Worlds collide in Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, a kaleidoscopic crossover that masterfully blends elements associated with Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem into a near-perfect whole.
This collaborative effort between ATLUS and Nintendo has certainly been a long time coming, having first been announced way back in January 2013’s Nintendo Direct. Both parties have been open about the early challenges that the project had faced, in looking to decided whether it should be a grid-based strategy game or something entirely different.
The end result, while having aimed to merge the two series, is closer in style to the incomparable Persona, which isn’t a criticism by any means. Set in Tokyo, players assume the role of student Itsuki Aoi who soon spots childhood friend Tsubasa Oribe waiting to take part in a competition to become an idol singer. It’s harmless circumstance, but, when Tsubasa takes her place in the spotlight, monstrous Mirages swarm the stage and pull her into a menacing portal.
Without a second thought, Itsuki gives chase and soon finds himself in the Idolasphere – a dimension that serves to bridge the gap between Earth and the world from which the monsters came. Itsuki’s daring move isn’t without danger but, when his life suddenly becomes threatened by Mirages, Performa, a power creativity and self-expression, awakens inside him that rallies the heroic Chrom to his aid.
It is here that we learn that Itsuki and Tsubasa are Mirage Masters, humans with the ability to form bonds with Mirages and wield their power in battle. With their help, they look to fight back the malevolent Mirages that threaten the world’s existence.
Their escapades in the Idolasphere soon come to the attention of Fortuna Entertainment, a talent agency that has worked hard in secret to stop Mirages from invading Earth. Enrolled as their newest recruits, it also presents an opportunity for Tsubasa to chase her dreams of reaching stardom.
You can argue that the story that propels Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE sounds completely ludicrous, but, beneath the game’s candy-coated colouration it only adds to the undeniable charm that it emanates from each pixel.
This adventure has been incredibly stylised, seen not only in wandering the recreated Shibuya and Harajuku districts but in the arenas in which your party battles. These see crowds cheer as you topple monstrous foes, players looking to strike super effective attacks by exploiting weapon or elemental weaknesses that will let their party launch into a Session. This is the suitably musical name for combos, where, once a weakness has been exploited, can see other party members leap in afterwards to chain multiple attacks.
These turn-based battle instances will be familiar to genre aficionados, but, in putting the Fire Emblem brand to use, throw in weapon categories for consideration – sword, axe, and lance each lending their own strengths and weaknesses. Your party can use Ad-lib Performances for more wide-ranging attacks, turn a losing battle back in their favour with Special Performances, and team up with one another for damage-dealing combos referred to as Duo Arts.
Clear consideration has been made to entwine the game’s musical inspiration with the battle mechanics and only helps envelop you in the world that ATLUS has created. You will gain experience to level up, unlock new skills from the weapon that each party member carries, and, in keeping with the theme, characters have their own Stage Rank. It all remains accessible, but there’s plenty of depth here to give genre fans enough room to compose more intricate strategies.
Outside of battle, humorous side stories elongate your play time and help the cast of characters in Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE unlock their potential by realising their dreams. This is important in strengthening their battle prowess, as are regular trips to Tiki’s Bloom Palace, where players can use gathered Performa to unlock new weapons and Radiant Skills.
In broadening your immersion, the Wii U GamePad is used as the social media service, Topic. This lets you keep in contact with your party members, learning more about the characters that you share your quest with and opening up new opportunities to build upon your newfound friendships.
While the story, characters, and colourful setting will keep players captivated from start to finish, the dungeons can prove themselves to be hit and miss. Often as crazy as the game itself, these are all particularly daring in the styles that they look to capture, but can at times feel uninspired. It’s the only marginal disappointment that I had with the game amid the musical spectacle, but, given that these are predominantly where you will be spending your time, came as a shame.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE effortlessly delivers a performance of a lifetime, arriving as a near swansong for Wii U. It never misses a beat, packed with vibrancy not only in the kaleidoscopic palette but the soaring soundtrack that energises the entire experience.