by on September 13, 2019
You ever feel like you've had a rough day and wish to unwind with a fun game where you can embrace your inner weeb? Tokyo Mirage Sessions (TMS#FE for short) is a great game for that.
But no! This game is great, if not amazing. We'll first go over how we got here today.
TMS#FE is a game made by Atlus, which is the same company that made Persona 5 and is responsible for the excellent Shin Megami Tensei series. Their games are very well known for dealing with the existential, and heavy themes on life. Their games are also generally grim in tone. However, the tone changed quite a bit after the success of Persona 4 (not a typo, Persona 4 came first), and TMS#FE also joined this shift. Along with this, Atlus made a deal with Nintendo to utilize Fire Emblem characters (FE = Fire Emblem), a series that obtained a massive surge in popularity after the critical success that is Fire Emblem: Awakening.
The trailer was first unveiled on the year of 2013. It was simply called Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem. Obviously a code name, and there wasn't even any concept of a gameplay. Speculation was incredible, as ideas were flying out of people's heads at the speed of light. SMT fans wondered how Atlus' storytelling would mesh well with the Fire Emblem series, and FE fans wondered how two very different gameplay mechanics would gel together. The plot as a whole no one even began to speculate on.
Then we didn't get a single piece of news for two years. Then at E3 2015, we were met with this:
And this was the general reception of that trailer: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/ba/09/73/ba097341d820f3bd40a8ea22ff4144ed.gif
No one could have ever expected a slice of life high school anime game full of weeb-y stuff... except this is exactly what Atlus has been known for, for years! Their motto for the Persona series (which is what this game's blueprint is heavily based off of) has been putting together a rag-tag of high school misfits and pitting them against the existential. Even Persona 1, a game that was made in 1996, had this same exact formula. That said, even I was caught off guard by the trailer, but on the other hand, I can't stress enough how much this is Atlus' style. So I bought the game day 1 and played it till I was content, then played it some more. I have literally hundreds of hours poured into the game, so I can confidently dispel the majority of misconceptions in the game. So, lets go through them shall we?
-This is just a Waifu Simulator-
Both Persona and Fire Emblem have elements of these, but ironically TMS#FE has very little of this. Yes, there's costumes ranging from cute to sexy, but they're all featured as outfits in cutscenes and are simply used to mix things up with your gameplay. On top of that, Itsuki is a protagonist with a set personality. He actually can't "S-support" with any character, because those simply don't exist in this game.
The game explores how it's like to be an idol in Japan, which is why the female leads are often quite flashy. It's literally their job!
-This game is happy-go-lucky just like Persona 4-
Persona 4 actually has major mood whiplashes which is why it's so obvious with that game, but TMS#FE has a well-balanced tone from start to finish. It's not "OMGDARK" like Persona 3, let alone the mainline SMT games, but it handles some strong themes in often light-hearted tones, and how the power of art and music can inspire others through their times of struggle and uncertainty. Some of these themes involve depression, lonliness, stigma, and most of all, failure. The majority of it is seen through Tsubasa Oribe (who is effectively the main character for the majority of the plot), but side-stories heavily goes into these themes as well.
-This game was false advertisement-
Not even close! There was no news for over two years. In truth, this was poor marketing, and there's a large difference between the two. Despite this, the game is still great, and disliking the game over "what could have been" is objectively not the fault of the game itself.
-Where's the Fire Emblem?-
This one I understand wholeheartedly. At first glance there's a serious lack of Fire Emblem, considering the setting and what gameplay is shown in trailers. I often joke this game should be called "Persona 4.5: Featuring Chrom from the Fire Emblem Series" because the gameplay is almost entirely following the blueprint of the Persona series, with very little influence from Fire Emblem (only gameplay-related mechanics from Fire Emblem is the Weapon Triangle and Class Changes).
That said, the game features a large score of Fire Emblem characters and makes some heavy-handed references. So even though Fire Emblem is lacking in gameplay, it exists very well in the setting itself.
-This is just an idol trash game-
Have you even seen like a minute of gameplay?
Now with that over with, lets go over why you should play this game!
-The gameplay is GOOD-
Frankly, SMT fans should feel right at home with the gameplay. It follows the core principles of the SMT/Persona series, and is very easy to figure out. Beyond that, there's the fun of building up each party member with a solid spread of skills and abiliites to make a potent party.
Enemies and Bosses in this game are also not a walk in the park. If you don't know what you're doing, the game can bend you over and make you cry, and can result in you grinding for new levels and abilities. The game can be very grindy, but it heavily rewards you with good planning and execution.
Even just traversing the dungeons avoiding unnessecary encounters is fun. Frankly, some of these events can be pretty intense if you're low on resources and don't want to run the risk of dying.
-The songs... the songs!-
I dunno a single person who hates listening to music, and this game has plenty of it. Reincarnation, which is basically the game's most popular song (and the one heard in trailers), is an excellent piece of music, but there's plenty of other songs as well. Beyond the vocal tracks, the music for dungeons and boss battles are solid as well (I'll admit the normal battle theme leaves something to be desired though).
-Tsubasa is a Great Character-
Earlier I mentioned Tsubasa is effectively the main character for the majority of the game. This is because a lot of the plot is particularly about her and Protagonist Itsuki helping her reach the upper echelons of stardom. On the surface, Tsubasa is an airhead, but beneath that is a complex personality carefully laid out through subtlety. There's a reason why she was chosen to be featured as a Spirit in Smash Brothers Ultimate!
-Some ideas in Persona 5 came from here-
That's right. Atlus sort of used TMS#FE as a way to experiment with some gameplay mechanics. The "Topic" is the easiest to spot, utilizing text messages on a cellphone to introduce additional dialogue without bogging down the game too much. Texting was then utilized in Persona 5 in a much more streamlined fashion. Freely swapping out party members and utilizing tag team attacks (in the form of ad-libs in TMS#FE) came from here as well.
-This game is getting a remake on the Switch!-
Everyone knows the Wii U is an awful system, and no one wants to buy a Wii U either. Well, fear not! Because Nintendo has graced us with another way to play TMS#FE. A Remake called Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE: Encore will be coming on January 2020 with new content, new gameplay mechanics, new playable characters, a new song, and more. This means if you want to play it but don't want to shell out the money for a Wii U, you can hold out for the (much better) Switch version. Besides, everyone has a Switch, right?
So this was a length essay, so I'll end it here. I hope I've convinced at least some people to try out TMS#FE or at the very least look into it. This is an underrated gem of the Wii U era that deserves so much more love!
Like (2)
Braden Gilbert
This is awesome! Thank you for taking the time to write it out. I apologize for not seeing it earlier and I will be sure to stay tuned for future posts of yours!
Ryan Miller
I have never played on the Wii U ... Have you ? I really would like to buy it for my little brother.
Yes, I bought a Wii U Day 1 (mainly for Smash 4). There are very few good games that haven't been ported over to the Switch. Xenoblade Chronicles X and Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword are the most notable ones to me. If your little brother already has a Switch I'd say it isn't worth it as Nintendo se...View More
Ryan Miller
The only one I've ever played was Zelda back in the day. But I have seen advertisement and the other people play it and what they've done with the storyline is impressive.