This game has had a bit of a mixed reception from Wii U owners who are fans of both Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei (admittedly a rather niche group...), and there are some good reasons for that, but let me go on record here and tell you go buy this game because it's fucking amazing. Those of you who know my gaming habits know that I tend to prefer shorter games, and I almost never "complete" games; I'll beat the main story line and maybe do a few side quests, but I don't make a point to do EVERYTHING in a game. I just get bored and want to move on to something else.
Well sit down, son, and let me tell you a story about one of the exceptions to that rule into which I sank almost 72 hours. This game is basically a Persona game. Mechanically, it's straight up Persona, and stylistically, it's pretty damn Persona. The main conflict in the game, however, is essentially the main conflict from the first Fire Emblem game but told as a sort offrame story within the context of weeb-as-fuck idol bullshit. And by bullshit, I mean a premise that every game needs. Adorable little girl and sexy tsundere chick team up as ass kicking idols? Hell yes, sign me up.
So why did THIS game entice me to do almost every optional thing there is when I couldn't be bothered to do more than a handful of side quests in Skyrim? The short answer is "fuck if I know." The long answer is that it masterfully blends a numberof elements that somehow manages to be far greater than the sum of its parts. Let's start with the plot. On the surface, it's a super anime trope - random catastrophe, mysterious evil steals the energy and happiness from people, random teenagers team up to save the world through the power of friendship or some other such bullshit. Yeah, that's the story if you only look at the surface. Look a little bit deeper, however, and it's actually got some very dark elements that are right at home for the Megami Tensei series. It's the subtlety with which those dark elements are implemented that makes the game so damn impressive from a literary perspective. What on the surface appears to be just stealing peoples' talent and energy is actually, if you pay attention, stealing their souls - the very core of who they are and what their purpose in the world is - and life force. My explanation isn't really doing it justice, but it's really quite well done.
Let's next look at the combat. Again, it's fairly standard Persona, though there is a twist. The "Sessions" from the title comes from a battle mechanic implemented in the game. When you make an attack that exploits and enemy's weakness, you trigger a "session" with your active party members (and your reserves provided that you've unlocked a specific skill for them). These sessions are essentially combo chains that, if you're very lucky and get the chance to perform a dual attack, can reset, earning you enough of a chain to (potentially) kill a boss in one fell swoop. My highest combo was 16, but I've had a coupleof friends tell me that they came across screenshots on Reddit and Miiverse of 20 or 30 combo sessions (20 I can believe if you're reaaaally lucky, but I question the legitimacy of a 30+ combo session). It's such a small thing, but it really adds a lot to the game's combat, and (most importantly) it does a lot to fix the problem of picking two favorite characters and letting the other four waste away in the reserve party because it keeps them engaged even when they're not on your active party.
I could talk about this game for a long time, and I'll be glad to answer any specific questions for those of you who haven't played it or are debating whether or not to pick it up, but I'll end by talking about the characters. You end up with seven party members and four support characters who aren't in your party but support you "behind the scenes" throughout your quest. Each of the playable characters represent a Fire Emblem class - lord, knight, pegasus knight, mage, general, archer, and swordmaster. If you find a Master Seal (they're really rare, but I found probably 15 or 20 during my playthrough), you can upgrade each character's class to one of two stronger classes (the pegasus knight, for example, changes into either a falcon knight that specializes in healing or a wyvern knight that is more focused on offense). You can also change to the other upgraded class if you find you don't like the one you chose at any time, though it does require another Master Seal, so don't go throwing them around like glow sticks at a rave.
I'm going to recommend this game to all JRPG fans in general, but if your only current gen console is a Wii U or if you're a huge Persona fan, I'm going to recommend this in the strongest possible terms. The fact of the matter is that the Wii U simply doesn't have many JRPGs. Aside from TMS, it's got what, one? Is Xenoblade Chronicles X it? Maybe Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate if you count that as a JRPG (I don't). If you've got a Wii U, then you'll want to pick this up for genre diversity if nothing else. Let's look at another concrete fact - Atlus making fucking amazing JRPGs, and the Megami Tensei series (especially the Persona sub-series) is one of the premier JRPG series around. What you've got here is one of the VERY few RPGs on the Wii U that's (at least unofficially) part of the one of the greatest JRPG series there is. Not only that, but it's got little bits of one of Nintendo's great under-appreciated IPs and references thrown throughout. Even if you've never played Fire Emblem or care nothing about it, I'd say you ought to pick this game up. It's really 98% Persona, 2% Fire Emblem. Not that being Fire Emblem is a bad thing - I wish it had been a SRPG like Fire Emblem, personally - but you don't have to like the strategy element of Fire Emblem to enjoy Tokyo Mirage Sessions.
tl;dr - buy this game, it's good as fuck.
My Rating - 5 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.