Tokyo Mirage Sessions is a Wii U exclusive and a hybrid between two games: Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei. That’s two games I never imagined coming together. I’m glad it did though, because it created an RPG experience unlike one I’ve ever come across.
This is also the most Japanese thing I’ve ever played in my entire life. There isn’t even an option for dub voices; the game uses the original voices and subs. I don’t dislike this or think it is bad, but it caters to a very niche audience. If you’re not into anime or games of that nature, then I would probably not advise you to play the game. All those who are into that thing, read on.
The game takes place in modern-day Tokyo and its districts. You play as Itsuki, a young male high school student. When a mysterious ghastly force attacks an idol audition, Itsuki’s childhood friend, Tsubasa, is kidnapped. Itsuki does not hesitate to rescue her and finds himself in the distorted world of Mirages known as an Idolosphere.
Shortly after, Itsuki meets Chrom and Tsubasa meets Caeda, characters from the Fire Emblem series. They decide to team up to fight the Mirages, which are invading the modern world and stealing people’s lifeforce known as Performa. Tsubasa and Itsuki join a company called Fortuna Entertainment who has been tracking the Mirages and their movements. They decide to fight the Mirages to protect the world, while becoming icons in the entertainment industry.
The combat is some of the best I have seen in any RPG so far. Shin Megami Tensei is known for unique combat and Tokyo Mirage Sessions does not disappoint. Combat is turn-based, but thrilling. By targeting the enemies’ weaknesses your party will perform follow-up attacks, known as sessions, based on their abilities.
A bar at the top of the screen indicates which enemies and party members will get to move next, so it is imperative to pay attention to that to devise the best plan of attack. However, if enemies target your weakness they too can perform sessions and deal massive amounts of damage to your party.
In this game you can also fuse items to create weapons and passive abilities. You do this by collecting drops from enemies and visiting Tiki (another Fire Emblem character) at Bloom Palace. The weapons grant new stats, resistances, weakness, and abilities for each character. Try to fuse as many weapons and skills as possible to gain more possibilities in combat. If you ignore this crucial part of the game, you likely won’t get far.
The dungeons are clever. In the past, Shin Megami Tensei games had pretty basic dungeon crawling mechanics. Most of the floors are boring, with maybe one floor that changes things up slightly. In Tokyo Mirage Sessions each dungeon has a unique mechanic or puzzle to solve in order to progress.
In one of the dungeons you must flip switches to reposition giant mannequins to reach new areas. Another dungeon requires you to avoid camera detection or they teleport you back to the beginning of the area. This makes traversing dungeons less tedious and keeps it interesting.
Speaking of which, Mirages will pop out of the ground in dungeons to hinder your progress. Chrom will speak up to let you know when they are nearby. Sometimes he detects enemies on the other side of the wall, so he will just start blabbering for no reason, but that’s not a big deal. When a Mirage does actually appear in an area that affects you, you can either run into it or attack it with your sword. Attacking it will knock it down, at that point you may choose to avoid it or run into it. Running into it while it is knocked down can give you the chance to get a first strike (your party gets extra turns before the enemy attacks). If you want to minimize damage taken while fighting, this is the way to go.
The story of the game is really unique. I can’t say I’ve played a game where the main characters try to become idols while fusing with Fire Emblem characters to fight evil mirage monsters…
Uh. Like I said, really unique. It’s not a bad story, but some of the oddities take me out of the world a bit. At one point in the story the part tries to free a cameraman from the influence of a powerful Mirage. To accomplish this, Tsubasa must gain inspiration to learn how to pose for him properly. At that part I could only think about how stupid that sounded, and how all the characters stupidly thought this was a brilliant idea. Other than that, the storyline is fine.
Most of the characters are archetypes, but that’s fine. Almost every character has a lovable quirk that makes them likable and fun to be around. Except for Itsuki. He could not have less of a personality. Like Tsubasa, he is training to become an idol, or actor, or something, but he doesn’t have much of a reason or desire to. He is boring. Itsuki is an empty husk you must live the story through. Also all the characters in the game say he’s such an amazing guy. He isn’t. Stop saying that.
My main criticism of the game is its lack of variety. You will mainly be doing three things throughout the game: Reading dialogue, walking through a dungeon, or fighting enemies. That’s about it, aside from miscellaneous stuff like buying items. There are side stories and side quests to do, but they are either fetch quests or just a bunch of dialogue you have to read that somehow resolves itself anyway. I wish there were some mini-games tied to quests, or anything else to do. But if you are not going through dialogue boxes, you are going through a dungeon.
The dungeons are also long. I don’t have any immediate issues with that, but you likely won’t be able to finish a dungeon in one run since battle will drain your health and energy points. So the only thing to do is leave, recover, and go right back in. There is nothing to do in between breaks from the dungeon, aside from accepting a quest that will likely make you go to another dungeon. I find that incredibly annoying. You just have to grind in a dungeon until you beat it. Once that’s done, you get to read more text until the next dungeon. That makes the game a little too monotonous.
Finally I’d like to talk about some neat miscellaneous things. You cannot play this on the gamepad, you must play it on the TV. Why? Because occasionally your gamepad will vibrate, signaling you got a text message from one of the characters. You can then look at the gamepad and read through your new messages. I find that so cool! It lets you know what the other characters think of the situation and lets you know when you’ve gathered the appropriate materials to fuse new weapons and abilities.
Another cool thing is the first time you open up the menu, it has a picture of Ituski lying in a field. As more people join your team, they also join to the picture, smiling, looking around, or dozing off. The novelty of these things wears off after a few hours, but I enjoyed the attention to detail.
Despite its flaws, this game is still a fantastic RPG, and delivers thrilling battles that require more strategy than mindless grinding. Its combat shines brighter than its other parts, but it was enough to compensate, so I can’t fault the game too badly. If the game were to spice things up with some more interesting interludes, then it still wouldn’t be perfect… but it’d be damn close.