Back when Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem was announced, there was a lot of speculation as to the kind of game we were going to get. Was it going to be an RPG or strategy title? Which characters from the respective franchises would it feature? How exactly do you bring SMT and Fire Emblem together? What is the middle ground here?
Now that I've had a chance to play the result, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, the answer is apparently "Persona with Fire Emblem references".
At PAX East, I sat down with TMS #FE (get it?) to look at the game's combat. I was thrust in the middle of the game's intro, with protagonist Itsuki Aoi wandering a dungeon in search of his lost friend Tsubasa Oribe. The human world is under invasion by Mirages, creatures from the Idolosphere who attach themselves to humans in order to drain them of their Performa, a manifestation of their creative energy.
When Tsubasa is taken, Itsuki follows after her, and find himself attacked by a Mirage himself. Through an unknown power, Itsuki cleanses the Mirage of its evil tendencies, turning it back into the helpful Mirage, Chrom for Fire Emblem: Awakening. That's how most of the Fire Emblem characters factor into this game, as Mirages for either the main characters or the bosses they fight. Tsubasa's eventual partner is Shiida from Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, for example. Once Itsuki and Tsubasa have bonded to their Mirages, they gain the power of Carnage Form, which is where they take on outfits related to their Mirage while the Mirage itself becomes a weapon.
The combat is turn-based like previous Shin Megami Tensei Persona games, but with a few twists. Enemies are visible in the dungeon and Itsuki can attack them with his sword to stun them briefly, allowing you to pass, or to gain the initiative in combat. Once in battle, there's an action bar, which shows the order of attack similar to the Grandia games.
The game's combat leans heavily on Shin Megami Tensei's extensive system of weaknesses, meaning you're always tailoring your attacks to exploit your opponents. The weaknesses this time around pull from both Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei. Weapon types are pulled from Fire Emblem's Weapon Triangle (Sword, Lance, Axe, and Bow in this case), while Magic corresponds to SMT's system (Zio, Agi, Bufu, Zan, Dia, etc. covering elemental skills). Players can also switch between different Carnages, TMS' odd name for weapons; each weapon has its own elemental affinity. Find the right weakness, do far more damage to your foes.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions builds upon its basic combat system with Sessions. When you use a skill that exploits an opponent's weakness, you trigger a Session, which causes the other members of your party to attack using skills as well. A Session only counts as a used move for the originator, meaning it's free damage for other members of your party. Do it right and you can string together long combo chains. At lower levels, it's just fun for overkill, but at higher levels, using Sessions correctly is necessary to succeed.
The dungeon themselves also recall the Persona games. The dungeon I played during my demo was the domain of a Mirage attached to a gravure idol photographer looking for the perfect subject. (I don't have many details, since the demo folks skipped through the dialog at high speed.) The dungeon itself was covered with photos of idols and had enormous cameras dotting the landscape. Walking in front of the cameras would teleport you back to the beginning of the dungeon. Upon reaching the end, the photographer was consumed by his Mirage (See? Totally Persona!), who was a seeming reference to Fire Emblem Awakening's Mad King Gangrel.
Is Tokyo Mirage Sessions enough to get you to buy a Wii U? Probably not. But if you have one and you're waiting for Persona 5 to drop, this seems like the perfect game to tide you over. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is coming to Wii U on June 24, 2016.