Writing the justification for a sequel to a cult title is always a tricky undertaking. Doubtless there will be naysayers, those that really didn’t chime with the game and would much rather the developer spent their time focusing on other projects. On the other hand there will be those that loved it and can’t wait to stuff more of it into their eyeballs. These two groups will be flanked by a mass of casual audience that played the original, albeit not that many of them, that really don’t care either way. So from all possible perspectives then, does it make sense for Atlus to return to the TMS well, and would we want them to?
Of our introduction categories, we’ll profess that we belong primarily in the latter of the two camps. We loved the game, both versions, but with one particular caveat: The story was absolute insanity, and not necessarily in a good way.
You see, when a Persona title goes full crazy on the player, it does so with a serious tone, often approaching unusual and tense subjects whilst simultaneously tackling relatable daily struggles. By contrast, something like Undertale delights in constantly having its tongue in its cheek, poking fun at both the player and other games; you know it’s strange and so does it, so with that acknowledged it can go full crazy. The problem with Tokyo Mirage Sessions is that it falls somewhere between, and doesn’t quite hit home.
The basic premise of a title like this is that portals to other worlds have appeared, and you must traverse said dungeons, save lives and generally have a good time with the battle system, which is a great place to start. The problem is that all of the time in between is punctuated by a story that can essentially be summarised with the words ‘I am not sure if I am good enough for my next performance’. There’s nothing innately wrong with encouraging team members, but it doesn’t delve deep enough into why they suffer, preferring to float very close to the emotional surface. It’s hard to imagine a sequel featuring anything other than more of the same, at least from a story perspective, and we’re not sure that we want this. The original wasn’t really left in any open-ended way either, so it would likely have to focus on an entirely new band of heroes, and whilst we’re not completely against this, it would be nice to make their struggle a little less… Superfluous.
We should probably first note that the battle system in TMS#FE is one of the very best we’ve ever encountered in a JRPG title. Yes, you could argue that it’s quite easy, and yes the game does tend to play itself after you’ve pressed three buttons, but we’re yet to find a system quite as satisfying as this. Building your team to concoct a great series of session attacks is fantastic, and seeing them pop off on screen is tremendously satisfying. If we’re completely honest, we wouldn’t like the battle system to be changed at all. The systems surrounding it however, are a different story…
The side quest tracking is terrible, and resorts to locations dictating the availability of such, but only if you go there and check constantly. Carnages are an interesting take on new equipment, and we do enjoy the levelling of them, but their interaction with the ‘Fire Emblem’ side of the game is laughable at best. In fact, we’re pretty sure we have thought of a new system that could vastly improve this.
How about every single Carnage (Weapon, for readers unfamiliar) is the embodiment of a Fire Emblem character, like the Blades in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, after all there are enough to go around. Building on this, why not have them each be levelled up by literally playing a Fire Emblem-esque map, like FE: Heroes? Better still, what if you could dispatch these carnages to take them on whilst you’re away dealing with dungeons and enemies? Not only would this encourage more involvement of the Fire Emblem games, but if you pick key maps from the history of that series, they even get a little back story themselves.
Is It Worth It?
Given the fact that we’ve written about the game so much, our opinion is likely to be becoming quite clear by now. We are however, quite realistic when it comes to these things, so the real question that must be answered is if it’s worth it for the developers. This is a game that was effectively upgraded and released on a new console, so it hasn’t been consigned to the scrap bin like Persona 1 & 2, but would it be a good financial decision?
It’s safe to say that these games, including a possible sequel, wouldn’t break any records in terms of sales. With SMTV, Atlus have managed to position this, along with the Persona series, within the public consciousness, and the same could be said of Three Houses with Fire Emblem. A possible second pairing that boosts the visibility of both isn’t really required, and would likely have to be made out of sheer desire from the developers to see it continue. With the resurrection of Soul Hackers, the expansion of the Persona series onto other platforms and a monstrous back catalogue to remaster, such a project is unlikely to feel worth it for Atlus.
Sequel Or Not?
At the end of the day, whilst we would certainly enjoy a sequel to Tokyo Mirage Sessions, we have to admit that it’s not very likely. The scope and possibilities for interaction between Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem systems is an allure that cannot be ignored, but the likelihood of such a thing seeing the light of day is very low to say the least. Atlus and Intelligent Systems both have flagship titles that sell in astonishingly high amounts, and they would be foolish not to cater to those first.
Alas, we shall have to resign ourselves to the string of high quality, less crazy and altogether more well thought out games that these developers release. It’s unlikely that it’ll even see the ol’ Kickstarter switcheroo like Suikoden and Eiyuden Chronicles, thanks to the source content. Still, TMS#FE will always hold a special place in our hearts, and it has indelibly marked our enjoyment and expectation of subsequent JRPG battle systems, likely forever.
Categories: Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore