Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem: The Kotaku Import Preview

Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem: The Kotaku Import Preview

True to its title Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem is a mix of the two games, but if you expected a dark and depressing tactics title, you're more than a bit off the mark.

Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem: The Kotaku Import Preview

Like many Shin Megami Tensei games, Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem is set in modern day Tokyo. The story follows Itsuki, a normal high schooler. After school one day, he goes to watch a singing competition — only to discover that his class mate Tsubasa is a finalist. Suddenly, all hell breaks loose as ghost figures appear and begin stealing energy from the gathered crowd while Tsubasa is dragged through a mysterious portal. Chasing after her, Itsuki is able to turn one of the spectres, Chrom, to his side and the two merge to rescue Tsubasa. After this, the two (along with Tsubasa and her own partner) join talent agency Fortuna Entertainment — the front for an organisation that uses pairs like Itsuki and Chrom to stop these otherworldly incursions before people's energy is sucked dry.

Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem: The Kotaku Import Preview

The world of Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem is steeped in Japanese idol culture and the industry surrounding it. Simply put, the other dimensional invaders (called "mirages") are collecting the energy and excitement that comes from performances — be that concerts, TV appearances or photo shoots. In addition, mirage attacks are becoming more and more common, and there is no way to predict when the next one will occur.

Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem: The Kotaku Import Preview

Because of this, the cast members spend most of their days doing normal work. While it may be a front, Fortuna Entertainment is a working talent agency — and a successful one at that with Kiria, Japan's number one pop star, as one of their managed talents. As it turns out, the performance energy the mirage are after is also what powers human/mirage pairs like Itsuki and Chrom. Therefore, the better a performer one becomes, the more powerful the pair will be.

Each main character in Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem is a different kind of celebrity — and faces different problems because of it. Tsubasa is a newbie singer, suddenly thrust into a world that is about far more than just singing. Kiria is a "cool beauty" pop star who is afraid of showing her cute side beneath her cool exterior. Toma plays a Power Rangers style hero in local stage shows and dreams of becoming a true super hero. Elenora is an up-and-coming actress who constantly has to deal with the prejudice levelled at her for being half-Japanese, half-Caucasian. Mamori is a cooking show host who wants to expand into singing and other areas but seems unable to.

Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem: The Kotaku Import Preview

This just leaves Itsuki. While all the others have chosen the life of a celebrity for various reasons, Itsuki has no such ambition. He just wants to support his friends and help repel the mirage invasions. Because of this, he ends up as something between an odd jobs man and manager to the rest of the cast in their work. This allows him to come in and out of the other characters' stories, and with each, comes closer to figuring out what he wants to do with his life.

Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem: The Kotaku Import Preview

However, these personal dilemmas are not covered in the main plot of the game for the most part. Rather, between each chapter is an interlude in which various side quests are introduced that delve into the main cast and their back stories. These turned out to be my favourite part of the game — not only because of the character development they add but also that each nets an extra bonus. Sometimes, you get a music video cutscene. Other times you get a new costume or a new skill. Either way, I felt rewarded for going out of my way to get the game's full story.

Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem: The Kotaku Import Preview

From all I've said so far, you're probably wondering what aspects make Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem a cross between its parent series. For Fire Emblem, it's the mirages themselves. Both heroes and bosses are demonic redesigns of popular Fire Emblem characters. On the Shin Megami Tensei side of things is everything from the basic plot — teens that summon "demons" to save the world — to the magic names and combat system.

Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem: The Kotaku Import Preview

Like the Shin Megami Tensei games, this one also has a turn-based battle system. The party uses a collection of magic and special attacks to defeat the enemies they come across. While the standard enemy elemental strengths and weaknesses are included, it is overlayed with a simplified version of the Fire Emblem weakness tree — for example, bow attacks hurt flying creatures.

