Platform: Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: Digital Version
No. of Players: 1 player
Release Date: January 17th, 2020 (Worldwide)
Price: $59.99 USD
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE first released on the Nintendo Wii U in Japan in December 2015. It later released to the rest of the world in June 2016. It is a combination of gameplay, narrative and visual elements from Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei series and Intelligent System’s Fire Emblem Series.
Due to the commercial failure of the Wii U, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE failed to make a huge impact among the comparatively small fan base of the console. Most people that did buy the game first time around fell in love with it and have been wanting the game to be ported to the Nintendo Switch so that it could have another chance to be a success.
A collective of its fan base including our Editor in chief Jack, have been faithfully promoting the game since it’s Wii U release on Social Media and are more than thrilled that it has been given this second chance as Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore.
Set in modern-day Tokyo, the game starts with a music concert a young girl is watching her older sister perform on the stage when all of a sudden, the older sister begins to disappear. Everyone else in the room begins to disappear as well, leaving the young girl as the only survivor of the incident. Five years later, we are introduced to the main protagonist, a young man named Itsuki.
Itsuki is meeting up with his friend Touma who is running late for their meet up. He bumps into his other friend Tsubasa who is attending an audition with the hopes to become the next big Idol. The audition goes awry when the host reveals to be possessed and captures Tsubasa with the help of a group of spectral looking beings known as mirages.
The host takes Tsubasa through a portal into a strange world. Itsuki goes after his friend Tsubasa in the hopes to rescue her. As he journeys through the illusory realm of Daitama, his friend Touma sends Itsuki a message telling him to get out of there and go back through the portal gate.
Ignoring his friend’s words, Itsuki continues his search for Tsubasa and eventually finds her. He is then attacked by a mirage that tries to steal his essence known as ‘Performa’. Something suddenly happens to the Mirage and it awakens from the dark hold on it.
The Mirage reveals himself to be Chrom (from the Fire Emblem series) and lends his aid to Itsuki in order to free Tsubasa. After doing so, Itsuki and Tsubasa flee to the exit and are joined by Touma who reveals himself to be a Mirage Master. The three of them get surrounded by mirages and are saved by the pop star sensation and Tsubasa’s idol, Kiria.
Upon escaping the strange world, you are met by the boss of Fortuna Entertainment who proposes that Itsuki and Tsubasa join her Talent company as performers whilst training to become Mirage Masters themselves. After accepting the offer, Itsuki and Tsubasa find themselves being joined by other talented individuals as they pursue who or what is behind all these Mirage attacks whilst maintaining their busy schedules as Idols in the performing arts.
While the main plot itself is very surreal, the focus on friendship and teamwork really drives home their importance. The day to day struggles of the characters is very relatable like dealing with social anxiety, being afraid to open up to others or showing our true selves. You really feel for each character and become emotionally invested in their personal growth as they develop and become better versions of themselves.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is a JRPG that centers around Japanese Pop Culture like music, TV, and anime. It combines the gameplay of Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem with the essence of Persona. You take control of Itsuki, the main protagonist of the game. As Itsuki, you can move freely around the many locations of the game, including the streets of Tokyo like Shibuya and Harajuku and the illusory realms inside the Idolospheres as they become available.
At the start of the game, your party includes only Itsuki, Touma, and Tsubasa. More characters also known as Mirage Masters will join your party as you progress through the game, bringing the total to seven. Only three Mirage Masters can be in your main cast, with the other four as sub cast (support).
You can swap any character between Main Cast and Sub Cast freely including in combat (except in certain battles that require particular characters), which doesn’t take up a turn. However, Itsuki can not be changed out and must remain in the Main Cast at all times.
Each Mirage Master has their own companion Mirage who helps them in battles by turning into weapons called ‘Carnage’. The Mirages are all characters from the Fire Emblem Series like Chrom, Caeda, and Cain. The carnage represents the weapon most commonly associated with them like Chrom and his Sword, Cain and Caeda with their lances, etc.
When in battle, you can command each character one at a time in turns. You have the option to straight-up attack, use skills, items, change characters, run from battle or guard. Using Attack will administer a single attack with the character’s default weapon. After you have learned skills, you can use skills to do magical or physical damage to enemies at the cost of EP (Energy Points). If the enemy is weak against the particular attack, you will trigger a session combo that can get other characters to follow up on the attack on the monster.
Of course, this is only possible if the other characters have session skills that correspond with your skill. In the beginning, it can be a bit difficult to string long combos together but once you get further into the game, you will be able to do crazy damage and combos that involve your whole party, not just those in the main cast.
The classic Fire Emblem weapon triangle is integrated into the combat (Sword beats Axe, Axe beats Lance, Lance beats Sword) as well as magical elemental attacks like fire, ice, wind and electric. Each opponent that you come across will have different weaknesses and resistances towards certain attacks, knowing which attacks to use is essential in defeating enemies swiftly before they can return a hurtful favor as they to can perform Session combos if they attack a character who has a weakness against the attack.
