January 23rd of 2013 was an exciting day to be a Nintendo fan. In a Direct presented by Satoru Iwata, Bayonetta 2, Xenoblade Chronicles X, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD and Yoshi’s Wooly World were all announced. These are all titles that have since been released or are coming out this year in 2015. However, the black sheep of the crowd had to be a mysterious title known at the time as simply, Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem. No footage was shown, no concept art or premise and no release date. All we knew was that Intelligent Systems and ATLUS had teamed up to create this new title.
That was until 2015 where the game was reintroduced as Genei Ibun Roku #FE, a dungeon crawling JRPG set in real world Tokyo. The game features commentary on the Japanese entertainment industry and involves distorted vengeful Fire Emblem characters invading the real world to collect the essence of peoples’ creative energy known as “Performa”. There’s a heavy focus on idols and Japanese pop music and everything is presented with this same sense of theatrics.
It is definitely a very different game from what we were led to expect and inevitably, many fans were disappointed. Fire Emblem fans were disappointed at the lack of political struggle or strategy gameplay that has made that series popular and Shin Megami Tensei fans were disappointed to see that the game seems to not include main series characters and has a very different tone to what we were led to expect.
Although now that E3 has passed and we’ve finally gotten the chance to see gameplay of this enigmatic crossover game, we can make solid judgments on how this may play out and why this was the best option available. If we look into the past, we haven’t seen a great track record with crossover games in terms of narrative. With the majority of these titles being fighting games, the character interactions are often restricted to gimmicks and any attempt to go beyond that ends up as fanservice.
Even ATLUS’ own Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth was lacking in real narrative weight or character exploration as many key characters were reduced to simple stereotypes. The worst case scenario is Project X Zone where the game revels in the fact that it managed to bring such a variety of characters from so many franchises together but forgets to do anything meaningful with them.
Genei Ibun Roku #FE is something different and new. Rather than a literal crossover we have this blend of elements from both franchises with references scattered around the game. From what we’ve heard in interviews and blog posts, Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem was announced just 2 months after the decision was made that this collaboration would be happening. This is made clear by this new direction and it is my belief that this approach is far better than a regular crossover.
Bringing in the classic idea of a modern day world distorted by supernatural forces, the premise of the game is very much inspired by the Shin Megami Tensei franchise and the way incursions and dungeons play out are key elements of the Devil Survivor and Persona spinoff series. The enemies that you fight, known as Mirages are new interpretations of Shin Megami Tensei demons by CyDesignation, an art studio run by various Final Fantasy art directors and character designers. The same reinterpretations have been given to the Mirage versions of Fire Emblem characters such as Chrom, Caeda and Cain.
The Wii U is in need of strong RPG titles and there is nobody that can achieve this as well as ATLUS and Intelligent Systems. Whilst Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem was the game we all wanted, I firmly believe that Genei Ibun Roku #FE (Or whatever the English title turns out to be) is the game that we needed.
What do you think about this new RPG by ATLUS and Intelligent Systems? Let us know in the comments section below.