A Crossover Done Right
I just want to start by saying that I’ve been waiting at least 5 years for this game. I had already been well into the Fire Emblem series when I first played Persona 3 and Persona 4. It was shortly after playing those, and loving them, that a friend informed me of a rumor of a crossover of the series. Back then, it had only been a rumor with no details to when or how it would come to life. So I imagined and dreamed up scenarios for how the two separate style of games would merge. These imaginations of mine looked nothing like Tokyo Mirage, but this game is everything I never knew I wanted.
If you’re interested in this title while not having played games from one or both of the series it stems from, then no worries. This game has a story of its own separated into chapters. It does have references to the series and some connections, but you will not need to know those to enjoy this one. The game will start with a flashback, showing a strange disappearance that occurred during a performance. When it looks like a similar incident is beginning to occur, Itsuki Aoi, the main protagonist, will jump in to rescue his childhood friend, Tsubasa Oribe. While in a special realm that is called Idolasphere, they’ll both unlock their abilities as Mirage Masters. I’ll discuss more on those later.
The story itself takes a lighter tone than the materials it stems from. This is true of its story and appearance. This became a bit of a double-edged sword to me. The story involves the serious issues of people going missing due to attacks by Mirages. There was one instance when you’re being alerted to another attack that the person who called you about it gets side-tracked to discuss another topic. That moment raised a red-flag for me. Those instances occurring cut into the drama, and it contributes to the game having a lighter and less stressful tone. The actual of content of the story has a level of seriousness at times that is not really translated well when these moments occur. If it kept with the tone during these moments and saved the more comedic talks for later, then I might have enjoyed it more.
Getting back on the topic of Mirage Masters. The Mirage are the enemy creatures and your partners. The Mirage characters that the main cast partner with are characters from the Fire Emblem games, Shadow Dragon and Awakening specifically. To increase the abilities of the Mirage and characters, there are Unity Rituals. First, Carnage is a ritual that will give new weapons to equip. This is important to get back to regularly since new weapons also are the key to unlocking new skills. Each weapon teaches a total of 4 skills. Once that weapon is mastered I found it best to upgrade to a different weapon for new skills. The skills themselves can be regular attacks, session attacks, and passive abilities.
The next is Radiant. This ritual involves unlocking a more passive or special ability. These can be unlocked after reaching levels, completing side quests, or progressing in the main story. Then finally there is the Class Change. This ritual boosts the Mirage’s stats and can lean more heavily in one direction or another depending on your choice.
The battle system itself looks similar to what Persona’s battle system is like. Three party members will be in the ‘main cast’, a.k.a. the battle party. Itsuki will always be in the battle party, but the others can be switched in and out of battle as long as they’re conscious.
The battle system for this game adds in some elements of its own. If you played the Persona games, then you know that using an attack that an enemy is weak to can knock it out and stop them from getting a turn. In Tokyo Mirage, they will not be knocked down, but it will spark a Session attack. These are chain attacks that allow for multiple of your party members to attack the enemy in a row. There are some Radiant upgrades that make these all the more satisfying, like ones that allow for members outside of the battle party to join in on sessions attacks for even longer chains. These chain of attacks feel incredibly satisfying to get. One attack with long of chain can finish off an enemy or even a whole group of them.
Along with Session attacks, there are Special Attacks. These attacks use up SP and can be a powerful attack or support move. Ad-lib attacks will occur on chance if certain conditions are met, like having more than one session attack in a turn. I did not find myself needing to grind as often in this game. If I did need to grind, then it usually was a very short time or a few rounds in the arena once I unlocked that area.
The dungeon areas are not long or very deep. They can be somewhat challenging and roundabout with the puzzles they include, each one being slightly different depending on the theme of the map. One I struggled with involved a studio. To get to the right location, you had to look at the map to match the room you needed to the clue at the beginning. While I recognized the clue I did not make the connection to look at my map.
There are no time limit constraints. You can leave the Idolasphere and heal and buy items as much as you want or even go on a side quest in the middle of a chapter. I briefly mentioned the side quests before as ways to unlock Radiant Unity abilities. Side Quests are unlocked by raising the Star Level of the characters other than the main protagonist Itsuki. That level is raised by using them in battles. Quests can be with or without battles, but if there is battling involved, it will give a recommended level before you start.
Overall, this game is fun and light. The battle system is satisfying and easy to get the hang of. The upgrading system can feel a bit off with the unlocking abilities that maybe should have been standard from the start. Abilities like upgrading weapons that have already been mastered. The connections to the two game series are heavy in some areas, but light in others – like the look and style feel connected to the Persona games while they have direct character adaptions from Fire Emblem in the game. Then there are light sprinkles of other small touches that feel like Easter eggs. It gave me a small bit of excitement to hear the iconic Fire Emblem level up music as I leveled in Tokyo Mirage. The inclusion of the gamepad as a phone screen made it easy to look down for alerts and information.