Players of Persona 4: Golden and Shin Megami Tensei titles will feel right at home in the turn-based arenas of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, judging from our hands-on experience at PAX East. When the game releases in North America in June, the performance-themed turn-based gameplay will have players making music by pounding their enemies’ weaknesses.
The PAX East preview took us to several different parts of the game, showing off various aspects of the combat system and hints of the story. The demo began with Itsuki going after a missing Tsubasa, finding her in the hands of a cloaked monster – a Mirage. They had come for her creativity, but when Itsuki unleashes his previously-unknown Performa power, things took a dramatic turn.
The two main characters are only two of several Mirage Masters that would join the player’s party over the course of the game. The character are all bound to a different Mirage, each of which comes from a previous Fire Emblem game (Tsubasa’s Mirage, Caeda, comes from Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, for example).
The demo moved onto one of the dungeons, each of which is themed after some form of entertainment (fashion, photography, etc…). This one, themed around photography, featured cameras that would send players back to the beginning of a dungeon should they enter its line of sight. Monsters that wandered the dungeon could be struck in the field, allowing for preemptive attacks during the actual combat.
Monsters are weak to certain kinds of attacks in the game, just as they are in other Shin Megami Tensei titles. Players also have to find those weaknesses themselves, but once they do, they can start to combo them together using the session system. Sessions will let players chain multiple attacks together, gaining two, three, or more hits together from the other characters.
Longer sessions must be put together via discovery as well, with players experimenting with equipped moves to see which ones chain with each other. The demo had sessions of up to five attacks put together in one long chain, creating an emphasis on finishing battles fast using enemy weaknesses. The additional attacks also come at no MP cost to any player beyond the one who initiated the session, so the game heavily encourages using this system.
Several visual touches make a good session feel that much more satisfying and tie it into the idol theme. An audience constantly cheers the battle on, creating a sense of being on-stage during combat. Boxes with the characters’ faces in them will also show up, like large screens at a concert, when a session is available to play. The characters even add a little flourish to their moves, creating their autograph in the air before an attack.
Further keeping with the idol theme, players could also execute Duos and Duets with two characters, casting powerful moves together. Characters would also unlock Ad-lib powers, which were skills that would sometimes activate to add an additional attack from another character when you strike an enemy.
Should a player want more moves to create more devastating sessions, they’ll need to create new weapons based on the Mirages they fight. Fighting certain mirages or finding certain items will give the player the recipe for a new weapon, and each new weapon carries various attributes and abilities from the monster. Players will also need to fight well to build up star power, which is also necessary to create new weapons.
These weapons, as well as some passive abilities, can be crafted in the Bloom Palace. The passive power creation was not demonstrated in this build of the game, though.
The social media app allowed for some extra character interactions on the Wii U’s gamepad (which primarily featured dungeon maps), although this was not heavily featured in the demo. Side quests could also be undertaken to better get to know your teammates, and these would also provide new abilities for players to use in combat.
The idol theme has been used to interesting effect in the preview build of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, providing a unique framework for players to string together multiple attacks in one devastating array. It makes combat feel like a spectacle where the player is the star, carefully orchestrating victory in a showy display before a cheering audience.