Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore on Switch
When Atlus and Intelligent Systems announced they were developing a JRPG for the Wii U that was also a crossover project between Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei, fans were hyped as hell. Then, it turned out it wasn’t quite the ambitious crossover fans might have been looking for, and my interest waned. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore has now made its way to the Nintendo Switch, though, packed with all DLC content and even some new story bits, too.
It’s still not the ambitious SMT x FE crossover I was hoping for, but as a turn-based JRPG, it’s good enough. And maybe ‘good enough’ is just fine for a game like this.
Set in modern-day Tokyo, players follow the story of Itsuki Aoi, a young schoolboy who finds out that his friend, Tsubasa Oribe, is trying her hand at this pop idol business. Things aren’t what they seem, though, as mysterious creatures known as Mirages are feeding off the energy of idols and performers, casting a shadow over the city.
Together with their classmate Touma, and a group of other characters they meet at an idol label company, it’s up to Itsuki and gang to solve the mystery of the Mirages and protect Tokyo. Oh, and they also get to summon Mirages in the form of iconic Fire Emblem characters to help them fight in battle. That’s pretty much the extent of the Fire Emblem influence in this game.
Speaking of battle, this is where the Shin Megami Tensei elements come in. The SMT series is known for its fun turn-based combat, introducing tactical aspects like the Press Turn system, and the Smirk system in the recent SMT IV and Apocalypse.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions adopts those elements and changes things up with Session attacks, which are a fun take on the Press Turn system. How it works is that alongside your regular skills that you learn as you level up, you’ll also learn Session skills that get triggered automatically once the battle requirements have been met.
For instance, Touma learns the Elec-Lunge Session skill fairly early on, and it allows him to perform a lunging Session attack if another party member manages to exploit an enemy’s weakness with an electricity attack. Then, if your third party member knows a Session skill that triggers based on a lunging attack, that member can follow up with another Session attack as well, dealing even more damage.
It’s free damage that doesn’t consume any EP (this game’s version of mana, MP, or SP), which means that you should always be keeping enemy weaknesses in mind. Getting Session follow-ups with the entire party also nets you additional benefits, like getting extra money, or extra items which can be put towards crafting new weapons.
It’s easily the most satisfying part of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore. Successfully hitting an enemy’s weakness, then having your entire party pile on with Session attacks just feels so damn good. If you have the right setup, you can usually wipe out an entire enemy group in the first turn. It almost feels like bullying.
This is a very well-balanced game, too. Session attacks don’t use up EP, but Tokyo Mirage Sessions balances that out by making dungeons longer, so resource management is something you’ll always have to keep in mind. In addition to that, enemies can use Session attacks on you as well, if they happen to hit your own weaknesses. And yes, they can most certainly wipe you out in a single turn.
While the game’s tutorial level starts off extremely simply, it wastes no time in ramping things up as soon as you get to the first official boss. The boss fights can be very challenging, really requiring you to think about your own weaknesses, and how you can adapt to a boss’ patterns and Session them to death.
In case it wasn’t clear enough already, Session attacks are the very heart and soul of Tokyo Mirage Sessions’ combat system, and you’ll need to make full use of it if you want to succeed.
On the topic of dungeons, however, they can feel dragged out at times. The game is split into multiple chapters, with a new dungeon being introduced in each one. Each dungeon features a new gimmick, along with some environmental puzzles you’ll need to solve in order to progress. Some of the early game puzzles can feel like a hassle, especially since the in-game map controls and layout aren’t always intuitive, and it can be hard to keep track of where you need to go next.
Outside of that, the story holding all these dungeons and battles together isn’t really anything to write home about. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore focuses on a brand new, original cast of characters and honestly, they’re all kinda vanilla. Itsuki, in particular, has zero personality, while the rest of the cast feel like two-dimensional tropes at best.
The story is a ‘take it or leave it’ kinda deal, and if you’re fine with just enjoying a lighthearted anime romp about the world of pop idols, you’ll have a good time either way.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions does offer quite a bit of side content that helps to flesh out the characters a bit more, though. They’re often simple affairs, ranging from training with a character to help prep them for the role of an action hero onstage, or giving out flyers to strangers to help a friend get over their social anxiety before their first idol meet-and-greet session.
These little slice-of-life elements help to breathe some extra life into a rather lackluster cast of characters, and also serve as a welcome break from the dungeon grind.
In addition to that, Encore also comes with all previously released costume and dungeon DLCs from the Wii U version, along with brand new Extra Stories that you can start accessing about two chapters into the game. EX Stories are kinda like expanded versions of side stories, and they mostly take place in a new dungeon that you can access via the Bloom Palace.
There are new cutscenes and dialogue between your party members, new fights, and new costumes to unlock. They’re a nice addition for players who want more story content for each of these characters, and are also certainly more entertaining than most of the stuff we get in the main story.
Your enjoyment of this game will depend on how much you love and embrace the carefree lightheartedness of the story. Tokyo Mirage Sessions is very much a bubbly and upbeat RPG that never dives too deeply into the sinister side of idol culture, and instead focuses on fun and colorful musical numbers, and the general sense of having a good time.
While I never found myself all that engaged by the story or its characters –both integral parts in an RPG– I did enjoy the little interludes in between main missions. There are catchy song performances and music videos to bop to, along with cutesy outfits to put on your characters as you progress further.
Ultimately, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore still isn’t a game that will stick with you after you’ve beaten it, but it’s a groovy time while it lasts.
Pros– Excellent turn-based combat.
– New EX Stories help to flesh out characters even more.
– The music’s quite good.
Cons– The story is pretty shallow.
– Dungeon puzzles can feel like a drag.
Jan. 17, 2020
Atlus, Intelligent Systems