A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is a Japanese turn-based role-playing game. Players control well-meaning teenage characters who join with supernatural creatures called "mirages" to fight evil monsters in another dimension. Combat involves melee and magical attacks but no blood or gore. Fallen foes simply disappear from the battlefield. The kids are also seriously obsessed with -- and in some cases want to be -- pop music stars and engage in plenty of typical teenage activities, including shopping, texting, and flirting. Some female characters dress provocatively, with bouncing breasts and deep cleavage. Dialogue includes occasional instances of profanity -- including the word "s--t" -- and one character appears drunk.
What's it about?
TOKYO MIRAGE SESSIONS #FE tells the story of Itsuki, a Japanese teenager, and several of his friends. These kids learn early in the game that they have the power to ally themselves with mirages -- warriors from another dimension who can imbue certain humans with powerful weapons and skills. They use their newfound abilities to fight evil mirages who have taken possession of human celebrities as part of a far-reaching and nefarious scheme that's slowly revealed as the story progresses. Play is split between the human world in Tokyo, where players visit real-world locations such as the Shibuya shopping district, chat with nonplayer characters to further the narrative, and upgrade their gear and skills, and a completely different world called the Idolosphere, a dimension composed of labyrinthine dungeons patrolled by evil mirages and populated by secondary characters who occasionally ask the heroes to perform special "requests," such as tracking down and defeating specific villains. Combat is turn-based, with enemies appearing in the center of a circular stage and allies along its rim. Characters take turns attacking, using items, and employing special skills that can be combined with other characters' skills to create combos called sessions. After each battle, characters earn cash that can be spent on new items and gear, experience that helps them gain levels and learn new skills, and "performa," which can be used to create new weapons in a ritual called unity.
Is it any good?
If you love traditional role-playing games and have an appreciation for the peculiarities of Japanese pop culture, you're probably not going to play many games more entertaining than this one. Fans of Japanese RPGs will find much of the experience pleasantly familiar. The story is loaded with teenage friendships and melodrama and borrows liberally from Atlus' popular Shin Megami Tensei role-playing games in its themes and tone. There's also a healthy dollop of the Fire Emblem franchise (hinted at in the #FE part of the game's title), noticeable in some of the mirages we meet -- who originally appeared as Fire Emblem characters -- as well as a couple of quick recognizable musical phrases, such as the five-note ditty that accompanies a character leveling up.
But what will keep most people coming back night after night is the game's intricate turn-based action and imaginative Idolosphere design. Players are unlikely to soon forget, for example, manipulating the sleeves of a series of three-story-high dress costumes to run through them and access higher or lower levels of a labyrinthine dungeon. And combat is never dull, thanks to a progression and upgrade system that makes it feel like players are learning new skills every two or three battles. It seems there's always something new for us to figure out how to use, whether it’s a weapon, session combination, or skill. Had Atlus done a better job of localization -- the entire game is voiced in Japanese, and the characters' cult-like embrace of pop celebrity will seem on the verge of zealotry to many Western players -- Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE might have had even broader appeal. As is, the niche audience at which it's targeted will have little reason to complain.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. This is a long game that could take some players weeks or months of frequent play to complete, but since you can save at almost any time, how do you cut down on marathon play sessions?
Discuss pop idolatry. It's easy to become obsessed with singers and celebrities, but do they make the best role models? What sorts of messages do they convey while performing? What have you read or heard about their off-stage behavior?
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