As well as Session combos, you can also perform Special Performances that can help do heavy damage against your opponents that can also trigger Sessions that can sometimes disregard resistances for maximum damage. You have to fill up your special gauge in order to perform Special Performances and the cost is different for each special attack.
If you find yourself in a bit of a pickle with not having the skills to take foes, you can use items that the enemy may be weak against like Dart (Arrow), Hatchet (Axe) or Javelin (Lance). This also includes elemental items as well as Mabufu Stone, Mazan Stone or Maragi Stone. Using such items in this way can also initiate a Session so it is always handy to have some in your inventory just in case a situation calls for them.
Some attacks and items can also cause ailments like poison, charm, seal or confusion. These can be cured by using skills or items and it is not wise to let the effects go untreated. Failing to treat ailments will only hinder you in the long run and will limit what you can do on later turns.
As much fun as it is to explore the streets of Tokyo, your main priority is to venture inside Idolospheres and take on the big bad boss that awaits for you there. The Idolospheres work like dungeons in that there are several floors and rooms for you to explore and puzzles to solve. It can take a while working out where to go but at certain points, you will find warp points that can help you traverse through the dungeon much easier (once you find them first, that is).
There is a gradual increase in enemy levels as you venture deeper and deeper into each Idolosphere. While it isn’t completely essential to slay every single monster in your path, you do need to grind on them in order to increase your own characters’ levels. Your cast of characters earn experience as well as mastery of weapon skills and improve their Stage Rank by taking part in battles. This allows them to become stronger and use special skills that can trigger the aforementioned Session combos and do more damage to enemies.
As you progress through the side stories and main story, you will learn Ab-lib performances for your characters that activate randomly during combat. It can make your standard skill more powerful and can attack multiple opponents. Whilst Session Combos can stem on from Ab-Lib performances as well, they can activate regardless of a follow-on attack.
Later on, players will also be treated to Duo Arts. These are special performances that can randomly become available during Session Combos. These can do heavy damage, heal your party and/or cause Status ailments on the enemy. By pressing L or R after given the prompt, the Duo-Art will activate at the end of the current Session Combo. The combo can sometimes carry on after the Duo-Art and if players are really lucky, they might get another Duo-Art Prompt to further rack up their combo. My record to date is a Session Combo of 26 of which the current record is 27.
CONTENT & FEATURES:
Being a JRPG, there is quite a lot to sink your teeth into. Whilst the Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is considered to be on the short side in comparison to other Shin Megami Tensei titles, there are around 50 hours of gameplay to be had, including the main story, side stories, requests, and the EX content.
I spoke of Skills, Carnage, and Performa earlier and now I shall talk more about them. All the weapons in the game are called Carnage and can be forged by Tiki via Carnage Unity in the Bloom Palace. In order to create these weapons, essences known as Performa has to be required from other Mirages (enemies) and Prestige (which is also obtainable after slaying Mirages).
New weapons allow your characters to learn new skills. There are four skills that can be learned from each weapon and can be any one of three types: Command Skills, Session Skills, and Passive Skills. Command Skills are active attacks that you can choose to afflict on your enemies. Session Skills allow another character to follow up on a particular Command Skill by one of their comrades. The more variety of Session Skills that each character has can influence how large a Session combo you can rack up.
Passive Skills, on the other hand, can provide a resistance to a particular status ailment, an increase in weapon expertise or evasion and even stat increases in Strength, Defence, Skill, etc. Each character has 6 slots in each Skill type. In the beginning, it is not too much of an issue to fill them all up but around Mid-game, you will find yourself improving on skills you have learned or swapping out some skills for better ones.
As well as these types of skills available through Carnage Unity, every character has another set of skills, that can be obtained via Radiant Unity. These skills include permanent buffs to your characters like HP gain, Increase in Strength, lower you EP, a better chance at Critical hits, as well as other perks. These can’t be obtained with Mirage Performa though. These skills require special Performa that can be radiated from each character by completing Side Stories or found in hidden treasure boxes inside Idolospheres. You will also need Prestige in order to obtain them so you may need to wail on some enemy Mirages to grind for them.
As well as Carnage Unity and Radiant Unity, Tiki can also perform Class Changes to your own Mirage companions. This is late game stuff though but it allows you to make your characters even stronger. Each Mirage has two classes to choose from with different perks and can give you access to select weapons only available to their class.
The previous DLC for the Wii U was included in Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore with the exception of certain content that was not included thanks to censorship. This content allows players to further strengthen their characters with additional Idolosphere Dungeons inside the Bloom Palace and outfits for them to wear.
The inclusion is a welcome one nonetheless as it adds a bit more gameplay as players have another way to level up their characters and learn skills quicker. Should game difficulty be an issue however, you can lower the difficulty at any time in the settings menu. You can even increase the difficulty if you feel like you want more challenge.
