Review | Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore
Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE was an amazingly done gem released on a doomed console. The combination of Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem, as well as the concept of using idols in Tokyo, was a match that worked better than one would think. Thankfully, Atlus and Nintendo have given the game an encore performance thanks to the Nintendo Switch. Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore has come to Switch, and the experience is mostly the same. Despite this, there are a couple included features to improve the experience, as well as some new features. Whether it’s your first time, or you’re returning for another performance, Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE is still a well-polished gem. (Editors Note: Screenshots are from the Japanese version).
The game stars Itsuki Aoi, a teenage boy that comes across a strange phenomenon in Tokyo. His friend Tsubasa Oribe is taken into a dimension known as the Idolasphere, and after a hidden power protects Itsuki from unknown forces, he goes after her to bring her back to the real world. Both Itsuki and Tsubasa soon discover their power of Performa, a powerful energy that demonic forces known as Mirages crave. Utilizing their own Performa, they manage to recruit the Mirages Chrom and Caeda, and they become Mirage Masters. The premise is a bit unorthodox, but it works incredibly well with the style and pacing of the game.
Mirages continue their attack on Tokyo, prompting Itsuki and Tsubasa to join the Fortuna Entertainment agency. Working with the fellow Mirage Masters of the group, they aspire to unlock more of their talents and in turn grow more powerful. Itsuki, lacking those same aspirations, moves a bit toward a different path, making him more of a blank slate protagonist. Despite this, he does have his moments when involved with the various colorful characters of the game. It allows his allies to shine, not giving him much of the spotlight, similar to characters like Joker from Persona 5.
As mentioned before, the game makes the protagonists perform as idols, which directly ties into the presentation. The voice acting of the game is entirely in Japanese, mainly due to the various songs that the cast performs. Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE might have a bigger appeal with an English voice cast, but the Japanese performances definitely take center stage here. This presentation gives the game a bit of a lighthearted approach, and that shows with the aesthetics as well. Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore oozes style, from the way it uses color to the beautifully animated cutscenes. It’s a game that one could easily describe as pretty, and the user interface works to enhance that experience.
Players will explore various areas of Tokyo, everyday society walking around as brightly colored silhouettes. Throughout the plot, entrances to several themed Idolaspheres willl open up, allowing Itsuki and his friends to enter more hostile territory. Fans of games like Persona will feel right at home here, as the concept is fairly similar. This isn’t much of a surprise, considering the link between the Persona series and Shin Megami Tensei. When entering battle, Itsuki and friends will enter their Carnage Forms, infusing with their Mirage partners for a power boost. Basically, the Fire Emblem inspired Mirages are Personas.
Battle is where things get really interesting. Players can initiate a battle by touching a mirage when wandering a dungeon. If they attack the mirage first, they have a chance for a first strike. Once in battle, the player will have up to three characters on the field attacking a variety of foes. The turn order displays on the top of the screen, allowing the player to plan their strategy. This strategy focuses mainly on “Session Attacks,” as characters will unlock abilities to attack after other characters automatically. Eventually, players can chain this so that their entire group of allies can join in on the attack. There’s even a special combo attack known as a “Duo Art,” which allows pairs of characters to perform a special attack.
The Session attacks are not only a unique trait to the game, but they take cues from the Fire Emblem series. Sessions are initiated by exploiting a weakness of an enemy. Swords defeat axes, axes beat lances, and lances trump swords. There are other weaknesses to exploit, like magic or slayer attacks, so it helps to be versatile. New to Encore is the ability to speed up the Session attack chain, which can get admittedly repetitive over time. Also new is the addition of three support characters in Session attacks: Maiko, Barry, and Tiki. The system was great to begin with, and the additional features make it even better.
Aside from chaining Session attacks, normal attacks and skills, there’s also the random ad-lib performances. These are powerful attacks that unlock by performing special side missions, featuring characters in attire matching their missions. This is a great incentive to complete side missions, as it actually gives you a worthwhile reward for battles. Not many RPGs reward players with much outside of experience, weapons, or added story, but Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE rewards players with that and more.
Another cool feature to Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE is the way it handles weapons. Players will craft new weapons for each character using items dropped by enemies and sometimes even story related items. When a weapon is crafted, equipping it and using it in battle will earn experience to unlock skills. Upon learning those skills, repeating the same skills will power them up. This is how characters get new abilities and session chain combos. Players will still have to be careful though, as they only have a limited number of space for skills. Eventually, players will have to start replacing abilities to make room for ones that work better for them.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore now includes all the DLC from the original game. This is basically a small dungeon that exists solely to grind for experience, money, or items. New additions to Encore include a new set of EX Stories featuring a new dungeon, the Area of Aspirations. While it’s unfortunate all the stories use a single dungeon, there are some good moments here. It’s honestly just great to see that the developers were able to get the original cast back to reprise their roles. These EX Stories not only get more character moments, but it also gives us a different way to unlock new and old costumes. It’s also thanks to these stories that we have a brand new song in the game.
The vocal songs in the game are definitely very J-Pop, but they’re pretty catchy. Even if you’re not a fan of the music, it’s still presents itself well and adds to the colorful character personalities. The background music is also pretty solid, though there are a couple duds here and there. Either way, the presentation in Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore is just as good, if not better than the original.
Now one thing that many people have addressed about this game is the censorship. The game released in Japan on the Wii U with a few things that have since changed. This is true for all versions on the Switch, and while it’s true this game contains censorship, it does not take away from the fun. It does affect the story slightly in one particular dungeon, but the overall meaning was to gain confidence. Just because the original involved wearing sexy clothing doesn’t mean the actual meaning of wanting to be confident was lost. Many will say censorship is bad, and in a lot of cases, that’s true. In this case, I think it’s better to support developers and their quality game than to create backlash over not having sexier imagery.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore has an unusual premise, but it works with the overall presentation. On top of that, the turn-based combat is solid and some of the best I’ve experienced in a JRPG. Censorship or not, this game is worth picking up for RPG fans looking for a new title on their Nintendo Switch. It only slightly improves upon the original, so it might not be worth double dipping, but for newcomers, it’s a real treat. Honestly, it was worth picking up for myself, because the original couldn’t play on the Wii U Gamepad. Now fans can have Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE on the go, and they’ll have dozens of hours to kill with this title.
Final Score: 9 out of 10