The Wii U was destined for it’s place in the gaming landscape. It couldn’t live up to it’s predecessors expectations, was working against a terrible marketing plan, and had tech and a gimmick that made it hard to develop for. Despite that I wouldn’t call it a failure. We saw Nintendo branching out in ways gamers never expected, extending franchises to outside developers and creating things fans couldn’t even dream. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is exemplary of those new connections.
Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei series is hugely popular in Japan and has a cult following in the west, so when we saw it at that fateful E3 years ago gamers got excited. But it wasn’t just Shin Megeimi Tensei. It was Shin Megeimi Tensei crossed with another fan favorite: Fire Emblem. After a few years wait, the result both goes beyond and falls short of fans of both series might expect.
- It has a sort of essence of another title I’ve talked about: The World Ends With You. It’s not that there’s any similarities in gameplay or artstyle. It’s simply a feeling underlined by a creative battle mechanic, colorful cast, and modern pop/Tokyo setting.
- Speaking of the battle mechanic, those of you unfamiliar with the Fire Emblem series will need some time to adjust. Those familiar will need a little less time to adjust. The veneer of Fire Emblem is there with the ever-present triangle of weaknesses. But weaknesses are almost never obvious and the session system is confusing at the beginning of the game. Otherwise it’s fun and different, but not the selling point of the game.
- Character growth, like the battle mechanics, take some understanding too. Leveling is straight-forward, but the skills and weapons systems seem convoluted. As I progressed and gained new skills I’d have to lose old ones and need to remaster weapons to relearn them. This is another place where it feels like it’s taking cues from Fire Emblem’s game weapon system when a more traditional system might have been better fit.
- The game is broken up into acts and intermissions that make it easier to play in short sessions. The story isn’t so complicated that you’ll forget what’s going on if you come back a week later.
- Loading times, and I’m gonna blame the Wii U here, are pretty bad. Waiting even just to bring up the pause menu to save takes much longer than it should.
- Outside of dungeons, you have a fixed camera view. It’s a little annoying in larger areas like Shibuya, but fine in small spaces like the Fortuna Offices.
- The music here is the star of the game. The story and theme of the game made it easy to include fun J-Pop songs. They aren’t all great but the songs don’t get old.
- Using the gamepad as a map and messaging system is fun. It’s uses like these that make me realize I’ll miss it when the Switch comes next year.
- This isn’t just quintessential JRPG, but quintessential anime. It relies heavily on anime character tropes and knows what it’s doing, having fun but never acknowledging it. Some cut scenes are even 2D animated rather than rendered in engine. It gives the game a very specific personality that helps it rise above a simple JRPG.
Generally, I had a lot of fun with Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. It’s no masterpiece, but I don’t think it ever set out to be. People who don’t enjoy JRPGs should avoid it, as you’ll be getting a lot of that. Anime-fans will definitely enjoy this, even if the story is straight-forward, though I’d tell you to wait till it’s on sale. The final song might be worth full price though.
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