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How does Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem even work?

Let's dissect what we know of these two series, then discuss how their collaboration seems to be shaping up.

The Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem collaboration has been highly anticipated for quite some time now. However, the trailer above, which debuted at Nintendo's E3 2015 presentation, has stirred both excitement and worry in fans of both series. Let's start with the facts.

Shin Megami Tensei

  • Most often set in Tokyo, which is a running theme in many Atlus games.
  • Primary characters are often human students with extraordinary, latent gifts, who end up thrust into a war between "good" and evil forces.
  • Combat requires the recruitment and manipulation of powerful demons.
  • Dark themes: death and destruction – the apocalypse is always nigh.
Fire Emblem


  • Generally set in fictitious lands where war runs rampant.
  • Primary characters are often nobles fighting to protect their homelands.
  • Combat revolves around the establishment of an army and the weapon triangle, a strategic rock-paper-scissors that separates victory and death.  
  • Dark themes: especially genocide, tyranny, and subjugation.

Though the archetypal hero drastically differs between the two, there are some clear similarities between these series, particularly where dark and serious themes are concerned. Both games require the protagonist to save the world from warring factions, and ultimately bring on an era of (often short-lived) peace. So how deep does this darkness run through the veins of their love-child?

Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem (a.k.a. Genei Ibun Roku #FE)

Umm... what? Those flowers aren't even dead.

Set in Tokyo, this game looks heavily influenced by the real deal. Certain game areas are scaled down replicas of modern day Tokyo districts. Seeing as Tokyo is Shin Megami Tensei's usual setting, this is a relatable choice.

The game's primary characters are humans with exceptional creative energy called "Performa." Once their Performa has awakened, they gain the ability to see otherwise invisible beings know as "Mirages," which hail from the "Idolosphere." Mirages feed on the Performa of humans, sapping them, essentially, of their will to live.

Though this sounds vaguely reminiscent of genocide, it's a lot artsier than expected. Still, the effects are beautifully depicted in-game. Most NPCs are represented as colorful silhouettes, with drainage of their Performa turning them varying shades of gray. This clearly portrays the damage done.

Luckily for our heroes and heroines, not all Mirages are evil, and some will even assist in the battle against their malevolent kin. This is where the Fire Emblem characters make an appearance, though very much unlike their usual selves. Their designs are vastly different, and they're all unaware of their past lives. All they actually retain are their trademark character classes.

The armored figure above is this game's Chrom. He's even got Falchion.

Combat is a fusion of Persona's elemental weakness system and Fire Emblem's weapon triangle. Of course, the Mirages fuse with their respective human during battle – the ensuing makeovers are pretty sweet. According to the game footage, the integration of all of these elements is rather seamless. A+.

An interesting tidbit, which should be familiar to Fire Emblem fans, this game will have a support system. There will be dialogue options for the player to choose from, which affect the relationships between characters. If characters reach a commendable support level, they may be able to assist each other in attacks known as Dual Arts. In addition to powerful, some of these look pretty comical.

When not battling, our primary cast live their lives as performers/artists at "Fault Entertainment," a talent agency that gathers these "Mirage Masters." One particular Fire Emblem character, Tiki the divine dragon, is actually the poster child of this game's variant of a vocaloid. Instead of a badass firebreathing dragon, she's commercial music software. Surprisingly, that's just the half of it.

Many songs were recorded by actual artists specifically for this game, and the character's voice actors also provide their singing voices. That's where this collaboration falls away from its parentage, being dubbed a J-Pop RPG by its developers. Music is just that essential to this game in both plot and combat.

 
THE VERDICT

How far did the apple fall from the tree? Well, wrap macabre in rainbows and teach it karaoke, because I don't think anyone was truly prepared for this. Is that upsetting? I don't think so. Many have expressed excitement about this sunshine-and-rainbows take on the apocalypse. Alternatively, others have expressed feelings of betrayal. 

My biggest fear is not that this J-Pop RPG was never present in my wildest dreams. My biggest fear is that its style caters the most to anime lovers, which may be off-putting to those unexposed to JRPGs and the like.

I, for one, will be casting aside my expectations and enjoying Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem as the unique title it aims to be – when it drops in 2016.

Published Jun. 18th 2015

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