On the second day of Nintendo Treehouse Live, the crew showed us a deeper look at the crossover title, including over 40 minutes of (gasp!) actual gameplay.
Story and Premise
Although first introduced as a Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem crossover, it’s perhaps a little more accurate to call it a brand new game that takes inspiration from both series.
As we’ve learned, the game takes place in modern-day Tokyo. At some point, this version of Tokyo becomes invaded by Mirages–powerful beings from another world called the “Idolasphere“.
Mirages are drawn to peoples’ creative energy–something known as “Performa“. Evil Mirages target people with particularly strong Performa and drain the Performa out of them.
Our heroes come into contact with hostile Mirages, but through a series of events, some of these Mirages elect to join their side and share their power to protect the rest of humanity.
With their newfound powers, our heroes become “Mirage Masters” who fight back against the invading Idolasphere, while at the same navigate their way through Japan’s entertainment industry.
The exploration gameplay we’re shown begins in a famous intersection at Shibuya, which may be familiar to those who live in or have visited Tokyo.
Here, bystanders appear as abstract, colourful silhouettes, but there are characters that are more defined dotted around–naturally, these are NPCs that can be interacted with.
At places that are marked, players can change to a different location, such as a different part of Shibuya or even inside buildings, like the “Jack Frost Mart” convenience store.
Within the convenience store, you can purchase everyday essentials, from beverages that act as healing items to javelins, hand axes and darts. Yup, looks like a “convenience” store, alright.
Fire Emblem fans may notice that the shopkeeper is a blatant Anna lookalike. Anna is, of course, the Secret Shop vendor and save screen gal in many of the Fire Emblem games.
We’re told the appearance of Shibuya adapts to the progress of the story. For instance, if Tsubasa releases her debut single, you’ll see her poster in the city and her song playing in the convenience store.
At this stage in the story, Itsuki is meeting up with Tsubasa to watch a concert performed by Kiria. Upon rendezvousing with Tsubasa, we advance straight to the concert.
Here, we’re shown a lengthy animated cutscene where Kiria sings and dances to her hit single (which we heard in the first proper trailer, back in April).
All the songs here are written by famous professional Japanese song writers, so these aren’t the type you typically hear in anime. The dances too were created by famous dance choreographers.
One of the challenges for the developers was that the voice actors in the game have to sing their own songs, so they had to find people who were both good actors and singers.
(If you recall, in Fire Emblem Fates, Azura the songstress has two voice actors–one for her dialogue and another for her songs.)
After seeing Kiria’s performance, Tsubasa’s Performa is awakened and she really wants to be a pop star. In her excitement, she asks for encouragement from her friend, Itsuki.
Cue a dialogue choice where you can tell her to go for her dream or tell her she’s got no chance. Perhaps these choices affect the ending like in Shin Megami Tensei (Megaten) titles?
Either way, her Performa shines likes a ball of light from within her–something only she and her friends can see. As part of her awakening, she receives a new Performa: “Singing Tsubasa“.
As a result of Tsubasa’s Performa awakening, the Idolasphere reacts with a sudden invasion of Shibuya. Although our heroes are alarmed at the Idolasphere, the citizens don’t seem to notice.
However, the citizens aren’t completely unaffected as several of them are drained of their colour and start slumping, looking depressed. This occurs because their Performa has been taken.
As our heroes look on in confusion, Kiria transforms into her battle gear and confronts a mysterious woman who seems to be causing this mayhem. But she’s held back by the woman’s henchmen.
Our heroes come chasing in, with Tsubasa shocked to find the unnamed woman the spitting image of her missing older sister. The woman seems alarmed too, retreating into the 106 building.
Before following her, we see how Shibuya has been transformed by the Idolasphere invasion. The background is far bleeker and the once vibrant bystanders are colourless and lying on the floor.
Our first experience of a dungeon is inside building 106, which is based on the “fashion central” Shibuya 109 in Tokyo. Like its real-life namesake, we’ll see fashion elements in 106 too.
