We can look back a decade or two and realize that some of the best games had been JRPGs. Arc the Lad, Suikoden, Breath of Fire, Dragon Quest, Wild Arms, Lunar, Star Ocean, Legend of Legaia, Legend of Dragoon, Final Fantasy... I could add a few more into that list with titles that escape me. But the point is, the last two decades were full of unique ideas with fantastical worlds that, in some odd way, opened up imaginations.
Unfortunately, many of those games have either left in the dust or had recently been crushed to dust - Star Ocean, included, and especially Star Ocean. FF is doing alright, but it's never as amazing and unique as it once was. (I can't say anything about the Tales series. Last one I played was Phantasma II/Eternia.)
These days our RPGs are dominated with better RPGs: Witcher, Dragon Age: Origins, Elder Scrolls, and a few other games that are getting RPG treatments. The only JRPG that has ever really lived up to my interests were Pokemon and Shin Megami Tensei.Â
I'm not a huge Fire Emblem fan and in truth, I know nothing about it, and after playing Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, I now have the strong impulse to grab copies of Awakening and Fates and see what all the buzz is about.
In many ways, Tokyo Mirage Session #FE, is more Shin Megami Tensei-specifically, its most popular spin-off, Persona. When I had heard about a Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem crossover, I imagined something totally different. Rather, a turn-based game where players can summon Fire Emblem characters to fight for you. And to match the darker themes of Persona and Fire Emblem, I was expecting things to be, well, dark.
Instead, we got something more bubbly and fun. And all that bubbly-ness, colors, and anime-style storytelling, somehow fits so well into a Persona-fied videogame. But it's more than that. It's a magic girl type anime. You know, Magic Knight Rayearth, Gatomon's ultimate evolution to Angewomon, or obviously the best possible example... Sailor Moon.
Basically, your characters, both male and female, transform into powerful magical knights from the Fire Emblem universe and fight evil. Yay for JRPGs! And yes, it's basically that simple, with some disappointing real life tidbits.
Unlike many JRPGs out there, we're finally done with the high school phase and wearing the shoes of jobseekers. We have a slew of characters that are trying to make it big into show business. This means our characters are a bunch of people aspiring to become better actors and actresses, models, TV show host, and an aspiring pop idol.
The whole theme fits into the core game mechanic's flair when our heroes transform to save the day. Their attacks and combination attacks look cool and weirdly stylish-and it's not doing so just for the sake of looking good. As entertainers and superstars, they need to look good.
Side quests include developing social links. In Persona definition, social links are the main character getting to know his allies on a personal level, being their best bud, or romancing them, thus, unlocking more powerful Persona and ultimately Digivolve characters' Personae. In Mirage Sessions, as the main character, Itsuki, you're in-charge of becoming everyone's best friend, encouraging them to strive better for their careers as actors, models, and entertainers, while solving their own personal problems along the way.
This is where it falls somewhat flat. Exploring each character's background is fascinating in a way. It adds a deeper layer of storytelling that could have made the game so much more interesting. The characters are struggling with their careers and the manager is well, having trouble managing the entire agency or studio (I forgot which). This would have been an excellent way to dive into the realities of pursuing such careers. Instead, complex matters are solved by the over-awesome power of friendship! Wow, how bullshit. (I almost finished writing the article without a single swear, fucking hell.)
I'm not entirely intolerant of such ideals. Because in times of great stress and reaching life's crossroads, you will, and I mean you will, want a friend to be there to offer his advice or be there with you when you make that leap of faith. However, come on, not everything is about friendship. It's not terrible. I just feel like it's an aspect of the game that could have been explored so much more and what could have turned a good game into a great game.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is a Wii U exclusive. Is it worth getting a console that is close to its final days with the NX looming over the horizon? Goddamn, it is for me.