Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem are two franchises that have their share of differences. Shin Megami Tensei focuses on silent protagonists recruiting demons in an apocalyptic setting (usually Tokyo) and attempting to reshape the world through tough decisions. Fire Emblem takes a hero through a classic, medieval fantasy setting as they fight for kingdom and crown. Sure, both fall under the RPG genre, but the thought of combining them seemed like a ridiculous idea. But, in 2013, an announcement was made that Atlus and Nintendo intended to do just that. A few years later, the finished product is something completely unexpected. You’re not fighting to reshape Tokyo with demons at your side. You’re not traversing castles and battlefields in the name of royalty. Instead, you’re trying to prevent monsters called Mirages from stealing the creative energy from Japanese pop stars, models, actors and idols. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE will appeal to most RPG fans, especially those that wish to give their Wii U some much needed attention. If not for some noticeable flaws, this would be one of the better modern games in the genre.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions takes place in present day Tokyo. The residents of Tokyo have creative energy called Performa. Through the power of Performa, the folks in Tokyo are able to entertain the masses. However, entities called Mirages are trying to steal Performa for their own use. This happens to Tsubasa Oribe during her audition to become an idol. During her performance, Mirages attack and take her to an alternate dimension called an Idolasphere. Luckily, Tsubasa’s childhood friend Itsuki Aoi is on the scene. As he wanders in the Idolasphere in search of his friend, he forms a pact with a friendly Mirage from another world named Chrom. Now a Mirage Master, Itsuki needs to seek out other Mirage Masters and stop the Mirages from stealing Tokyo’s Performa.
Chrom, and the other friendly Mirages that join Itsuki’s posse, come from the Fire Emblem universe. While they don’t have any of their memories, they develop well over the course of the game. It’s interesting seeing them in such a peppy setting that revolves around the creative arts. Itsuki and his friends turn into a likable cast of characters the further you get. It’s clear that they love to perform, so they will do anything they can to prevent the rest of Tokyo from suffering from a lack of Performa. My favorite is Eleanora Yumizuru, an ambitious blonde with Hollywood on her mind and a sassy attitude. Near the end of the game, you’ll learn more about the Fire Emblem cast and why they arrived in Tokyo. The story itself is creative, but its major plot twist is dull. It’s the characters that make the tale worth seeing through to the end.
Half of your time with Itsuki will be spent around Tokyo’s major areas such as Shibuya and Harajuku. The other half will take place in bizarre Idolaspheres. In Tokyo, Itsuki can take on various odd-jobs for rewards, shop for items and accessories, participate in side-stories to increase the abilities of his friends, and interact with some colorful NPCs. The most important place he can explore is the Bloom Palace. This is where the Fire Emblem heroes reside, and where a magical girl named Tiki helps create new weapons (known as Carnage Unities) and abilities (known as Radiant Unities) for the party. By using raw materials dropped from monsters and those discovered in various treasure containers, you can create a variety of weapons and abilities that incrementally turn your party into a mighty cast of all-star performers.
You get to put all of those newly created Unities to work in Idolaspheres. Mirages will pop up out of nowhere and initiate and begin chasing Itsuki. With the push of a button, you can swing his sword to knock them down. Touching a Mirage begins a battle, but if the Mirage was knocked down, then there is a chance for a first strike after making contact. Tokyo Mirage Sessions appears to feature classic, turn-based combat. Itsuki and two other party members take the stage in battle to defeat hostile Mirages. While you have a standard attack option, as well as the ability to use items, run away, swap characters, and other features, you’ll spend most of your time using each character’s special abilities that come from mastering Carnage Unities. This is because it’s important to exploit your enemies’ weaknesses. In doing so, you can start a Session Attack, which is the only way to truly defeat enemies.
Session Attacks are combination attacks with the rest of the party members. After hitting an enemy with its weakness and another party member possesses a Session Skill linking to the type of attack used, that party member will follow up with their own attack. Then, if another party member has a matching Session Skill, they will perform another follow up attack. With seven party members in total, there is always a chance for a Session Attack. Of course, enemies can perform Session Attacks on your party. Winning a battle means earning experience points for leveling up and learning new abilities from equipped Carnage Unities. They will also increase in Stage Level, which allows them to learn more Radiant Unities and participate in new side-stories.
There’s more to battles than the above such as Ad-Lib Performances, Duo Attacks, Rare Mirages, Savage Encounters and Dual Attacks, but I won’t get into those for the sake of space. Battles in Tokyo Mirage Session are fun, but there are some problems with them. The first is that the Session Attacks ware out their welcome. Seeing the same thing over and over, without the ability to skip it, needlessly prolongs battles. Enemies have levels of energy that are meant to be depleted through the use of Session Attacks. Another issue is that they take a while to load. Most of the game has some loading issues, but they’re more apparent in battle. One of my biggest pet peeves is that there are tons of unique skills to learn, but they don’t have much use in battle due to them not being able to be linked to sessions. Boss battles take exceptionally long because boss attacks have long animations that cannot be skipped. If there were more options to fast-forward or skip some of the monotony, then battles would have been close to perfect.
One thing that is close to perfect, however, is the game’s look. Tokyo is a happening city, filled with multi-colored individuals. As you explore both it and the Idolaspheres, you will see some imaginative areas that are very different from one another. It’s a shame that there aren’t more of them. The same criticism can be applied to the enemies you face. Again, they are creative, but their palettes get reused multiple times. The graphics truly shine when you’re watching your team perform in and out of battle. Gorgeous animated sequences occur during key moments of the story and, as usual, I would have liked to have seen some more. The entire game is voiced in Japanese, which will likely cause some bitterness. Remember, this is a game that takes place in Japan. They speak Japanese in Japan. Finally, the music deserves a special mention. Whether it’s a groovy city beat, a more intense battle theme, or song and dance number from one of the characters, the music is always on point.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions is packed with content. Aside from the main story and the side-stories, there are tons of secrets to discover. There are a variety of achievements to unlock, some of which will take multiple playthroughs. However, most will be able to finish the game in about 50 hours. Multiple difficulty levels can be selected at any time to make your journey as easy or challenging as you like. With the ability to save anywhere, I was never upset if I came to a boss battle with the wrong set up. Tokyo Mirage Sessions has style and substance, but it overstays its welcome. By the time you reach the final boss, seeing the same Session Attack over and over will lack the visual flare it once had and you’ll want the curtain to drop. Quicker loading times, quicker battles, and quicker traveling would have gone a long way here. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE has very little to do with Shin Megami Tensei, but fans of that series will enjoy the nods it gives. Fire Emblem was given more attention. No matter your familiarity with either series, this is an RPG that all fans of the genre should enjoy.
Overall, 7.5/10: Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE starts strong and slowly loses momentum the further you progress. Some additional features would have helped carry the high notes throughout the journey.