Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is the best RPG on the Wii U.
...Okay, maybe that’s not saying much about it. It’s the Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem crossover that Nintendo first started talking about in 2013. Combining a tactical RPG like Fire Emblem with a more traditional turn-based RPG like Shin Megami Tensei is no small task, and Atlus pulled it off.
A Return to Form
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE skews a bit closer to Shin Megami Tensei in terms of how it plays. It’s every bit a traditional RPG. Battles are turn-based. It’s got knights, mages, lords, ladies, swords, magic and coordinated dance numbers. You know, all the staples of the genre.
Presentationally, Mirage Sessions doesn’t really resemble either game; it’s its own beast. It’s bright and colorful and filled with unique characters, but most importantly, it plays like the RPGs so many of us grew up on.
The biggest way in which Mirage Sessions deviates from the standard RPG formula is in its focus on entertainment. Each character is some kind of performer, be it a singer, actor, model or what have you. Each character is a different Fire Emblem character’s master. The Fire Emblem characters represented in Mirage Sessions are all from Awakening, the first Fire Emblem game for the 3DS. It seems like every other RPG franchise under the sun is trying to find a way to be new and different by ditching the established conventions of the genre, so it’s nice to see a game take a new approach to some familiar stuff.
One of my favorite things about Mirage Sessions is the fact that there are no random encounters. Enemies will randomly spawn on the map when you’re in a part of Illusory Tokyo and will chase after you, but you can either outrun them or smack them away with your sword. There is one exception in the form of savage enemies, which appear as purple phantoms instead of the standard red. They’re impervious to sword slashes and are faster than you, so you’ll need a plan to get away from them if you don’t want to fight. Most enemy encounters are pretty easy, but the savage enemies can be pretty challenging, to say nothing of bosses.
A story about pop stars fighting demons in a twisted version of Tokyo might not sound interesting at first, but if you stick with it, it’s worthwhile. Mirage Sessions feels like it could adapt very well to an anime series.
You start out as Itsuki Aoi, an 18-year-old (17 if you’re not playing the edited version) man who gets sucked into a distorted version of Tokyo, known as the Illusory world. In it, demons called Mirages seek to extract Performa—no, not the old Macintosh—a form of energy born from the souls of entertainers.
Early on, Itsuki encounters a determined Mirage bent on taking him out. While battling it, he unwittingly frees it to discover it’s a corrupted version of Chrom from Fire Emblem. Itsuki fuses with Chrom to become a Mirage Master, thus transforming him into his Carnage form capable of dealing with the threat the denizens of the Illusory world pose.
Itsuki and his friends battle demons bent on stealing the talents of entertainers in order to both free those that have been possessed, but to also help Chrom and the rest of the Fire Emblem crew regain their memories and discovery the reason why they’ve become mirages in the first place.
As I progressed through the story, I found myself interested in seeing how the various characters’ careers would pan out. I wondered if Itsuki would ever discover his purpose, if Touma would ever get the job he was after, or if Tsubasa would become the idol her manager wants her to be. The two separate but connected stories at play had me playing through chapters and unlocking side stories to see what was next. It’s been a long time since a story-driven RPG had its claws in me like this, and I enjoyed it. Of course, the fact that Mirage Sessions is pretty damn fun to play helped things more than a little.
Character Design and Art Direction
Not all of you will agree with me, and that’s okay. We can just agree to disagree, right? Seriously though, I absolutely love the look of this game. All the character art is done in a wonderful style that can be somewhat reminiscent of Final Fantasy Tactics at times, which makes sense since Fumitaka Yano, the game’s lead artist has a history with the Final Fantasy series.
I’m a huge fan of Itsuki’s lord form, but the rest of the cast is great as well. My favorite aspect of MIrage Sessions’ design, however, is in the world itself. It’s positively bursting with color. The regular, day-to-day version of Tokyo is absolutely great to look at. Not because of outstanding attention to detail or breathtaking models, but just because of its wonderful use of color. Instead of polluting the landscape with cookie-cutter NPCs, characters that can’t be interacted with are replaced with brightly colored silhouettes. It adds a much needed pop to the urban landscape and makes running around in it fun.
To contrast this, Illusory Tokyo is dark, saturated with hues of black and purple. Everything feels mystical, foreign and evil. The brilliant use of color here tells you that you’re not safe, even standing still. The monsters that inhabit these places are unnatural and at times unsettling. Long arms, blades for hands, creepy moans and howls. The enemy design is definitely taken directly from the Shin Megami Tensei series, which to me, has some of the creepiest enemies around.
It’s a beautiful, scary, colorful, bright, inviting world and I can’t get enough of it.
What good is a fun story if the game is no fun? Mirage Session plays a lot like a traditional turn-based RPG, albeit with a few important changes. You can take a party of three into battle, with the main character, Itsuki, being the only staple.
Attacks are split up into several types: sword, spear, arrow, axe, and a variety of magical elements. Every enemy is weak to one or two of those, while they can fully resist or even repel others back at their attacker. Leveraging those weaknesses is key to defeating your opponents, not only because those attacks will deal increased damage, but also because they’ll let you chain attacks from your allies together.
The session system is the most innovative aspect of Mirage Sessions’ combat system. As your characters increase their weapon mastery (each weapon has its own mastery level, which increases with continued use) they’ll learn techniques that can chain off of other types. With the right party makeup and attacks, you can chain enough attacks in a single session to wipe out the entire enemy party. The best thing about sessions, aside from the huge damage potential, is that you’ll only spend EP using the first character’s attack, with all the joiners’ attacks being free of charge.
Later in the game, you can unlock special duet attacks which reset the session counter, letting you rack up combos of 10 or more attacks. Every attack after the third also nets you an item or some cash, meaning you can pad your inventory out pretty nicely if you keep it up.
There are also ad lib performances you can unlock if you choose to complete each characters’ side stories. The ad lib performances will randomly activate when you use a certain element of technique for that character, and most of the time they’ll add a ton of damage and some status effects or even heal your party in the process.
The evolution of the battle system is great too. Not all of these elements are immediately available, and they’re introduced in such a way as not not to bombard you with too much information right at the start. Once you have a firm grasp on something, they introduce something else to add to the battles. Fights are fun and the performance element of it works surprisingly well. The crowd behind you and the way they the characters thank them, as though they’re ending a concert fits with the theme of the game. It’s not something that sounds like it would work, but it does.
Being a game about Japan’s idol culture, it would be silly to think there would be no singing and dancing. Throughout the course of the game, several characters will have their own music videos, all of which are done in the same art style as those seen in Fire Emblem games.
They look great, are well animated and are even catchy at times. Some of the songs, particularly those by Kirin sound great. Others, however, not so much. These songs aren’t going to turn your head if you don’t already like J-Pop or anything, but if you’re into it, they might just be your speed.
That One Music Video
Okay, remember how I talked about music videos? For the most part they’re pretty good, sure. But there’s this one.. the one. It’s terrible. So terrible in fact, that I have to separate it from the rest. In a game with very few low points, this one is laughably bad.
You know what? I’ll stop talking. Just check it out for yourself. It starts at about 28:50 in the video below, courtesy of Youtuber TalesOfCreed :
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is the best RPG on the Wii U, bar none. Not only that, but it’s one of the best RPGs on any console out right now, period. The excellent combat system, intriguing characters and wonderful art direction make Mirage Sessions an absolute blast to play. It’s a must-have.