Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
- Platform: Wii U
- Japanese Title: Illusory Revelations #FE
- Notes: The # is referred to as 'Sharp'
What happens when you combine the mechanics of Persona with characters from Fire Emblem and the structure of the Japanese idol industry? Apparently this.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions is developed by ATLUS, the developers of the Shin Megami Tensei series, though the story resembles the lighter storylines of the series' spin-off, Persona. Even then, some of the mechanics are more approachable (such as being able to save whenever you want).
The basic premise of the story behind the game is that you're playing as Itsuki Aoi, a high school senior who has two best friends, Touma Akagi, who plays extras in live hero shows, and Tsubasa Oribe, the only person to not have vanished from a mysterious incident five years prior while watching her sister perform in what appears to be an opera (the sound is muted over the cutscene).
The game starts with Itsuki going to meet Touma at the local TV station when Tsubasa turns out to be attending an audition for a new idol, during this, we learn of Mirages, which are parallel to Shadows to anyone who's played a Persona game. Mirages seek Performa, which is appears to be an energy born of human expression, without it, people are sluggish and unenthusiastic about everything, even their greatest hobbies.
The only thing that can fight this are people known as Mirage Masters. These are gifted individuals who form a bond with a Mirage, and this is where the Fire Emblem references come in, aside from small things like jingles. The Mirages of the party are Fire Emblem characters, admittedly given a more Persona-style makeover.
For Persona fans, the thing to note is that each character has one Mirage, though you can make it stronger throughout the game.
As mentioned, the game has some elements that serve to make it more approachable than Persona games. It doesn't take long to be able to warp to where you can make your characters stronger from the Idolasphere, the in-game term for dungeons, and you needn't worry about when you can save next, unless you're in the middle of a long dialogue. These will no doubt serve well to make the game a good entry point for ATLUS, with their next Persona game coming out in the Winter/next year depending on your territory.
Combat is fairly easy to follow, you have your basic attacks but you also can have 'sessions' by striking an enemy's weakness. Skills are also sorted into their own types of slots (basic attack, special attack and radiant skills) but they also have a unique mechanic called Sessions. Strike an enemy's weakness, and your party will join in for extra damage. What's more, if you kill an enemy during a session, after a certain point you'll do damage to other enemies while ignoring their resistances and nullifying attributes, making it worth planning.
However, there are a couple of flaws I find with the game, it mandates the use of both the TV and the Wii U gamepad screens. One for the gameplay and the other for maps and the equivalent of Instand Messaging in the world. While not a bad idea in principle, I think the option to choose between one and two screen gameplay would have been a better option. The difficulty on standard will require a little grinding for money or materials, but that's standard fare of an RPG type game in general.
I also dislike the fact that there are no subtitles during the combat. I have no qualms of the localisation team not redubbing speech, after all, singing is a central part of it, with two characters being seen very early on as having songs they perform themselves. But the lack of subtitles during the combat can alienate those with no understanding of the language. For those who have watched a copious amount of action anime or live-action Japanese movies, many of the words are standard fare, such as 'Makasete!' ("Leave it to me!") "Ikimasu!" (This is literally just 'go' but given the context it's usually 'Here I go!') and 'Shinpaishinaide' (Don't worry). But there is some unique dialogue, and not all of it I could translate off the top of my head. My boyfriend only recognises a few scant words, most notably 'Arigatou' (a mid-formality 'Thank you').
All in all, even with its flaws, Tokyo Mirage is a charming story with quirky, varied cast and a pretty good combat system. I'm fortunate enough to understand enough Japanese to snigger at the differences between the dub and the localisation, which can also pique my curiosity. I have to really thank the colleague of Xander's who literally stood over his desk at the office and made him pre-order it.