Title: Tokyo Mirage Sessions
Developer: Atlus, Intelligent Systems
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 17/01/2020
Right off the bat, I want to get this off my chest: I have not finished Tokyo Mirage Sessions, but I have made it a considerable way into the game, to the point where I feel confident articulating my thoughts and feelings on Atlus’ remaster of their Wii-U cult classic. I feel that the game is better enjoyed at your own pace rather, and for me, binging it is not the ideal way to enjoy it. As a fan of the Persona games and a more casual fan of Fire Emblem, this game has been on my radar since it first released. But does it top the charts, or is it a one-hit-wonder?
Tokyo Mirage Sessions is an odd hybrid of systems and games with characters from various Fire Emblem titles lending their powers to a group of Japanese idols, including pop stars, actors, and entertainers. The battle system is a combination of Persona mixed with Final Fantasy X and steadily builds in a satisfying way over the course of the game, unlocking new abilities at a quick enough pace to keep things interesting.
The main thrust of the story in TMS is that rifts have been opening around Tokyo, causing people to disappear. Inside these rifts live entities called “mirages” which feed on Performa. Essentially living on the creativity of Tokyo’s population. That’s where characters like Chrom and Tharja enter into the mix. Having lost any memory of their life as heroes in the world of Fire Emblem, they join forces with our heroic stars to fight back against the forces that threaten to take over and consume Tokyo.
I was initially taken aback at how quickly the story develops in Tokyo Mirage Sessions. Compared to a game like Persona 5, where you spend hours of time developing the world and characters before things begin to really kick into gear, TMS immediately throws you into the world of idols, Performa, and Mirages. This pace is kept throughout most of the game, as there’s no in-game calendar or schedule to keep you from doing whatever activity you fancy at any time. This makes the game much more approachable than something like Persona because you don’t need to worry over how to spend your time each day. You can freely roam, explore, and grind to your heart’s content.
While I appreciate the ability to choose any activity I like without having to worry about whether or not I’m spending my time optimally, I found the side activities to be quite lackluster. Hunting down five of the same mirage, or simply running around Tokyo to track down a stranger’s forgetful girlfriend really doesn’t add to the experience. They aren’t super time-intensive, but they’re wholly unnecessary and the rewards are often the same thing you’ll receive by buying items from the Hee-Ho Mart. At least the steps aren’t overly complicated, but it’s easy to forget what side activity you’re working on if you step away because there is no way to track the incidental activities around town. You have text chains with your party members to keep track of their character stories, but random requests around town apparently aren’t important enough to track. So, why should I do them???
The game does at least attempt to streamline some things with the inclusion of bonus dungeons, added through DLC in the initial release which you can use to grind out levels quickly, allowing you to get back to the main game all the quicker. You won’t need to utilize them often, but the edge a few levels can give you in combat shouldn’t be underestimated.
The combat system itself is the thing that really drew me into the game right off the bat. Each encounter is treated as a concert with your party and the opposing mirages at the center of things. Fans of the Persona games will find themselves familiar with the list of spells and weakness matchups here, with a few added via weapon type, courtesy of Fire Emblem. Hit an enemy with their weakness, and you can start a “Session.” During a session, allies will follow up attacks to inflict extra damage. As you level up your characters, you’ll gain the ability to session off of even more abilities creating super long combos. Setting up long sessions is key to making the most of combat, both to do as much damage as possible and to get the most loot.
If I had to leverage one complaint against the combat system it’s this; it becomes rather RNG dependent as you unlock some of the later abilities. Some can have their chance of activating boosted by raising your SKL stat, but a slight nerf to some of the abilities with their chances of occurring being buffed would have made me a little happier.
The packaging around the abilities is also fantastic and highlights another great part of the game. As a game based around idol culture in Japan, the game features some really fun J-pop songs over the course of the story. You’ll get brief bits of the songs that play when abilities activate, but I found myself wishing that there was even more music. The normal music you hear while playing the game is fine but doesn’t raise itself to the level of a game like Persona 5, which is a shame since music is so central to the heart of Tokyo Mirage Sessions.
Unfortunately, to get to the best music in the game you have to subject yourself to numerous subpar side quests with each of the characters, and some of them don’t even culminate in a song, instead, ending with a clip from a TV show or something similar. Not every side quest is bad, but I wouldn’t describe any of them as good, either. The best ones are the ones that are short character moments, dotted with a quick errand in the middle. The worst being ones that ask you to return to the Idolaspheres (the game’s name for dungeons) to hunt down specific enemies and kill a certain amount. Usually, these enemies are far below your level at that point and it just feels like busywork. As much as I want Ellie to be a kick-ass archer for me in combat, I really don’t want to go hunt down some stupid ghosts.
If you’re a fan of Atlus’ art style in games like the Persona series you’ll be right at home in Tokyo Mirage Sessions. The costumes the characters adopt in their Carnage (combat) forms are over the top in the perfect way. I’m especially a fan of Mamori’s costume and initial weapon. You can unlock alternate costumes by purchasing them from a store in Harajuku or unlocking them in the EX story dungeon. These range from costumes people wear in their music videos and TV appearances in their stories, to fashion show outfits worn outside of the story progression. I never found it worth it to swap the alternate costumes out, but if you like playing dress-up with the characters it could be a welcome mechanic.
Paired with the music is usually a music video of some sort. The artwork during these videos is stunning and distinct like many J-Pop music videos are in real life. If there was a way to rewatch the videos somehow in the game, I missed it, which is a shame because they’re definitely the highlight of the game for me.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions is a solid introduction to the Atlus style of JRPG that does away with some of the mechanics that often push folks away, like the in-game calendar. It has a flashy and engaging combat system that I would consider one of the best I’ve used in a JRPG. That’s why it’s a shame that the game is weighed down by dull side quests that add little to the experience, and they don’t utilize the J-pop more fully. It’s easy to see why people were clambering for the game to make its way from the Wii-U to the Switch but is far from the best RPG work Atlus has put out in the past.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can buy Tokyo Mirage Sessions at the following link.