Exploiting enemy weaknesses is the key to combat in Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem. However, this isn't just because of the additional damage such attacks cause. As they level up, your characters learn special skills that allow them to chain attacks together. The way to start these chains is by hitting an enemy's weakness. The game itself is balanced so that it assumes you will always be using chain attacks. If you don't, even a simple random attack can easily be your doom.

Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem: The Kotaku Import Preview

Another welcome addition to combat is a little thing borrowed from Final Fantasy X: the ability to switch out party members mid-battle. This, of course, makes chaining even easier as you can switch at any time to a party member better suited to fight the enemies you face. The only downside to this is that Itsuki, as the main character, can never be switched out. More than once, this proves to be a devastating handicap.

Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem is a surprisingly tough game — tough enough that I say with no shame that I bumped the difficulty down to easy and still found it challenging at times. While normal encounters are easy enough if you use your chain attacks, each dungeon also harbours numerous world bosses. World bosses appear randomly, are four to five times stronger than normal monsters and often come in far greater numbers. The upside to these battles is, if you win, you gain rare items needed for crafting new weapons and gaining skills.

Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem: The Kotaku Import Preview

Normal boss battles are likewise difficulty spikes. Each boss comes with its own group of supporting monsters that can be re-summoned over the course of the battle. Each also changes its tactics as its HP is reduced — making for surprisingly tense battles.

But as tough as Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem is, it's surprisingly forgiving in many areas. You can save anywhere and if you lose a battle, the game will give you the option of loading in just before the battle. The game also gives you a warning before you enter a boss battle — so you don't accidentally stumble into it — as well as a recommended level for your characters. In other words, while the game is challenging, it's not out to waste your time as a punishment for failing.

Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem: The Kotaku Import Preview

But it's not the battles that are the most stressful part of the game — it's the learning of new skills. In Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem you get tons of crafting items from battle that you use to make new weapons (or rather turn your mirage partners into new weapons, if you want to be precise). Each weapon not only boosts stats but also progressively teaches the equipped character new skills. There are tons of skills to learn and thus a lot of customisation to be had.

The aggravating part is that you'll learn far more skills and attacks than you can possibly equip — and learning a new skill when all your skill slots are full means you have to forget an old skill. Several times over my time with the game, I spent 30 minutes staring at the new skill screen debating which skills to lose and which to keep. And because boss and world boss battles are so different from normal encounters, what is useful for one kind is often useless in the other.

Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem: The Kotaku Import Preview

If you are expecting a dark and brooding game, you're not going to get it in Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem. While there is good character drama and a few darker moments, it is largely a light-hearted adventure set in the Japanese entertainment world. The gameplay is challenging and the characters a ton of fun to get to know. So while it might not be exactly what you pictured for Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem, it's certainly an RPG worth playing whether you're a fan of either series or not.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get back to listening to the game's awesome soundtrack.

Genei Ibun Roku #FE (Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem) was released in Japan for the Nintendo Wii U on 26 December 2015. It is scheduled for a Western release sometime in 2016.


Comments

    Please please please don't be dub-only. It looks so good but the usual Atlus dub could ruin it. :(

    Also 5th screenshot: if those costumes make it here without Nintendo censoring, removing or replacing them with garish Nintendo character cosplay outfits I'll be stunned.

      But Altus dubs are not that bad?

      Every day's great at your Junes~

        Persona 4's dub is passable enough, but it's significantly better than Atlus' usual output.

          I don't remember which company's dub but there was one that literally make me cringe when I hear them speak. Altus is one of the better ones.

            If you like your games to sound like bad anime, sure, they're okay. There being even worse out there doesn't make them good though.

            Either way, I want the option of playing with the Japanese dialogue instead. It's how I prefer to play JRPGs, and it's especially the case for a game that seems as quintessentially Japanese as this. Nintendo's been actively purging dual audio options from their localizations recently though so have zero expectation of them doing it.

              There being even worse out there doesn't make them good though.

