Full Disclosure: This game was played using an un-censor patch. I wanted to be able to play this game without the frustration that I had from the many acts of localization this game suffered from. I highly suggest that if you want to play this game, go this road, because it does make the game much better. If you’d like a glimpse of the things that were censored you can check out this list of changes.
I love Nintendo’s Fire Emblem series, I’ve been playing the games since I was 13 years old. So when I saw that Fire Emblem was going to do a cross over with the Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei series I knew that I had to play the game. I figured the game would be set in a medieval country at war with another country that somehow managed to control demons or something. Suffice it to say, I didn’t expect a crossover between these fairly dark and politically heavy series to center on the Japanese pop idol industry.
Bluntly put, the story is often nonsensical – when I played through the first 30 minutes of this game I was flabbergasted. You are Itsuki Aoi, the common everyman that really doesn’t have much going for him. Your childhood friend goes into a talent competition to become Japan’s next top idol. During her performance, she’s abducted and the crowd becomes lifeless and dull. Monsters known as “Mirages” descend upon the stage and start harvesting what would later be called the “Performa”, or creative energies, of the helpless crowd.
Instead of sticking around and getting eaten you decide to try and save your childhood friend that was dragged off into a parallel dimension. After running around for a period of time, you find yourself cornered by these Mirages and all hope seems to be lost. Unfortunately for these Mirages, you somehow have a much higher level of Performa than they expected and you manage to use it to bring one of them to their senses.
The combat system in this game is one of the more inventive and fun I’ve in an RPG series in a long time. Combat is centered on an arena where the three playable characters circle the enemy Mirages while hundreds of thousands of Mirages watch from the background cheering your actions at every step of the way. Combat is flashy and every attack is made with all the style and flourish befitting the crowd-pleasing entertainers.
Each Mirage comes with their own strengths and weaknesses that correspond to Fire Emblem classes. For example, the myrmidons are weak to spear type weapons, or cavaliers who are weak to axes. If you use a character that has an advantageous weapon, or that has magic that the enemy is weak to, you’ll start a “Session” which allows other characters get a chance to add on extra damage.
This was where I enjoyed myself a little too much, because the previous type of attack automatically triggers an extra attack, resulting in a chain that continues until an attack is dodged or blocked. Not only can you purposefully arrange and stack these Session abilities, but in many instances you can get a rally of 12-13 attacks going near the end of the game if you plan it properly. These Session rallies net you additional money, and materials needed to improve your character or make new Carnage form weapons for your Mirages.
This wasn’t the only thing that was really enjoyable about the combat system though, as there were several other aspects of combat that I absolutely adored. Special performances can be performed at will (with a cost) that cause drastic changes to the battle, such as allowing each character another turn during a round, or triggering an ability which heals every playable character on the field while giving the character performing the skill another turn.
The cost to use these comes in the form of points that build up over time depending on how well you do at utilizing sessions. These helped me out considerably over the game – but saving them for boss battles is a huge disservice to yourself. There are also ad-lib performances that occur seemingly at random which can heal your party, damage the enemy, or lower the resistance of the enemies on the field. But, while I say randomly, any fan of Fire Emblem would know that these unique skills trigger off the skill attribute. I was tickled when I found this fact out and put as much effort as I could into the skill attribute as humanly possible.
These unique abilities, “Random Performances”, and rallies are all necessary for the battles you face. While most enemies can be handled without a care in the world, there are some enemy encounters dubbed “Savage Encounters” that will push you to the extreme. These Savage Encounters are difficult; many appearing 5 to 8 levels over your characters and featuring enemies that you likely haven’t even seen before.
Like in most RPG’s, the characters each get the ability to learn new skills and magic abilities to use in combat. For Tokyo Mirage Sessions, these are learned from making new carnage forms for your characters and using the weapons in combat until mastery. In order to make these new abilities you’ll need to get the various materials your enemies drop at the end of battle or during sessions.
Each weapon has 4 abilities for you to learn and enhance your characters with. Active abilities can be used during your turn, most of which appear to be references to abilities from the Shin Megami series. These active abilities are often what you’ll use to trigger sessions with your partners. Passive abilities help increase the strengths, resistances, or special attributes of your characters.
In some instances, passive abilities can be used to increase the likelihood that your Knight will be attacked, or these can take the form of increasing the damage certain types of attacks will have on enemies. The final type of abilities that you will gain from weapons are the Session Abilities. These will have your characters react to the use of another’s ability. For example, when your character attacks an enemy weak to sword attacks, another character might jump in with a spear attack because the session abilities you’ve chosen for them is the “Lance -> Slash” ability.
The combat system in this game was well thought out and I have to say I loved every aspect of it. The customization of your characters can lead to a surprising amount of depth that is enjoyable from start to finish. So much so, in fact, if you only play this game for the combat and grind I promise you won’t be disappointed. There are also small, subtle things that add up to really make this game better over all.
Combat aside, I can’t help but feel that the world put forth is dull and lifeless. While Tokyo is as full as it ever was, you’ll rarely learn about its inhabitants. The people within the city don’t ever really add much to the overarching story or even give it a slight touch of humanity. This might be due to the fact that most famous individuals rarely look at the general public, or the fact that you see most of these people as colorful silhouettes rather than actual people.
In all honesty you’ll only really interact with and learn about 10 characters. This wouldn’t annoy me that much if these characters actually had a chance to get fleshed out, but the story practically revolves around your childhood friend. You’ll see her rise to stardom, taking on challenging roles such as a singer, model, and actor and watch her grow in personal strength. Normally this would be a perfectly fine story if the character was well written, but in Tokyo Mirage Sessions she is not. Simply put, she’s bland.
With the majority of the story focusing on your childhood friend, most of the side characters don’t really get a chance to really shine at all. With their characterization being regulated entirely to side stories which aren’t in depth or long enough to even allow for much growth at all. Each character is given only three side stories (reminiscent of the support conversations found in Fire Emblem) that try to show that the character in question is something more than poorly written cliches.
Most of these side stories involve you trying to help your friend get further on in their career in some way, shape, or form. What I can say for certain that some of these side stories are really enjoyable. One such side story has you giving your friend advice on how to pick up women – because that’s needed to somehow increase his appeal to mothers. Another sees you going on a date with them to teach them what it feels like to fall in love.
Poor characterization aside, the biggest flaw in this game for me are the proliferation of plot holes. There are several throughout the game and it drove me crazy every time I found one. You’re being trained in the arts of dance, song, and acting, but not once do you actually do anything useful with this training.
I went in from the beginning really wanting to like this game. The way the developers place nods to the idol industry as well as the two series this game comes from makes me giddy inside. The gameplay is also really enjoyable. The problem was the story which ended up an utter disappointment, and the characters were alright at best and annoying as hell at worst.
There are plot holes that could sink ships and enemies that are little more than 1 dimensional characters. That’s not even touching upon the massive amount of changes this game dealt with in localization, but I really didn’t want to get into that in this review. If you’re looking for more information on that I’ll place several links in the disclosure.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE was reviewed on the Wii U using a retail copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 7.5
- Combat System is enjoyable throughout the entire game
- Clever References and subtle nods to the roots of this game are a delight
- Music is really nice and Musical Cut-scenes are well coreographed and the animation its animation top quality
- Some Side Stories are breath of fresh air and provide insight into the character
- Characters often have very little dimension
- Many side stories are borderline insulting
- Some songs become repetative after hearing them several times
- There are many Plot Holes and many things get completely forgotten by the developers
- Main Character is uncharismatic and lacks a true purpose in the company he works for
- Main villain lacks direction and motivation ultimately this leads to an unfulfilling conclusion