Crossover
games have a tendency to be silly in order to make two disparate universes
collide. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is no exception, combining the worlds of
Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem into one heavy dose of Japanese popular
culture, ranging from pop stars and actors to fashion and anime. This unique
experience merges the two long-running franchises together in interesting ways,
since anything goes; you fight by performing songs to damage enemies, wearing
elaborate costumes on a vibrant stage. With a colorful cast, fun upgrade
system, and challenging battles, Tokyo Mirage Sessions provides an entertaining
performance through and through.

The amusing
(and predictable) plot has sinister Mirages taking control of renowned
performers, stealing their creative energy to fuel evil deeds. You play as Itsuki,
an ordinary high-school student who notices something is awry when his best
friend Tsubasa enters a singing competition and members in the audience start
disappearing, opening a portal to the mysterious Idolasphere. The story has a
good mix of humor and tender moments, from helping Tsubasa gain confidence in herself
to achieve her pop-star dreams to dealing with your drunk talent agent and
anime-obsessed instructor.

The Fire
Emblem characters come in by lending their powers to the main cast to stop the
baddies. For instance, Fire Emblem Awakening’s Chrom provides Itsuki a slew of
sword attacks. The most interesting parts of the story come later when you
start piecing together why the Fire Emblem characters are in this different
world, since they have no memory of how they got there. The story is
self-contained, so even if you don’t have experience with either series you can
still follow along. The gameplay leans more toward SMT’s traditional RPG
gameplay; don’t expect the strategy battles or relationship system that Fire
Emblem is known for.  

Everything
revolves around the entertainment premise, including the dungeons and battle
system. You trek through themed landscapes, often focused on modeling and TV
programming. While I liked having dungeons related to different aspects of
entertainment, they could be more interesting to explore. Every dungeon has
some main puzzle mechanic, but the puzzles are often tedious, requiring
backtracking for tasks like pulling switches on opposite sides of a room or
going through doors in a specific order. You’re also dealing with enemy encounters during the process, which slows you down even more. Mirages appear on screen and lunge as soon as they spot you, so they’re often hard to avoid. Though you gain
a skill to temporarily turn off battles, I hated having to constantly cast it
whenever I needed to figure out my route.

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The
turn-based battle system focuses on exploiting enemy weaknesses, which will be
familiar to anyone who has played a Persona or SMT game. However, in Tokyo
Mirage Sessions, when you hit an enemy weakness, you trigger combos with party
members who have skills that complement it. I enjoyed the battle system,
especially how it progresses. Characters learn extra skills that spontaneously
activate, making attacks hit more than one enemy, or even team-up for special
performances which damage the enemy and add perks like status ailments or
healing. Unfortunately, the grinding necessary to reach recommended levels for
bosses made the combat lose some of its magic.

Some of my
favorite features have nods to Fire Emblem, especially the upgrade system. You
can master and craft various weapons that open up new skills, but can only equip a
certain number at once. Once you get to a certain level, you can even change to
a more powerful class using a Master Seal just like in Fire Emblem. As a fan of
both franchises, I was disappointed by the sparse connections to Fire Emblem;
this game loses its strategy-focused gameplay altogether and its characters are
ancillary, not getting much that much screen time until the final story beats.

When you’re
not in battle, you can walk around various locations in Tokyo such as Shibuya and
its famous Harajuku district. They’re not exact 1:1 recreations, but they get
the basic atmosphere down with convenience stores and vending machines around
every bend. Various side quests also incorporate fun stuff about Japanese
culture into them, such as tracking down exclusive anime memorabilia and
watching silly TV shows with premises like a girl changing her personality when
she sneezes. This attention to detail creates a powerful sense of culture and
place, which works well to make the characters’ everyday interactions
believable.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is a solid RPG with
its own unique style and appeal. I could do without the tedious dungeons, but I
still found plenty to love about the zany ride.