Get your friends together and defeat onslaught of evil Mirages in this stellar game.
About 50 hours. That is how long it took to play through Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Within that time, I experienced everything that this Role Playing Game had on offer. The thing with me and RPGs is that I do some of the semi important stuff and simply move on to what actually matters. This wasn't the case with Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE at all. What makes the dialogue, quests and everything about it so compelling is that it is all so out there. It knows what it wants to be and doesn’t take no for an answer. Battling as a bunch of teenagers in a world overrun by evil creatures, while also working as an idol, is silly. There is, however, no game that packages this as well as Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE does. It brings it together into a cohesive adventure that never stays quiet.
You step into the shoes of Itsuki Aoi. He’s a normal high school student living in Tokyo who’s life gets turned upside down when one of his best friends, Tsubasa Oribe, enters the One of Millennium idol competition and things seem to take a turn for the worse. She gets dragged into an unknown parallel universe and creatures called Mirages start popping up all over the place. These Mirages are looking for the essence of human creativity, which is called Perfoma. By using these magical orbs of light and shoving it in the faces of the creatures, they end up befriending them and that kicks the adventure off.
Tsubasa, Itsuki, and others are part of Fortuna Entertainment and set out to do battle with the villainous Mirages. They must become friends, work together in battle, and run a talent firm all while saving the world. The quirky cast of characters make the story fun to follow as they try to unravel what exactly is happening. Naturally, a true evil mastermind is orchestrating all of this and ripping two worlds apart in the process. One world is the game’s stylized version of Tokyo while the other is the Idolasphere, where all of the dungeon-crawling and battling occurs. The dueling worlds are wrapped up in an evolving mystery that rarely has a dull moment.
For most of the journey, you traverse through Tokyo seeking out new Idolasphere dungeons, talking to people, and clearing quests. Shibuya is certainly the biggest and most important locale. Two of the initial Idolaspheres take place here and many of the shops and side stories are there. It’s a little weird that most people roaming the streets are just colorful shapes, but it that also helps to clearly highlight points of interest and limits the random NPCs that you can talk to. A nice touch is that posters and music change as the story develops and your fledgling talent agency produces more hits.
Even with a few other cities to explore, most of Tokyo Mirage Sessions’ screen time is dedicated to dungeons. Each of the Idolaspheres is a reflection of its real-life counterpart. For example, Shibuya 106 (or 109 in real-life) is a central place in the Japanese fashion industry, so this particular dungeon is decked out with gigantic headless dolls and mannequins. Each Idolasphere has its own unique hook and puzzle structure. The aforementioned mannequins have arms that pivot to guide you to new areas. A later dungeon requires you to write down a code to make your way to the end. In addition to those brainteasers, these areas are also littered with enemies that bring you to the turn-based battle system.
The battles require thought and puzzle solving as well. Tokyo Mirage Sessions hits the sweet spot between Persona and the finer points of Fire Emblem. It leans a little more towards Persona and the Shin Megami Tensei series, as it has no strategy RPG leanings, instead focusing on turn-based combat focused on attacking and using skills and items. While it has a lot of nuances and depth, the battling is easy to pick up, as it focuses primarily on exploiting enemy weaknesses (which are clearly laid out as you fight enemies) and chaining together attacks.
Variety is the name of the game with each attack, specifically with the Skill moves. When you attack an enemy’s weakness with a Skill move, you start a string of attacks from other characters, which is known as a Session. Your ability to perform Sessions is very limited in the beginning, but as your move lists expand, you can start to chain together Sessions that even make use of your inactive party members.
Next to all of this, there are various Performance Attacks, which crank up the ante to the extreme. They come in three different varieties: Special, Ad-lib, and Dual Performances. Special Performances are selectable special attacks that do massive damage and always exploit a weakness. The other two happen randomly and are primarily unlocked through story progression and side stories. These devastating and powerful attacks are a major help as you go through the second half of the game and try to beat the harshest bosses. These attacks also reference the songs and performances the Fortuna gang are laying down in the real world, so you wind up with gloriously nutty spectacles like a full-grown man in a bear suit protecting a little girl.
The story of Tokyo Mirage Sessions is also exemplary. Each chapter highlights a certain aspect of the Japanese entertainment industry and they do it well. There are obviously some cuts made when the game got translated into English, but I never felt that the game became worse as a result. It was rewarding seeing Tsubasa learn to sing with emotion in the first chapter. It set the tone for the way talent is unfurled and revealed in Tokyo Mirage Sessions as she is forced into a situation where she had to perform with real emotion and learned something about herself in the process.
That glorious character development extends to the side stories as well. These are additional quests meant to deepen the relationship with the cast – both playable and non - and help them out. One early quest has Kiria, an older Fortuna idol, searching for a lost doll from her youth. That side story has Kiria wondering if it is okay to like cute things, and then she sings a song and gains a new ability as a result. Most of the side stories are character focused, but there are also plenty that feature extra bosses in environments that you have visited before, adding more depth and personality to this charming world.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions is one of the most bright and colorful games on the Wii U. The only major knock is that the loading times are a bit too frequent. They were never too long, but they just happened a little too often. The localization changes are present but never bothered me because they never worsened the experience. The interactions between characters is still crazy and most of the Japanese dialogue is still intact. That voice acting, together with the music, is also fantastic. This isn't just for the highly produced J-Pop songs, but for the battle and dungeon themes as well. The main theme of Shibuya has been stuck in my head for weeks.
I could drone on about the wonders of Tokyo Mirage Sessions for days, but the simple fact is I love this game. The colorful world, the characters, the battle system bring the whole experience together in a varied, entertaining package. Tokyo Mirage Sessions does too many things well for the small issues of load times and small hub worlds to really matter. There are very few RPGs that I wanted to see 100% completed, but darn, I am glad that it is this one. This game is nuts and is something wholly unique and special. And you know what? That is why I will be playing it again and again in the years to come.