              Sorry you get me wrong. I have never said the dub was "good". I said it is the better ones. God forbid dubs are horrible but what choice do we have? No dual audio no buy? You can't be seriously that entitled right?

              Nintendo does not release Japanese dub for western release. Big titles usually uses a lot of talented VA from different companies and it is too expensive to actually pay the licensing fee + royalty for using the Japanese dub for international release. Using local studios in US/EU is much cheaper option compare to licensing Japanese dub.

              Last edited 19/02/16 11:22 am

                Xenoblade and the new Fire emblem had dual audio removed so I'm not looking forward to the announcement on this- who do they think are buying these games?

                  Let me guess, English speaking players?

                  Last edited 19/02/16 1:03 pm

                I can't understand the 'it's too expensive' argument. Too expensive for Nintendo to use the vocals it payed for? If it was a localization house like XSeed or NISA or something sure, but Nintendo's got the wherewithal to pay for it and they should already own the rights to that dialogue as a company.

                They sort of set a precedent when they had dual audio in Xenoblade and Fire Emblem and a few others, but the last 18-24 months they've stopped doing it and it's very frustrating and regressive, since just about every other JRPG localization group tries their utmost to get dual audio in there if they are able to. Even the big publishers like Squenix and Bandai Namco are aware it's a feature people want and put it into most of their games now.

                Personally it is a case where I feel very conflicted about buying games that turn out not to have dual audio and I probably won't get this if it's the case. I cancelled my Xenoblade X LE when I found they'd dropped it as it was the final straw killing my interest in the game, and I don't think I'll be playing my Fire Emblem Fates copy for quite a while as finding out last minute that I won't be able to enjoy it the way I want to killed a lot of my interest there too. It's not a case of feeling 'entitled', it's that the usual JRPG dubs significantly decrease my ability to enjoy the elements of these games that I buy them for. It's tantamount to a cut feature, and choosing to skip a game or buy it later is hardly being entitled any more than it would be if they decided to cut multiplayer from a game I wanted to play multiplayer.

                  I can't understand the 'it's too expensive' argument. Too expensive for Nintendo to use the vocals it payed for? If it was a localization house like XSeed or NISA or something sure, but Nintendo's got the wherewithal to pay for it and they should already own the rights to that dialogue as a company.

                  http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=50394402&postcount=522

                  Here read the abstract from XSEED about getting Japanese dub. The original article seems to be gone now maybe from the restructure of XSEED website.

                  It does not matter which company it is, VA contracts are strict and does not allow them to be reused internationally, or they have make a new contract and re-record the dub again for international release. How is that not expensive?

                  Regardless if the dub is there or not, if a game is good, it will be good. Choosing not to buy an excellent game because the english dub is not to your fancy is in fact, being an entitled gamer.

                  Last edited 19/02/16 2:16 pm

              do you have any jrpgs you could recommend that have good dubbing? - i actually dont mind Japanese audio with subs, but i get lazy sometimes.

                Trails of Cold Steel just came out in Europe & Australia. It's dub-only (Falcom outsourced the JP dub and XSeed was unable to re-license it without paying for it to be re-dubbed in Japanese again apparently :\ ) but aside from a few characters the dub is generally much higher quality than par, plus they don't have to worry about lip sync and length for each voiced line, so the actual dialogue is very well-written and edited so that there's a lot less of the sort of awkward dialogue you get in a lot of JRPG translations. Plus it's also a really good game.

            Oh and for dubs that are cringe-worthy, all of Tri-Ace's games (Star Ocean, Valkyrie Profile, Resonance of Fate) have very bad dubs. Star Ocean 4's was absolutely awful, m'kay (so was the game though).

    This game might actually be what I need to give in an pick up a WiiU; hope it comes out soon.

    I NEED THIS GAME MORE THAN LIFE ITSELF (along with Persona 4).

    Any word on Oz release date as of yet & if we'll get any special editions?

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