Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is probably not what anyone expected but there is nothing wrong with that, the game has arrived to critical acclaim and is being loved by those who have played it. Interestingly when the game the game was first conceived it was going in an entirely different direction, but after about six months this was changes and led down the path we are on now.
This happened shortly after the games original announcement and was the cause of the fears involving a troubled development when it seemed to just vanish. In an interview with Silicorena, Shinjiro Takada (Producer at Atlus) and Hitoshi Yamagami (Producer at Nintendo) talked about how the game changed during development, in reflection upon its gameplay and style, they said:
Shinjiro Takada: At the initial stages of planning, we had trouble figuring out how to express the essence of both games. But then we set the policy of capitalizing on the strengths of Atlus, and decided on the basics of a modern-day RPG. We then picked the entertainment industry as something to differentiate it from previous RPGs. That set the general direction.
Hitoshi Yamagami: At the initial planning stage, we were trying to create an SLG (strategy simulation game). However, when we tried to create a strategy simulation game with characters from FE, it ended up looking just like the original FE, and it was hard to differentiate it. So six months into development, we changed direction, based on our suggestion to "think of an RPG that capitalizes on the strengths of Atlus". That is how the game system was achieved.
Takada also talked about the alternate designs made for Fire Emblem characters wherein he shared:
As a basic design concept, we differentiated them from the main characters depicted by toi8 by using the "other world" setting.
In this other world, the world of Fire Emblem, an ancient battle is still raging. That is the setting for this title.
So the design represents the result of an evolution over a long period of time, as they kept specializing in warfare, like machines.
They retain the elements of the original Chroms, but the design reflects expanded interpretation that goes beyond that.
We will never know what the original game was like and how the concept could have been presented in the modern game, but still we can rest easy knowing their final design has garnered a great array of interest.