Back when it was first announced that there would be a crossover game between Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei for the Nintendo Wii U, fans of both series were jumping for joy at the news. Now three years on, does the game we have now live up to the initial hype?
The game was first announced in January 2013 as Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem, but after the announcement, little about the game was revealed. It wasn’t until April 2015 that the game finally resurfaced under a new title of Illusory Revelations #FE for Japan and during Nintendo’s E3 2015 Digital Event, the game was confirmed for the west under the name Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Despite the name change and moving away from the idea of a solid crossover of the two franchises,, Tokyo Mirage Sessions is home to a good deal of both while also successfully becoming its own game.
Our story is set in a modern Tokyo where mysterious beings known as Mirages are invading and stealing “Performa” from humans. This Performa is the energy inside everyone which allows them to pursue their dreams, so it’s certainly powerful stuff that in the wrong hands can cause a lot of problems! To combat the evil Mirages there are a team of people, known as Mirage Masters, who can team up with good Mirages and use their power to keep peace in the world. One of these Mirage Masters is Itsuki Aoi, our protagonist, who gains his power while trying to rescue a childhood friend of his – Tsubasa Oribe. The various Mirage Masters all have one thing in common, they all work for a talent agency known as Fortuna Entertainment where they aim to further their careers as actors or idols. While working for the agency, Itsuki must look out for his fellow Mirage Masters while also working to discover just why the Mirages are invading Tokyo and what their eventual goal is.
The Mirages aren’t just simply monsters though, they’re also one of the many ways that Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE shows off its Fire Emblem roots. The good Mirage that partners with Itsuki strongly resembles Chrom from Fire Emblem Awakening, and some of the others will also be familiar to those of the strategy series. The enemy mirages you battle, however, are simply monsters that don’t share anything with Fire Emblem, although some of their designs are similar to those seen in Shin Megami Tensei or the Persona series.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions is a JRPG and plays a lot like Atlus’ beloved Persona series. Although the story is a lot lighter than those found in Persona, the quest, battle system and overall design of the game does feel a lot more like the sub series than Shin Megami Tensei proper. It’s not a bad thing overall as Shin Megami Tensei is still rather well represented throughout the game and certainly makes sense with Atlus being hard at work on Persona 5.
The battle system is a rather simple turn-based affair with enemies having many different weaknesses and resistances for you to learn. The weapon triangle from Fire Emblem has sort of been adapted in with monsters being weak or resistant to Swords, Spears, Axes and Bows alongside the usual elemental weakness/resistance system that’s seen in Persona. As you get more confident with the battle system and advance further into the game you are introduced to the idea of Sessions, which are effectively chain attacks between your party. Once you gain new team-mates and skills the sessions can get pretty crazy in terms of the amount of combos, the highest I’ve gotten so far being 18!
Outside of battles you also have to think about your weapons. Each Mirage Master specialises in one kind of weapon, like the main character Itsuki fights with a Rapier. Every weapon has its EXP bar and own skills that you can learn from it as you take part in battles and level it up. As you battle you’ll gain items to create new weapons and therefore gain the ability to obtain new skills to make yourself even more powerful in battle. It’s not just your weapons that have abilities though, as every party member also has their own selection of skills they can obtain. These are usually just unlocked with Performa you gain from battle but some of them are also linked to completing each character’s various side stories.
Story is something that Tokyo Mirage Sessions does really well with. The overall tale is quite light and fluffy. It’s interesting for sure, but what I really love is the interactions between the various characters and the numerous side-quests. With so many characters to focus on I thought it would be difficult to really get to know anyone, but thankfully the game put these worries to rest very quickly with the side stories it offers. There are multiple stories to play for each character and if you don’t want to complete them while working at the main plot, every chapter of the main game has an “Intermission Chapter” where you’re free to do as you wish until you want to advance the story. It’s a nifty way of giving you a perfect time to go clearing quests or indeed advancing through these stories. Side stories and quests are unlocked chapter by chapter so there is no risk of blasting through everything available halfway through, you’ll always have something on offer for your downtime.
There are nods to Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem scattered throughout, usually in the form of music (the level up noise from Fire Emblem plays whenever a level is gained for example), but the item shop in the Tokyo Mirage Session universe also has a mascot that looks like Jack Frost from SMT. While the game might be a simple JRPG affair, it’s definitely kept a good deal from the series’ that inspired its development.
Gameplay wise the game is a joy to play with a really colourful graphical style and an overall fun feel to everything. Characters and enemies are well designed, as are environments, and the soundtrack (one of the most important aspects considering the idol aspect) is wonderful. Load times are a little longer than I’d like when entering the Idolasphere (dungeons) or just moving from location to location but that can be forgiven considering how nice the designs for each are. It’s also worth noting that this game is subtitle-only, there is no dub on offer, but when its story is so rooted in Japanese culture a dub wouldn’t do it justice anyway. The performance of the Japanese voice cast is splendid and scored points with me due to the fact Itsuki is voiced by Ryohei Kimura who plays Sorey in the Tales of Zestiria game.
My main complaint is that the game cannot be played with any other controller but the Wii U GamePad. This wouldn’t be too bad if not for the fact the GamePad’s battery life just doesn’t last long enough for my lengthy play sessions. The GamePad is home to the in-game social app known as Topic (think Facebook Messenger) and is a generally busy place, keeping track of all your in-game conversations as well as a map and swapping over to detail information about your characters and enemies while in-battle. While I certainly welcome the use of the GamePad in such a creative way, I’d also have liked the option to map it to a button so I could use a different controller to play sometimes. Because of the way the GamePad is used it also means there is no off-TV play, which feels like a missed opportunity.
More minor complaints are that there is no quest list (no, seriously, after you take on a quest there is no way to access it and see more details or literally anything) and it can be difficult to come back to if you leave the game in a middle of a chapter. The topic discussions are meant to keep you in the loop and generally point you in the right direction, but I find that they rarely help me so I can only really play the game when I know I have a couple of evenings to make my way through a chapter.
I’m currently just about to start chapter six and while I’ve been pretty heavily focused on getting through the main story I’ve also been doing a lot of side quests, so I’m currently sat at about 45 hours with what I reckon is another 10-15 hours worth of content to go. It’s a lengthy game but certainly one I’m enjoying my time with. There are three different difficulty modes on offer to begin with (although more can be unlocked) in the usual fashion of easy, normal and hard but don’t be fooled by the idea of normal. I started on it and quickly moved down to easy as the normal difficulty feels like it’s where hard should be, but that’s a standard issue I tend to have with Atlus developed games.
Overall I’m rather pleased with what Tokyo Mirage Sessions brings to the table. It might not be the crossover that we first imagined but it’s certainly one of the best JRPG’s on the Wii U and belongs in everyone’s collection. For someone as in-love with Japanese culture as I am the game is a true joy and I’ve loved every moment spent with it so far. There are some minor issues but I think a sequel could clear those nicely. So Atlus, when can I have Tokyo Mirage Sessions 2?