Inside the dungeon, the Fire Emblem characters finally show up, although they’re not the characters we know–they’re Mirages from the Idolasphere who have lost their memory.
Enemies are visible in dungeons and chase after you if they notice you. Players can attack with their weapon (eg. Itsuki’s Rapier) to stun them before entering battle, ala Persona.
Chrom, Itsuki’s Mirage, seems to warn the player about nearby enemies in the dungeon, which is handy if you’re distracted and stumble upon camouflaged enemies that you don’t notice.
Dotted around the dungeon are floating yellow diamonds that act as treasure chests. Some of the items inside, like Chakra Drop and Dis-Poison, will be familiar to Megaten fans.
The gimmick of this dungeon appear to be the giant maid mannequins. Players can enter one of the giant sleeves to reach the other side. Seems straightforward so far…
To complicate things, there are mannequin displays near where you can manipulate the pose of the giant maid mannequin. By changing the pose, one can reach new areas or even different floors.
Here’s where things heat up. Battles are turn-based, but divided into “Rounds” where each character and enemy gets a turn to act and their turn is determined by their Speed.
Amusingly, Itsuki has the highest Speed, while Tsubasa has the lowest, despite her being modeled after a speedy Pegasus Knight.
During a character’s turn, they have the following actions: Attack, Skill, Item, Guard, Tactics and Escape. Pressing X triggers Auto-battle, for when you’re faced with easy enemies.
Enemies have affinities like in Megaten, but the weapon types are based off Fire Emblem. So you have: Sword, Lance, Axe, Bow, Fire, Ice, Thunder, Wind, Light and Dark.
If an enemy has a particular weapon, there is a pseudo weapon triangle. Like if the enemy is carrying a Sword, they will be weak to Lance, but resistant to Axe. A very neat touch.
Although we can see the weaknesses/resistances right now, it’s suggested that these must be learned by experimenting with different attacks, like in Megaten.
Characters have affinities too, so knowing what attacks an enemy uses will be very important.
Itsuki, being a sword-wielder, is weak to Lance, but resists Axe. He’s also weak to Fire and resists Thunder.
Tsubasa the Pegasus Knight is weak to Axe, Bows and Wind, but resists Sword and Dark.
Fiery Toma, meanwhile, is weak to Axe, Ice and Dark, but resists Sword and Fire.
Skills are where things get really fancy. Here, characters can expend EP for regular skills, which include Megaten staples.
Note: I’m not familiar with Megaten attack names, so apologies if I get any wrong!
Itsuki has access to Slash (weak Sword attack), Rakukaji (increases Defence), Zionga (medium Thunder attack).
Toma comes with Skewer (weak Lance attack), Flame Strike (weak Fire attack) and Poison Skewer.
Lastly, Tsubasa has Dia (restore HP), Skewer, Tarukaja (boosts Attack) and Zanma (medium Force/Wind attack).
Or they can use SP for powerful Mirage Skills (detailed later).
When using a Skill that the enemy is weak to, a “Session Attack” will occur, where the other party members (including inactive ones) perform a follow-up attack independent of their own action.
One example is Toma using Skewer on an enemy weak to Lance, which is followed up by Itsuki’s “Lance-linked Flash” and Tsubasa’s “Sword-linked Assault”.
Of note, if an enemy is KO’d during a Session Attack and your characters have attacks still remaining, they will target another enemy automatically.
By the way, the final hit of a Session Attack seems to grant additional items or money too. So there’s more use to this ability than simply dealing more damage.
No RPG is complete without an experience and Level Up system. Interestingly, the post-battle results screen is reminiscent of a Megaten game, but the Level Ups occur like Fire Emblem.
Even the stats are the same as Fire Emblem, although there is the addition of EP and Luck doesn’t have a numerical value and is instead divided into 5 states: worst, bad, normal, good and best.
