On Spoilers: So I understand because this is a somewhat obscure game that there's going to be a lot of people who haven't played it or haven't finished it. So I'm going to be sure to clearly mark any content that talks about major plot details from the final chapter and epilogue.
The name Tokyo Mirage Sessions may sound like a nonsense title at first, but it does a pretty decent job of describing what's happening in this game. It's set in Tokyo, it's about the performing arts/entertainment industry (hence sessions) and it main enemies are mirages.
An otherworldly threat
Mirages are strange creatures that look like some kind of interdimentional alien, while some are humanoids inspired by Fire Emblem classes and characters others are Shin Megami Tensei deamons and I'm sure a few that are just made up for this game.
Some mirages are good, though. And while they don't remember how they got to this world, or anything about their life before it, they offer to help the characters in their investigations into the other mirages. These are your partners throughout the game that turn into weapons and give you your skills. Without their protection it would be impossible to safely traverse the idolshperes — this game's dungeons.
Your mirages are some classic and fan favorite Fire Emblem characters: Chrom, Caeda, Cain, Tharja, Virion, Draug and Navarre. Each one teams up with one of your party members and gives them advice and encouragement throughout the game. Tiki also shows up to help you form new weapons and skills and act as a main NPC for all things mirage.
Your party consists of several young up-and-coming entertainers and our protagonist Itsuki Aoi, Tsubasa Oribe, Touma Akagi, Kiria Kurono, Elenora Yumizuru, Mamori Minamoto and Yashiro Tsurugi. I'll give some detail about each of them. If you want to skip this part, just go down to the heading called Entertaining and saving the world.
Itsuki, the manager
Itsuki (eet-zoo-key) is described as an ‘everyman' kind of character and he mostly serves as the manager and emotional support for the rest of the cast. Also Aoi means blue in Japanese and blue-haired lords like Chrom who ends up pairing with him are a Fire Emblem staple.
He's likable, supportive and encouraging. He's the party leader and has a softer leadership style that relies on supporting others and having a high emotional intelligence. I like Itsuki a lot, partly because he's a stand out among video game protagonists that typically are either very experienced and gruff or young and whiny, but also because he's the kind of person I try to be like.
Tsubasa, the pegasus rider
Tsubasa (Sue-ba-sa) is Itsuki's childhood friend (and it's strongly hinted at that they're dating) starts out as an outsider wanting to be a famous singer and idol. She's a genuine and innocent girl, not an uncommon trope but there are some really genuinely funny moments for her as the game goes on. The game starts with her entering an “American Idol” style contest called One of a Millennium, which gets taken over by mirages who want to steal everyone's performa.
Every person has some performa, but those who are better at performing have more. It's a kind of artistic essence that mirages prey on. I'll get more into performa in the spoilers section.
Tsubasa ends up trapped in the One of a Millennium contest and Itsuki has to save her. In the process they build connections with Chrom and Caeda respectively and get hired by Fortuna Entertainment, which is an organization secretly investigating mirages under the guise of being a talent agency.
Tsubasa really feels like she should be the main character, except toward the ending. But most of the performing and entertainment side of things are about her and she really develops the most of any character. I'd go so far as to say that her and Itsuki are the two protagonists.
The game even starts out with her as a kid, five years before the events in the game, when mirages attack an opera where she's watching her sister (and Yashiro's father) perform. Mirages attack and everyone is taken by the mirages but Tsubasa and it's described as a major event in the world.
Touma, the hot head
Touma (Toe-ma) becomes your third party member pretty early on. His mirage is Cain and the two make a good pair, with Touma replacing Cain's mount for a flaming motorcycle. Touma is wants to be an action star and be the hero and much of his story revolves around what it means to be a hero. He's also kinda prone to act before thinking, so Itsuki helps give his firey personality some direction.
Kiria, the star
When the game starts, Kiria (Key-ree-ah) is already an established singer and idol and it turns out that after the event five years ago that she bonded with Tharja and became a mirage master (the term for someone who creates a bond with a mirage rather than being directly possessed and drained of their performa) and began investigating mirages. Tsubasa is a big fan of hers and there are lots of funny moments early on when Tsubasa gets star struck being around Kiria.
Kiria mostly struggles with maintaining her too-cool-for-school appearance with a hidden inner love of all things cute and kawaii. Most of her side stories revolve around balancing the relationship between those two aesthetics.
Elenora, the ambitious
Elenora, usually called Ellie, is half-Japanese and half-Scandinavian and kind of obsessed with becoming a Hollywood star. While everyone else is focused on building their careers in Japan, Ellie relates everything to Hollywood to the point where it gets on everyone's nerves. Under her obsession and striking confidence is a sensitive soul and her side stories are some of the best in the game.
While Kiria and Ellie are the older girls of the group, it's Ellie that really takes on the big sister role most often. She's also really snarky and her dialogue is usually pretty sharp when she's not always mentioning Hollywood. Virion tries to get Ellie to be more demure and lady-like but Ellie's headstrong personality rebuffs him constantly.
