When it comes to stellar JRPGs in recent memory, Persona 5 quickly comes to mind. The turn-based juggernaut turned heads and stole hearts when it came out, earning the No. 2 spot in our game of the year awards for 2017. Longtime fans of the franchise—and its admittedly less popular forefather, Shin Megami Tensei—are often quick to sing Persona its praises. Unfortunately, though, many might have missed another one of Atlus’ classic teenage-adventure-gone-crazy titles: Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE.
The game initially came out on the Wii U in 2015. In other words, barely anyone had the chance to play it. Thankfully, Nintendo and Atlus graciously gave us an encore to the JRPG by re-releasing it on the Nintendo Switch, placing it in front of more eyes than ever before. For the unfamiliar, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore blends together elements from Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei, neatly wrapping them in a poppy idol-imbued package. Earlier this week, we published an analysis of the Fire Emblem elements you might find, but if Persona and SMT are more your speed, stick around.
Persona worldbuilding in Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore
While Tokyo Mirage Sessions features quite a few characters from the Fire Emblem series, you won’t find nearly as many cameos from Persona or Shin Megami Tensei. Nonetheless, you can find Atlus’ DNA and fingerprints everywhere. Consider the elevator pitch for this game. Teenagers find out about a hidden universe that concurrently exists within and around the real world, and they stumble upon some magic power that lets them fight evil spirits. This power manifests as an ethereal partner that only these teenagers can see. In so many words, I just described Tokyo Mirage Sessions and the Persona series.
Yet, when it comes to the worldbuilding efforts surrounding Itsuki Aoi’s adventure, Tokyo Mirage Sessions fits like a glove for longtime Persona fans. The Mirages—while being iconic Fire Emblem characters—work just like Personas. They protect their partners from supernatural bad juju, and their mystical connection to the Idolasphere helps you uncover the mysteries of the secret world.
Even the game’s aesthetic feels reminiscent of Atlus’ hit franchise. The brightly contrasting hues of most of the menus feel like they’d be right at home in early drafts of Persona 4. While the rural adventures in Inaba ended up with a mostly yellow color scheme, Tokyo Mirage Sessions didn’t end up that far off with its bright greens and contrasting blacks. Even the radial battle menu takes its cues from Persona 3.
Persona combat in Tokyo Mirage Sessions
The real meat and potatoes, though, come through best in the turn-based combat. Most of the user experience in Tokyo Mirage Sessions should be instantly familiar if you’ve played any Persona game in the past decade. Every enemy resists certain types of attacks and is vulnerable to others, and a familiar chart gives you all the information you need at a quick glance. If an enemy has a weakness to fire, lob an fire spell at them for more damage.
Much like Persona, you’ll also gain certain advantages by exploiting an enemy’s weakness. Instead of an extra turn, however, you can trigger Sessions, a mechanic unique to Tokyo Mirage Sessions. Essentially, if one character hits a weakness, other party members can follow up with another skill. These chained attacks work a little differently from the "Once More" system, but your Persona-fueled addiction to hitting weaknesses will be satisfied all the same.
To drive the point home even further, Tokyo Mirage Sessions adopts Persona’s cryptic naming system for its elemental spells. Electricity is Zio, while ice is Bufu. This alone adds a bit of a learning curve for anyone new to the Shin Megami Tensei franchise. However, if you’ve already spent dozens of hours playing these games and know your Mabufus from your Agidynes, then congratulations, you’ve found a new game that benefits from your knowledge.
Persona growth in Tokyo Mirage Sessions
Frankly, the further you get in Tokyo Mirage Sessions, the more you’ll need to know these spells like the back of your hand. Similar to Persona, your characters are going to learn a flurry of skills throughout your adventure. In the Persona series, the spirit attached to your character becomes the source of new skills, often rewarding you with new ones at certain levels. Tokyo Mirage Sessions works in a similar way, with a few semantic differences.
For one, it’s not the Mirage—aka, the Persona—that is directly responsible for netting you new skills. Instead, the weapon they transform into bestows new skills upon them, along with bolstering their raw stats. By marrying the spell and strength acquisition, Tokyo Mirage Sessions simplifies Persona’s process of making your character stronger. Growth means that you’ll constantly be forging new weapons, giving you new skills to obtain.
This might sound a lot like fusing Personas together, because it is a lot like fusing Personas together. To create these new weapons, you have to head to the Bloom Palace, where an NPC does the work for you. However, instead of fusion, you simply exchange monster materials. In many ways, the Bloom Palace mirrors the Velvet Room of the Persona series, as it plays a pivotal role in your party’s growth. Although, instead of talking to a mysterious old man named Igor, you work with a green-haired loli who calls the protagonist big brother.
Different but familiar
Tonally, Tokyo Mirage Sessions couldn’t be further from what Persona and Shin Megami Tensei have on tap. Persona 4, arguably the most bubbly title of the series, still takes a lot of dark turns in its murder-mystery narrative, despite also having an idol in the main cast. Tokyo Mirage Sessions, on the other hand, portrays a blissful universe where the power of J-Pop can solve all the world’s problems and give singers the power of flight, all in the name of glitz and glamour.
However, with its wonderful union of Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei, Atlus created something that can appeal to fans of both franchises. Fans of the combat in Persona will find a lot to love here, and the constant nods to Fire Emblem will surely tickle your fancy. If you missed Tokyo Mirage Sessions in 2015 (and chances are, you did), 2020 isn’t a bad time to pick it up. If anything, it can tide you over until Persona 5 Royal comes out in March.
Have you played Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore? What are your thoughts as a fan of Persona or Shin Megami Tensei? Let us know in the comments below!