TMS Cover

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is a one-of-a-kind JRPG that shouldn’t be overlooked.

TMS Menu Screen

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is a game that sounds almost too good to be true. For JRPG fans, it has almost everything you could possibly want. I mean listen to all of the elements going into this RPG gumbo: Atlus style, glitz, and glamour; bright, colorful, sleek visuals that look like something straight out of an anime; dungeon-crawling, combat mechanics, and progression hooks from past Persona and Shin Megami Tensei games; featured characters, sights, and sounds from the Fire Emblem universe… Need I go on? Nintendo and Atlus make a fantastic team, and both are praised for their attention to detail. The result of their collaboration is a must-own title for the Wii U, and one of the most polished JRPGs I’ve played in years.

I’m about ten hours in to Tokyo Mirage Sessions (TMS) and I’m really happy to report that, so far, it’s blown away my expectations. The story is posed in a way that allows you to really focus on the characters and their relationships to one another. Like in Persona games, the main conflict and journey-at-hand have literal as well as metaphorical interpretations. In TMS, everything revolves around a narrative commentary on Japan’s idol culture, which is perfectly applicable to the Western entertainment industry as well. The main character, Itsuki, is sucked into a world of high-level, high-stakes showbiz as he aids his childhood friend and potential love interest Tsubasa in her ascent up the rungs of super-stardom.

Shibuya

All the while, of course, a darker and more sinister twist forces our heroes and heroines into an alternate reality to battle the forces of darkness that would steal the very essence of talent and life from top performers and the people of Tokyo. While in this alternate dimension you do battle along side “Mirages,” which are the equivalents to demons or personas in a Shin Megami Tensei or Persona game, respectively. Fans of the Fire Emblem franchise will very likely recognize each Mirage and get a kick out of partnering with them in combat.

Combat is hugely satisfying, and moves along at a brisk pace. The elemental weakness system from past Atlus games is here, but whenever you hit an enemy’s weakness in TMS you trigger what is known as a “Session Attack.” How Session Attacks play out depends on what skills are assigned to each character.Session attack Let’s say, for instance, that we have a party composed of heroes A, B, and C. Hero A casts a lightning spell (zio) and directs it at an enemy who is weak to lightning. In past Atlus games, hitting that weakness would simply allow Hero A to strike again, but in TMS heroes B and C may both follow up with their own unique attacks instead (follow-up attacks happen automatically). This feels much more satisfying than previous systems, as it keeps the whole party engaged over the course of battle. Triggering successful Session Attacks also yields bonus items, additional yen, and fills up a special meter needed for performing ultimate abilities (called Performances).

Of course all of the grinding and progression hooks are so masterfully tuned. In combat you’re awarded with special materials that can be combined to form new weapons and new passive skills. Every few battles it seems like there’s another weapon to forge, or new skill to unlock that will make a member of your party stronger. There are also side stories for you to take part in. These allow you to take some time off of the main story arc and spend more intimate time with various members of your party. I’ve completed two side stories so far, both of which unlocked special skills and yielded enough experience to level up a few characters. They also gave me a deeper glimpse into the personalities of two of my favorite characters in the game; I think I even sense some interesting romance brewing.

So what’s the bottom line? So far, all I can tell you is my ten hours with Tokyo Mirage Sessions has flown by. Every time I save the game and see the play clock I can’t believe how fast time disappears while playing – it’s that good. For fans of Persona, or any Atlus game – hell, for fans of JRPGs in general, Tokyo Mirage Sessions is a game that musn’t be overlooked. The world is vibrant, and an absolute pleasure to explore. The characters are all lovable (even in Japanese), and combat is challenging, strategic, and extravagantly flashy. If you have 100 hours to spare, give it a go. Here’s a video of me playing through the first hour or so of the game, which I almost hesitate to show because combat and free-roaming become so much more rewarding after the initial dungeon; however, this should give you a taste of the game’s style:

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnsfM2Mt3-k[/embedyt]