Mamori, the youngster
Can't have a JRPG or a Fire Emblem game without a young girl can you? Mamori (Mah-more-ee) of course has Draug as her mirage and she's the tank of the group. She's mechanically more interesting than she is from a story perspective in my opinion.
She starts off as a cooking show host that is all about microwaving and her development comes from learning to speak up for herself and take control of the direction of her career.
Yashiro, the lone wolf
Then there's Yashiro (Ya-she-ro), whose dad disappeared five years ago. He's also already an established singer and actor and he's the type that's obsessed with perfecting his career. Itsuki takes Yashiro's single-minded focus on trying to impress his dead father and teaches Yashiro how to be part of a group and lean on others. Yashiro and Itsuki's relationship starts out as a rivalry and develops into one of the more interesting in the game.
Entertaining and saving the world
For most of the game, the story revolves around Fortuna Entertainment as a talent agency. Sure, mirage stuff pops up at each of the missions. But everything is about going to photoshoots and taking on roles in TV shows and performing at concerts.
Usually something happens and for whatever reason a character can't progress in their career, and something happening in the main dungeon for that chapter will parallel their struggles in the real world. They will then take what they've learned fighting mirages and apply it to their career and move on.
It's a really satisfying loop, and honestly the performing parts of the story are where the game shines the brightest. It's where the characters feel organically invested and inter-party drama is a natural source of conflict.
The side stories all play into the main story too, as characters work on their careers in ways that are more focused on them. Some of the best parts of the game come from your party's side quests.
During this time you're also unlocking more and more of Tokyo to explore and revisit, so you can really get sucked into a pretty immersive experience. The Japanese voice acting really helps with this too, you really feel like you're part of this version of Tokyo. The Wii U's game pad acts as a cellphone, so you're getting lots of texts from both your party and the supporting NPCs, which just adds to the immersiveness.
Fire Emblem — Spoilers ahead
The last chapter of the game is called Fire Emblem. Between the end of the fifth and penultimate chapter and the sixth and last chapter, all the mysteries get revealed:
When Marth sealed away the shadow dragon, only the opera of shadow and light could revive him. So everyone in the Fire Emblem universe stopped any kind of performing arts traditions as a way to prevent its revival.
So those wanting to revive the shadow dragon have come to modern day Japan to steal everyone's performa. From there you get a dungeon with all the main bosses from previous chapters as minibosses and a fight against the dragon, which is moderately difficult and has two forms.
After that, you have a short epilogue chapter where you can revisit all the locations in the game, have one final moment of dialogue with your party and talk to NPCs and then the game wraps up.
I have to say, it wasn't a terrible way to tie the performing arts into the world of Fire Emblem. But the mysteries of the mirages were never that important to me. Like I said earlier, it was more about everyone's careers as entertainers that really drew me in. Thankfully, they all get a tidy ending as well.
There is even a sense with some of the characters that fighting mirages was such a part of their identity that they feel lost now that it's not part of their lives anymore. I really appreciated this, you certainly don't see that in many games but it wasn't explored as fully as I would have liked. Maybe there's more to this in the new game + ending (it's not called new game +, but that's what it is essentially).
End of spoilers, wrapping things up
So this game took me 120 hours according to my save file, but I'm really bad about leaving a game on and running the dogs out, or cooking, or chatting on discord or tweeting. So it's probably closer to 100 hours of actual game time. I did all the major side quests and a lot if not most of the minor side quests. I collected all the posters and costumes and made did 2/3 of the arena quests. I really enjoyed my time with the game, and there was more than enough to not leave me feeling unsatisfied.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions. was pitched as a crossover of Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem, but the J-pop theme didn't really appeal to either fan base. Still, it's a solid RPG with great characters, funny dialogue and a good plot. I can't help but wonder the fate of this game if it was pitched as its own thing without all the Fire Emblem and SMT references.
A Switch port?
It would make a great Switch port, but I kinda doubt it'll happen. The Gamepad is used a lot and while it's not super integral to the game, getting all these texts in a menu would be very annoying and would need a redesign and missing the easy map functionality would be a shame.
There's also the issue of the rights to the songs, they may need to renegotiate that since they outsourced that work, I'm not sure. Furthermore, the Japanese-only voice acting was likely a barrier for many and I can't imagine how much it would cost to get English dubs of this with the singing. With the game being so niche and the FE and TMS fanbases not really wanting anything to do with it, Atlus and Nintendo may just decide to cut their losses on this one. Which is a shame because more people really should play this game.
As a final rating, I'd give this game 4 out of 5 stars. It's a great game, I really recommend it. It's a mechanically deep RPG with great characters and a serviceable story. Overall it's a great hidden gem on a console where hidden gems are all that's left. If you have a Wii U and want a weird JRPG to play, I'd wholeheartedly recommend it.
I'm moving (in fact I need to be packing right now), so it may be a week (or two, but I hope not) before I'm back. If you have any topics or games you'd like for me to explore shoot me a tweet @13th_story! I'd love to hear from you.