During today's Nintendo Direct, the company announced that Genei Ibun Roku #FE would be coming to the United States as Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE on June 24. The title won't be getting a full localization though; instead Nintendo of America will be releasing the game with Japanese audio and English subtitles. Honestly, I'm not surprised at all.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is the game that was originally announced as Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem, a meeting of the two fan-favorite franchises. (Get it? TMS is SMT in reverse!) #FE does share some characters and concepts with Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem, but it's really its own unique title. It doesn't directly cater to either side.
Instead, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE aims directly are Japanese pop idol culture. Many of the characters work for or are associated with entertainment agency Fortuna Entertainment, which employs idol singers and actors. The characters become Mirage Masters, able to former bonds with Mirages to fight creatures that threaten Tokyo and other nearby cities. All battles are treated as performances by entertainers. For the most part, the game goes off on its own story, without really addressing either Shin Megami Tensei or Fire Emblem.
The callbacks are many though. The Mirages are Personas in all but name, but they're all based on characters from the Fire Emblem franchise. Every character has a classes based on Fire Emblem and can be promoted using that series' Master Seals. Combat is turn-based and requires exploiting enemy weaknesses. Physical weakness are based on Fire Emblem's weapon triangle, while magical weaknesses are based on Shin Megami Tensei's magic system. The game plays more somewhat like a MegaTen game with a Fire Emblem skin.
#FE is quite Japanese, given its setting and focus. Unlike other Nintendo localization projects, I'm not sure you could find a version of this game that could reach out to a larger, more mainstream audience without significant changes. It would require extensive dubbing and songwriting as well, given the game's original soundtrack. (Japanese songs translated over to English directly rarely work, in my opinion.)
Even in its home region of Japan, Genei Ibun Roku #FE only sold 23,806 copies during its first week. That makes it one of the worse debuts for either franchise. It debuted at #14 on the Media Create charts and was completely gone from the chart's Top 50 a month later.
Nintendo of America had on its hands a very Japanese game that didn't do all that great in Japan. It's the kind of game I would've expected to be published by Atlus USA, XSEED, or the like. Given that material, I was expecting the company to go this route. They could dub the game, but that cost is probably not justified by what they see as the North American audience. That audience is likely anime and jpop fans, who are predisposed towards consuming their content in its original language with subtitles. And the likelihood of #FE making a dent beyond that audience is rather slim.
I doubt Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE will come over here 100 percent complete though. I've always felt localization is all about your intended audience, but I assume Nintendo will probably add more clothes to certain characters to hit ESRB ratings. In this case though, any of the likely costume edits that Nintendo will implement will probably anger and dismay the niche audience it's aimed at. In Japan, the game also included DLC for Fashion Show, Swimsuit, and Atlus character costumes. No clue if we'll get those at all.
The big remaining question is whether Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE will get a physical retail release. Given how Nintendo handled Devil's Third, with a very limited physical release, I wouldn't be surprised if NoA is expecting fans to buy Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE digitally.
Either way, the game is coming West and we finally have a release date! Please be excited.
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