the violence stripped away from the sex, the moments of giggling sexuality feel far less like a sneering crotch grab than in something like, say, Night Trap.
Ten hours in I’m finding myself oddly enthralled with Mugen Souls Z’s bright and cheery world. Hopefully it can maintain the same level of manic energy throughout its extensive playtime.