The developers reiterate how the game isn’t just about dealing with the Idolasphere, but also making your way around the entertainment industry, which our heroes are a part of.
Each character you meet has a sidestory related to the entertainment industry and it’s Itsuki’s task to get along with them and help them realise their dreams.
After showing us a lot of the dungeon, we’re taken to a point further ahead in the story. If you’re sneaky and don’t close your eyes, you can make out some details from the file menu.
We started in Chapter 1: Birth of a Star and we’re jumping to Chapter 2: Something about that child, which is 15 hours ahead and has characters 15+ levels higher.
The save files also indicate the area and difficulty (currently Normal). The areas we can see are Shibuya, Harajuku (where we’re going next) and Fantasy Shibuya.
We learn that a lot of effort went into recreating these real-life places. Staff had to get up very early to take pictures of the locations, when they weren’t as busy and the trams weren’t running.
For the purpose of improving the gameplay, some adjustments were made though. In real life, the streets of Harajuku are more narrow and Shibuya much more vast than in the game.
In the top left corner of the screen is the “Topics” indicator–this tells you about messages (Topics) you’ve received from friends (the other characters).
Topics can be viewed on the Wii U gamepad, which essentially acts as your cellphone. Hmm… that’s one good implementation of the gamepad.
Messages appear in modern IM format (like on your mobile, Facebook, etc.). They are also divided by chapter and main story/side story/user.
On the subject of chapters, it seems that there’s a chapter before Chapter 1; in typical Fire Emblem fashion, the prologue, which in this case is “Reincarnation“.
Topics make you feel more immersed with the game world and serve as another way to interact with the characters. In fact, you can even make dialogue choices within this system.
We finish with a boss battle, against Mad King Gangrel from Awakening, who’s possessed a passion photographer. Obviously, we must defeat him to free the photographer from his control.
Because this file is 15 hours ahead, the characters have new skills.
Itsuki has gained Fatal Stab (medium Sword attack), Dia +1 and Mazio.
Toma, meanwhile, has Assault Dive (medium Lance attack) and Heavy Flame Strike (medium Fire attack).
Tsubasa now has Dia +1, Mahazan (weak multiple-hit Wind attack), Media (heal party HP) and Bufula (medium Ice attack).
I mentioned this earlier, but finally we get to use them. Mirage Skills, as their name suggests, borrows the character’s Mirage for a devastating attack.
Itsuki has Vacuum Wave, Toma has Violent Throttle and Tsubasa has Aerial Dance. These attacks all seem to negate enemy affinities, but vary in power and number of targets.
Mirage Skills also seem to automatically trigger a Session Attack. However, the SP required to use them is shared by the party (currently capped at 3), so you need to think before using them.
In the middle of a Session Attack, you may see L or R button prompts for Dual Arts. Pressing these will expend 1 SP to trigger an additional attack involving two characters.
Dual Arts unlock as you progress through the story and improve your relationships between the characters. Like Session Attacks, even inactive members can chip in.
“Dream Catcher” has Eleanora and Tsubasa performing a heart-themed duet, while “Crazy Service” depicts Eleanora and Toma’s rivalry–with Eleanora jumping on Toma’s head like in the April trailer.
Besides the extra damage, Dual Arts have the potential to chain a new set of Session Attacks. We see this occur with the Fire-type Crazy Service, but not the Almighty Dream Catcher.
Unlike other fans, I didn’t really have any strong feelings either way for this crossover. The announcement trailer was super vague and didn’t really give any details other than “it’s happening”.
So when the first proper trailer arrived, although I didn’t really recognise it as the promised crossover at first, I didn’t dismiss it because we knew literally nothing before.
Having seen a lot more of the game since (including some actual gameplay!), I do agree with Nintendo that it’s more of a separate game with influence from both series.
Which isn’t really a bad thing. Of course, they could’ve got for the straightforward crossover, but clearly that didn’t work out and what we have here looks very fun, if you look beyond the surface.