Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE is a bit of an interesting love-child. What you need to know, however, is that this is a JRPG in every way, from its quirky characters, super high-pitched girls, and its complete lack of English voiceovers. Yea, you’re going to do a lot of reading if you aren’t fluent in Japanese, but that’s okay because, you know, female anime proportions…
If there’s one thing JRPGs always do, it’s to create a fairly complex combat system. Tokyo Mirage Sessions is no exception. The good news is that you barely have to understand it to really make use of it. In this way, the combat system succeeds in essentially creating a Session combo system FOR you… that is, until you continue along and find yourself having to dump (yes, DUMP) skills you previously learned for new ones. Since you can’t predict what enemies are coming up nor can you predict how well it will Session with other characters whose skills you also had to dump for new ones, the system takes two steps forward and one step back. Later on, you can simply relearn whatever skills you want to combine them perfectly, but this is a head-scratcher as they should have simply let you keep the skills and swap them outside combat to maximize your efficiency at all times. Efficiency is the next keyword, and this game doesn’t show you the best of times when things get ugly. Unless you spend a lot of time doing side quests to bolster your characters, prepare for boss fights to either take an exorbitantly longer time than you probably have, simply wipe you in a matter of seconds, or both. Sure, you can call this a “challenge”, but when you spend 45 minutes fighting a boss just to die in about 10 seconds to a happenstance enemy Session, it begins to make you wonder. This leads into the next problem: EVERY character has a DIFFERENT weakness, which means in just about every battle you fight, ONE of your THREE characters is a weak link and potential problem. Overcoming this requires a few things, but one of them is the most dreadful of all: grinding. Even the devs knew this, which is why there’s a paid DLC experience booster pack on the eShop. On the flipside, despite a repetitive nature we’ll talk about later, when you DO successfully get a grasp on the Session system and how to take advantage of it, there’s a satisfaction that still nets the combat system that one step forward despite everything I just said. Add in a surprisingly varied dungeon design, a Gamepad that acts as a text device, map, and enemy info screen, and it’s not all as bad as I may have made it sound.
Expect to see the credits around 40 hours later, and that’s with only doing a handful of side quests. The side quests make relative sense, as they center themselves on side stories of characters. This keeps them from being overly dull, even though I had the straight male tendency to just investigate the hot anime girl ones. They also beef up said character fairly well, so doing them if you have the time is definitely recommended. In addition, there’s a New Game+ of sorts, upping the difficulty and letting you test your grasp on the Session system. All-in-all, it’s a competent outing, demonstrating the merits of expected JRPG content and gameplay length even if its overall real-estate size pales next to just about any modern RPG… especially against Xenoblade Chronicles X.
The first thing that’s worth saying is that the artstyle will stand the test of time. However, from a technical standpoint, things start to look a little bleak. For one, prepare to watch Sessions HUNDREDS of times over until you can hear the Japanglish in your sleep. Second, you will see the loading screen a lot. When I say a lot, I mean EVERY door, after EVERY fight, even fades between conversation angles… It’s all very early 2000s. This statement sadly correlates to a lot of the game’s overall feel including animations, with the biggest opposing standout being its amazingly artistic menu screen. Additionally, its framerate dips anytime alpha effects get close to the screen, and many other “obvious” moments in which the screen is clearly busy. Graphically speaking, it’s a good-looking game, but it pains me to say it in all honesty: good-looking in last gen terms. Fortunately, its moderately interesting story and rather clever crossover into the Fire Emblem universe do serve as an equalizer, and the music was of a much higher caliber than I anticipated, J-Pop moments included.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions is a good game, but it has many questionable design flaws that keep it from being great. Most of these flaws lie in the most core area: gameplay. From a questionable skill dump mechanic to the constant weak link in your party of a mere three, the game has frustrating if not totally head-scratching moments. Underneath this really is a good combat system, though. And while its world’s overall size is a little embarrassing in the modern day, its unusual dungeon designs serve up some variety. The rest of the problems lie in a time-resistant artstyle that has a weak technological structure, and thus in the end, I find myself re-emphasizing the reality: this game is good, but a significant leap away from great.
I give Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE…