In line with the characters and storyline, the gameplay is likewise dull and convoluted. Up to four characters at a time participate in turn-based, open-area combat, using physical and magical attacks to clear the field of monsters. The concept is simple at its core--kill beasts for pleasure and profit--and it’s easy to fall into a pattern of mashing the attack button to get the fight over with.
Other features pop up to add flavor, but they often clash with what’s already there, making them difficult to fully utilize. For instance, Syrma has the unique ability to change personalities and "captivate" enemies, which clears the field of enemies by subjugating them to her will. However, it doesn't mesh well with the rest of the battle system: You don't want to captivate an enemy you're going to kill and vice versa, so a portion of your party is often left idle. Souls Z tries to make up for that with additional features--bouncing your enemies around the field to change their status boosts, for instance--but the barrage of options makes things unnecessarily confusing.
Even when a feature is actually compelling, it tends to buckle under the weight of everything around it. For example, crystal orbs are scattered around the field that cause certain status effects when characters stand near them. These can turn the tide of battle if used correctly, but you often don’t have time to think about them because too many things are going on.
There’s other stuff to do when battling gets dull, such as ship fights and subjugating planets, but with mechanics even simpler than the game’s basic combat (all it takes to turn a planet into a peon is to click through a few dialogue boxes, for instance) they have a pretty short shelf life. Dedicated fans might enjoy the setup, but these distractions are far too shallow to hold interest for long--certainly not long enough to reach Souls Z's 9,999 level cap (!!!).
It's disappointing, as Souls Z has some promising elements at its core. The search for the ultimate gods is initially intriguing, and makes you wonder what will happen when they're all together again. The aforementioned power-up crystals are really cool tools, and using your enemies' romantic preferences against them is at least different. Unfortunately, the rush to cram in superfluous features covers up Souls Z's best parts, and with the remainder of its attention on strategically placed boob-clouds, fun gameplay falls by the wayside.
The result of all this is a game that is both confused and confusing, unsure what it wants to be and so convoluted that only the most dedicated Mugen Souls fan is likely to enjoy it. If you happily suffered the slings and arrows of the original, by all means, Souls Z is probably right for you. Everyone else should tread with caution, and remember this: When the highlight of a game is how colorful it is, that’s usually a bad sign.