A hidden JRPG on the Wii U last generation was Tokyo Mirage Sessions, a cross over between the world of Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei.
This cross over didn’t really act as a mix of both though but instead almost like a pseudo Persona lite game featuring elements from the two cross overs. It was criminally underplayed but finds a new more accessible home on Nintendo Switch this week.
Taking place in modern-day Tokyo, we follow the lives of Itsuki Aoi and his friends. These high school kids live throughout their days in the buzzing districts of Shinjuku and Harajuku. It’s around this time that their world is shaken up when mirages begin to attack them.
Mirages in Tokyo Mirage Sessions are like shadows in Persona. These mirages can be hostile or when equipped with a human bond, can form alliances to protect the human world. Human partners are called mirage masters and to his surprise, so is our protagonist.
That opens up the wormhole of going on a grand adventure to connect with mirages to take down the hostile mirages with the help of the friends you make along the way. In terms of writing, it feels almost like a Persona 4.5, where the story is fascinating and the supporting cast is vastly interesting but it certainly doesn’t reach the bar set out by Persona 5.
Then again, Tokyo Mirage Sessions was released about a year before Persona 5 originally and you can see a lot of those stepping stones between 4 and 5 in this title. As compared to those 80+ hour games, this story is bite-sized in comparison at only 30 hours though at a leaner and more straight forward pace. Reexperiencing the story on Nintendo Switch, this lighter JRPG feels right at home as a portable title.
I described Tokyo Mirage Sessions as a Persona 4.5 and that’s most apparent with its gameplay. Back in 2015, Tokyo Mirage Sessions was the Persona formula on an HD console for the very first time. Sure we’ve had HD Atlus games before with Catherine, but despite not being called Persona, Tokyo Mirage Sessions was essentially Persona but with the main cast being focused around high schoolers and idols and the personas now being Fire Emblem mirages.
The gameplay is split between the day to day life in Tokyo and dungeon exploring in the Idolasphere. The 30 or so hours are split into chapters as the story slowly unravels and reveals itself. During the day, you’ll go to school, interact with your friends and other NPCs that give you side quests.
Shops around the many districts of Tokyo sell accessories that can then aid you in battles and dungeon exploring during the idol sphere. That’s the other half of the gameplay and where most of the action takes place. The Idolasphere is Tokyo Mirage’s take on dungeons but unlike Persona 4, they’re specifically designed though not to the extent as like Persona 5.
Still, they offer a fun landscape to explore while also taking on the enemies lurking in every corner. When you run into one, you activate a battle that feels like a modified version of the Persona system. The turn-based combat has your party along with their mirages, taking on enemies with attacks, spells, and items.
They’re essentially the equivalent to attacks, skills, and items in Atlus’ other RPGs. Like their other RPGs, enemies have weaknesses and if a weakness is hit then you’ll activate a session skill based on the attack used. These sessions can be chained with other members of your party, letting you continue a combo if you land an effective hit on an enemy. It works similarly to the one more system from Persona though more automatic based on the session skills each character has.
As you fight more enemies, you’ll build up your SP or special meter, this is used for performance attacks, almost like a limit move, that deals way more damage. These are unlocked over time by completing side quests and building relationships with your friends almost like a social link. It’s a combat system that works well and that’s partly because it’s built on a modified foundation of Atlus’ other RPGs.
The new content with this rerelease is cool but also pretty subpar. You’re able to unlock the previous DLC for free now in extra dungeons including some fan-favorite easter eggs like Joker from Persona 5. However, these dungeons aren’t all that challenging and feel shoehorned in when compared to the rest of the dungeons.
There is some quality of life improvements with this port though. Load times that plagued the Wii U version have been shortened on the Switch along with the option to cut down on attack animations for faster battles. While this is certainly the best version of the game so far, it’s not a leap but just a step up from the original.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions has a lovely vibrant color palette that helps it stand out among the rest of Atlus’ RPG line up. Throughout its story, you’ll travel to different themed dungeons that paint a beautiful rainbow of different locations for you to explore.
One thing back from the original that I didn’t always like about it is that somewhat soft
glow around the gameplay. Things like character models seem to have this soft glow to the edges of character models that I always thought was a relic of the lower resolution on Wii U. On Switch that’s still here even with the subtle resolution changes in some scenes.
Speaking of which, the resolution does seem to be mostly the same between both versions at 720p whether you’re playing in handheld or dock mode. Only some instances did I see an improvement in environment models like the pain edges of the walls but nothing enough to really catch my eye.
At least while playing in portable mode, the gameplay does appear to look sharper thanks to the smaller display on the Switch, even better looking on the Switch Lite models. As far as the animated cutscenes go, these haven’t degraded a bit and the anime art style still looks as marvelous as it did back on the Wii U.
Japanese Idol music isn’t really my thing but boy does Tokyo Mirage Sessions make me rethink that. I’m sure the theme and music of Japanese Idols will get some people to turn away from this title but I wouldn’t recommend making that mistake, Tokyo Mirage Sessions’ music slaps.
Reincarnation performed by Nanjou Yoshino is a fantastic pop anthem that is as memorable as some of Atlus’ other RPG soundtracks. The rest of the soundtrack is a heavy mix of electric and pop that along with the idol visuals and attacks, fit so perfectly.
Voice acting is also delivered beautifully by the cast though arguably the main character Itsuki at times comes off as more of a supporting character compared to the actual supporting character Tsubasa. I would have also loved to see English voice acting in this rerelease but everything is still left in Japanese, even with some battle lines never getting translated.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions was my favorite JRPG on the Nintendo Wii U and while I don’t think it’s my favorite on Switch in 2020, it’s still a title that shouldn’t be missed.
For all the times I’ve told people that they had to play Persona 4 Golden on Vita or Persona 5 on PS4, Tokyo Mirage Sessions is another vital RPG I’d recommend to Switch owners. It might be more of an RPG relic for 2020 standards, but it remains the closest thing to Persona on Switch for the time being and a fun one at that.