Since the Switch launched, Nintendo has slowly released “deluxe” editions of their entire Wii U line up. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is the latest Wii U title to receive Nintendo’s esteemed deluxe treatment.
This game is a magnificent JRPG, originally released in summer 2016. It was at a time when the Wii U was nearing the end of its life. Now, the game has got its second wind on Switch. And, this time Tokyo Mirage Sessions has the spotlight all to itself.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore Details
Platform: Nintendo Switch
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Unconventional crossover doesn’t miss a beat
Nintendo and Atlus’ Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is a game that RPG fans have been waiting for. This dream crossover title mashes together Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei in an epic, all-new RPG adventure.On Atlus’ side, inspiration comes principally from their SMT spin-off series Persona, and that is definitely worth getting excited about.
All the hallmarks of this beloved series are here in spades, including a modern-day Tokyo setting, a teenage cast overflowing with personality, surreal dungeons that explore the human psyche, shadowy otherworldly invaders, and amped-up style to the nines. Persona summons also weave their way into the narrative and the classical turn-based battles, albeit with an interesting Fire Emblem twist. Tokyo Mirage Sessions’ story revolves around Japan’s entertainment industry and booming idol culture, giving us a peek behind the glitz and glamour to explore the stiff demands and immense pressure that goes along with it.
The idol phenomenon is huge in Eastern Asian, Japan in particular, so while the topic may not resonate as strongly with Western audiences. Though of course many otaku folks here are obsessed with it, too. It’s certainly an under-used and intriguing industry to base a video game on. Atlus deserves credit for going all-in on this central theme, unabashedly weaving it into every single aspect of the game, from the presentation and gameplay, all the way down to the specific wording used.
Become a Mirage Master
The game starts off in present day Tokyo and follows a group of teenage idol newcomers who wind up narrowly surviving an attack by sinister spirits known as Mirages. Only to find themselves thrust into a dangerous cross-dimensional battle against them. These malevolent Mirage creatures, driven by their insatiable desire to suck the creative energy from idols (who ooze creativity, naturally), and all their adoring fans, start opening portal gateways between their realm and Earth causing all kinds of chaos.
Fortunately, our idols soon discover their latent ability to connect with benevolent Mirages, who just so happen to be spirit forms of some of the greatest heroes from the Fire Emblem series, to become powerful Mirage Masters. To help draw out their Mirage Master powers, the group joins the Fortuna Entertainment talent agency, led by former idol Maiko Shimazaki, who uses her base of operations as a secret recruitment hub for Mirage Masters.
In order to bolster their abilities, the team must learn to channel their inner performer and become the best pop idols they can be. Assisting our idols every (dance) step of the way are iconic characters from Fire Emblem Awakening (Chrom, Virion, and Tharja) and Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon (Caeda, Cain, Draug, and Navarre), as well as a younger Tiki who is represented in the real-world as a virtual “Uta-loid” à la Hatsune Miku. These characters have all gone through stylish new redesigns with a distinct supernatural flair. Fire Emblem fans will be happy to know that their visual essence remains artfully preserved.
The game’s turn-based battle system relies heavily upon the classic Fire Emblem rock-paper-scissors weapon triangle. And, it throws in elemental powers such as fire, ice, and thunder into the mix. By exploiting an enemy’s weakness and having the right skills equipped, your three-person team can trigger devastating Session Attacks. This is where everyone jumps into the fray for a single powerful strike. Weapons all possess base affinity stats. So, having the right equipment to trigger Session Attacks, and defend from enemy attacks, is essential to success in battle.
One of my favourite aspects of gameplay is that your enemies can also trigger Session Attacks if they exploit your weakness. This can result in punishing damage and further emphasizes the need to head into dungeons fully prepared. Numerous other attack types are introduced into battle over time. These include Duo Attacks performed by your Fire Emblem Mirage partner, as well as special Performance Attacks that you can initiate after earning SP naturally during battle.
Later, you acquire the ability to launch elaborate Ad-Lib Performances, which are triggered by meeting certain conditions in battle. And, again, these attacks play perfectly into the game’s pop star theme. I also loved the truly stunning battle graphics that attempt to emulate the flashy, showy, high energy feeling you’d experience at a real pop idol concert.
From start to finish, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is an absolute audio/visual delight. Characters are beautifully designed and very well animated. Especially in the lively, recurring anime scenes that really bring this story to life. To keep in the spirit of the game’s focus on Japan and its idol culture, all voice acting during cutscenes is in Japanese, subtitled in English.
Additionally, the Japanese audio extends to incredibly catchy original songs by Japanese entertainment giant Avex. Moreover, the quality of the voice acting is top notch. Characters each have a distinctive voice, are quite expressive, and possess charming mannerisms.
The main hub districts of Tokyo you visit each have their architecture and layouts based loosely on reality with a touch of Persona vibrancy. Though, it’s the dungeons that are located in the Mirages realm that makes the game very interesting. These surreal areas are like corrupt, nightmarish versions of well-known Japanese entertainment industry landmarks. And, they metaphorically explore different elements of idol culture. Like virtually every other aspect of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore, dungeons play in perfect to the game’s central motif. They offer a fascinating glimpse at the sometimes overlooked darker side of idol culture.
Nintendo Switch Additions
As you can see, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is pretty awesome. Though, if you played the Wii U version, you are probably wondering if there has been anything new added. The answer, yes.
One of the first changes I noticed is that option to give Tsubasa glasses before the game starts. I guess appeals to those who are really into the bookish look. Another quality of life improvement that I liked is the ability to speed up combat animations to save some time. And, a more significant combat addition is that Tiki, Maiko and Barry now directly participate in battles.
The new “EX Story” segments introduce new single-floor dungeons for you to explore. They’re fairly short and simple to complete but they provide extra context to various characters and their relationships. Furthermore, you can unlock cool new costumes in these dungeons, like a Joker costume for Itsuki and an Etrian Odyssey Nexus costume for Eleonora. Most of the DLC from the Wii U version is included, too, such as the “Mirage Hunter” training dungeons that let you level up fairly fast.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is a JRPG delight
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is a fantastic game that is everything you’d want in a traditional, turn-based RPG. It has a stellar presentation, an engrossing story, and highly strategic gameplay that is fun.
Whether you’re a Shin Megami Tensei, Fire Emblem, or RPG fan, don’t pass up your chance to play one of the best games in the genre to come along in years. The only real complaint I have with the game is the sometimes long load times, but it’s a minor quibble in an otherwise outstanding RPG.
+ Exceptional integration of the game’s central idol theme
+ Truly outstanding presentation, one of the best looking RPGs ever
+ Endearing characters and a fun story
+ Highly strategic and entertaining battle system
+ Intriguing, thought-provoking puzzles
+ A+ soundtrack
+ Great new additions for the Switch version
– Load times
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF TOKYO MIRAGE SESSIONS #FE ENCORE
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5
Overall Rating 4.25/5 (85%)