Level Up! | Now is the perfect time to play Tokyo Mirage Sessions

Level Up! Is a biweekly blog about all types of games, from Dungeons and Dragons to Mario Party.

By Sinead McDevitt, Digital Manager

A “Fire Emblem” game for the Nintendo Switch with a more anime-style art direction where the main party members can call upon the power of characters from other games and go through bombastic transformations? Am I talking about the recently announced “Fire Emblem: Engage” or “Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE: Encore?”

OK, admitably, the differences do end there. “Fire Emblem: Engage” is a mainline entry to the long-running series and features the traditional turn based strategy gameplay, while “Tokyo Mirage Sessions” is a crossover between the “Shin Megami Tensei” series and “Fire Emblem,” with gameplay more akin to “Shin Megami Tensei V” RPG elements. While “Engage” is set in a new high-fantasy continent, “Tokyo Mirage Sessions” takes place in modern Tokyo and centers on the entertainment industry, in particular on idols.

But the part about summoning past “Fire Emblem” characters in both games is true, and if that’s an aspect of Engage that intrigues you, you should play “Tokyo Mirage Sessions”! You should also play “Tokyo Mirage Sessions” even if those elements don’t interest you. You should play “Tokyo Mirage Sessions.” I am metaphorically holding a knife to your throat and telling you to play it.

As I said, the game is set in modern-day Tokyo, which is being invaded by beings known as “Mirages” (all Mirages that aren’t generic enemies are based on “Fire Emblem” characters), other-worldly beings who drain “Performa” from people — a type of energy that comes from, well, performing. The game was originally on the Wii U and did poorly (in part because it was on the Wii U) but received a second lease on life with the updated re-release “Encore” on the Switch.

You don’t have to be familiar with either the “Fire Emblem” series or “Shin Megami Tensei” to play “Tokyo Mirage Sessions” — it follows an entirely original main cast. The party members are all partnered up with “Mirages,” or amnesiac versions of “Fire Emblem” characters (which means you don’t actually have to know who they are) who turn into weapons and help the characters fight and wield magic.

The original cast for this game is its strong suit and includes several delightful characters such as:

Itsuki Aoi

The main playable lord who has to be in the party at all times (unless you’re on New Game+) and is partnered with Chrom. He doesn’t have any particular interest in performing, but he joins up to help his friends fight. Some people, myself included, have called him a “walking hunk of wood” — but that’s actually a good thing in this case, because he plays the straight man to all the other characters so well, and when he does get in on the shenanigans, it’s even better.

Tsubasa Oribe

The deuteragonist/true main protagonist, depending on who you ask, is partnered with Caeda. It’s her dream to become an idol and make people smile after living through the mass disappearance of an entire theater of people, including her older sister. A lot of the game centers on her finding her confidence as an idol, and she’s the only character who gets three Duo Arts, or special combat skills between two characters that do massive damage. She also likes to talk to cats in the middle of the street. She’s adorable and I would die for her.

Touma Akagi

The team’s token himbo and Itsuki and Tsubasa’s friend. He rides his partner Cain like a motorcycle, and in his first proper scene he rides in to save Itsuki and Tsubasa and magically removes his shirt to show off his abs. His dream is to star in the tokusatsu show “Masqueraider,” though at first he’s only an extra in a stage show. He wants to help make children smile like these shows did for him after his parents abandoned him!

Kiria Kurono

The cool and mysterious older sister of the team, and fittingly enough she’s paired with the dark mage, Tharja. Kiria’s an experienced idol who Tsubasa looks up to. She performs several of the game’s songs, including the main theme “Reincarnation.” Her issues stem from her need to violently repress her love of cute things because she feels it ruins her image and her fans’ expectations of her.

Eleonora “Ellie” Yumizuru

Ellie is an actress who hopes to some day make it big in Hollywood and who often bickers with her partner, Virion. She’s half-Scandinavian and half-Japanese and she’s insecure about how being biracial makes her stand out in Tokyo, but covers it up with a layer of bravado and overconfidence.

Mamori Minamoto

The team tank and also an 11-year-old who wears a bunny costume and wields an oversized axe with the help of her partner Draug, it’s Microwavin’ Mamorin! Mamori is pretty much the only character other than Itsuki who isn’t repressing some major issues other than generally wanting to move on from her cutesy kids’ cooking show to some serious singing. She’s cute and a powerhouse in battle.

Yashiro Tsurugi

Every anime-style game has its edgy bad boy, and here it’s Yashiro, who is paired with Navarre, the edgy bad boy of the very first “Fire Emblem” game. Yashiro is — to paraphrase a friend— double-dipping in daddy issues. Not only did his father raise him to care about performing above all else to the point that he will not eat for three days if it isn’t worked into his schedule, but his dad also dies in front of him. Yashiro is obsessed with avenging his father’s death and hates the idea of friendship. Naturally, he joins your party after you beat him up a couple of times.

Everyone in the party works at Fortuna Entertainment, a talent agency that doubles as a base of operations for monitoring Mirage activity, and throughout the game you explore different dungeons and customize your characters.

They also perform several different musical numbers in gorgeous cutscenes.

While admittedly this game is not what many “Fire Emblem” and “Shin Megami Tensei” fans thought when they heard the two series would be crossing over, it’s a funny, flashy and stylish game in its own right. It has cool dungeons, great characters and a killer soundtrack, and all I would like is for it to get the attention it deserves.