Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE combines the characters from the Fire Emblem series with the turn-based RPG gameplay of Shin Megami Tensei. In the game, you don't "start". You debut. It's a game in which your star power is your real power, and big performances translate into big victories. Let's take a look.
There's a reason for this style of fighting.
Every person has a resource called Performa inside them, which evil, invisible Mirages are trying to steal.
In order to fight this threat, a person has to link with a kind-hearted Mirage. The stronger their Performa, the stronger the link, and the resulting showdown will be in front of hordes of adoring fans, with your face blown up on the Jumbotron while you sing and charm your way to victory. It gives new meaning to the term "pitched battle".
A number of favourite characters from the Fire Emblem canon form the friendly Mirages that help you here. Among the first you meet are Chrom from FE: Awakening, and Caeda from FE: Shadow Dragon. These Mirages can take the form of different weapons, and as our main characters graduate to new weapons and learn the techniques of each one, you’ll end up with a slew of skills you can optimise the synergy of.
While the classic sword ❯ axe ❯ spear weapon triangle of Fire Emblem is intact (with bows now effective against flying units), overall the world and combat system lean a little more towards Shin Megami Tensei (SMT).
Exploring places like Shibuya, finding portals to the Idolasphere realm, and the arena-ish combat are all very Atlus. Ability names, attacking enemies pre-battle to get the first strike, and even a Jack Frost cameo are straight out of SMT. Even the combo system (which we explore more here) borrows from both SMT: III: Nocturne and SMT: Persona 4. Sharp fans will notice Fire Emblem references and plot similarities throughout, but it’s a mystery how these two universes have started melding – and at the heart of that mystery is the substance known as Performa.
Performa grows with a person's ability to express themselves. Nurtured with inspiration: both emotional and creative. A melodic mould of the soul.
People are just husks without it and evil mirages love to steal it. The only way to fight such an enemy is to strengthen your own creative passion and bond with Mirages keen to help.
Whereas most games mute their characters' emotional states while they save the world, this game embraces it. The freshmen crew of glittered ghostbusters have to be managed. Words of encouragement could raise someone's spirits. But it also helps to be real and not patronise. It's not as simple as choosing the "nice" thing to say whenever the option presents itself.
There are many games which focus on mathematical or logic puzzles, but not many bother with social puzzles. We often master a combat system but rarely master relationships. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE has both. And while Performa is buoyed by any kind of self expression, be it art, acting, dance. etc... But to defeat these Mirages you'll need to command the highest art form there is: J-pop.
A highly skilled team attempting to simply weather low morale isn't a winning strategy — just ask Lionel Messi — so imagine what it's like with three kind-hearted, naive schoolkids dealing with teen angst and the pressures of rising fame. When we join Itsuki, Tsubasa, and Touma, it's only the latter who has any experience with performing. This is actually ideal, since the evil Mirages may have overlooked these young souls with underdeveloped yet high-potential Performa. As the city starts to fall, our starlets' careers start to rise, and they'll be a new source of inspiration for crowds that feel sapped and apathetic whenever invisible Mirage raids occur.
Tsubasa has the added motivation of having seen her sister kidnapped by the city's new great threat — once a great opera singer, now flipped and used as a tool to attack Shibuya. With a sister on each side, we may well be set up for a Battle of the Sisters later on!
Your Voice Is Your Weapon
In the meantime, the young singers need to train. With the help of the same talent agency that signed Touma, Fortuna Entertainment, Tsubasa and Itsuki will learn the tricks of the trade. Each performer at the company is also a Master of Mirages, able use portals hidden around Tokyo to travel into the Idolasphere realm where Mirages thrive. It's like an interdimensional spy agency — and like any spy agency, it needs funding. That's where the star careers come in — it's just as important to blow your audiences minds off and on the battlefield, as your increasing fame pays the bills.
They've got you covered, though. The trainer will take charge of teaching you the necessary melodic moves and catchy combos. These stretches of performance training are usually the quiet periods between Mirage attacks, which means you'll also tend to the mental and emotional state of everyone who's seen battle.
A lot falls on Itsuki's shoulders as he maintains morale, but there'll probably come a time when he has some shoulders to lean on because he's been such a good friend. And in the world of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, that support network is the different between life and death of a whole city.
A lot of concepts were considered for this Fire Emblem / Shin Megami Tensei crossover. From a grid-based combat system, to front and rear guards, to even MMORPGs and Tower Defence designs. What Atlus has settled on is not only an interesting mix that calls to its RPG strengths, it also explores Japanese pop culture in a way most of us will never be able to experience it: From the top, looking down.
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