During your free-roaming time, you can engage with some NPC’s that have requests and need your help. You can take these on as soon as they are available and they don’t interfere with the main story. Side stories, on the other hand, involve the main characters of the game and can help you learn new abilities with them and special performances. The one drawback is that you can only take on one side quest at a time.
When taking on requests or side quests, you will be interacting with multiple characters and may have to travel to different places on the map. This may be to find and pick up certain items, talk to certain characters and even to battle a certain number of enemies. You will sometimes have multiple-choice responses to choose from in conversations with particular characters but your responses don’t seem to have much of a consequence that affects later story development.
To keep up with story developments, all the characters maintain contact with each other using an Instant Messaging system called Topic. Main Story and Side Story objectives can be found here and can help direct you to where you need to go. You can also receive messages that are not essential to the main plot but serve as reminders of what you should be doing.
Topic can also notify you of when a Carnage Unity or Radiant Unity is now available as well. It also grants access to the map section when you are having trouble pinpointing where you are. You don’t just have access to a map of where you are but of everywhere you have been. It can be a bit fiddly at times because it doesn’t bring up the map of where you are automatically. Instead, it shows the last map you were looking at last, which can be confusing at times.
When out and about, there are a number of shops that you can visit in order to purchase items, food, clothing, and accessories. It is always handy to stop by these places when you can so you can be prepared for whatever may be thrown at you. Accessories bought from Chimbuya Jewellery help raise different stats when equipped to your characters. Food from the restaurants, café, and vending machines can heal your party and relieve them of their ailments.
Outfits, on the other hand, are purely cosmetic and don’t affect your armor or stats. This allows you to dress up your characters however you like without worrying about how it will affect their stats. Outfits can be earned three ways; being bought at the Anzu clothing store, found inside the Area of Aspiration and automatically throughout the game. Some extra outfits were added to the Switch version and include the likes of Joker from Persona 5 and the Officer’s Uniform from Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
Okay, so where do I start with the audio of this game? Well firstly, the soundtrack itself is just sublime. It really encaptures the heart and spirit of Japanese Pop culture. The light orchestral tunes that you hear as you scurry around Shibuya and Harajuku are relaxing and charming. The music takes a more energetic approach as you enter the Idolospheres and during combat, you are welcomed with Pop Rock background M¡music to get really get the adrenaline going.
All Cutscenes and Character interactions are voiced in Japanese and while I could only understand what they were saying thanks to the English subtitles, I could feel that the Voices actors gave their all in this game. The characters didn’t sound forced or unenthused like someone simply reading their lines. The Voice actors really gave soul and personality of the characters.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE:
The visuals for this game truly are stunning. They are funky, colorful and vibrant. The art style that the developers have gone for is quite interesting as well. Crowds of people are shown as colored Silhouettes with NPC’s here and there that you can interact with as fully rendered people and creatures.
The Anime cutscenes are incredible to watch and extremely well done. There are few and far between and normally reserved for particular musical performances from certain characters. I would have loved to have seen more cutscenes in this style but at least there is an option to replay cutscenes back at the Fortuna Office when I want to watch them again.
The character animations are very expressive with that enthusiastic flair that is quite common in Japanese Video Games, TV, Anime and other media. The way the characters behave and interact with each other is super exaggerated yet somewhat endearing and that you do feel like you are watching a Japanese Anime at times.
Performance-wise, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is a much smoother and faster experience than the Wii U version. Startup and loading is far quicker as well as transitions between open world and combat. Combat animations are exceptionally smooth as well and I have yet to experience any noticeable lag or drops in frame rate.
Now, I have never been really into JRPGs and when this game first came out on Wii U, I thought it was some kind of rhythm game with Pop Stars and Fire Emblem characters. I gave it a bit of a wide berth and never thought much of it. This may sound surprising to some of you as you know that Miketendo64 has prominently supported it on Social Media. This, of course, was due to our Editor-in-Chief Jack Longman who is a strong advocate for Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE.
When I learned that the game was coming to the Switch and the hype began to build up around it as well. I researched why this game is so important to others and when an opportunity came to review it, I decided it was time to give the game a second chance. I realized that I had made a huge mistake. A mistake in not playing it sooner as I am completely in love with this game.
I was not into the whole Pop Idol thing, to begin with, and the first hour of the game didn’t wow me over. As I pressed on though, for the sake of my review, I became more interested in the characters, their relationships, how they face each hardship. I started to enjoy the gameplay and pulling off these crazy combos. I started to appreciate the effort and energy that went into making this game and realized why it meant so much to its fan base and why it needed a second chance on Switch.
The game is by no means perfect though. After exhausting every Side Story and Request, I found myself wanting more. Once the main story is beaten, there is no post-game content to keep players engaged. Maybe, if the game is successful on the Switch, it may get some additional DLC to stoke the flames a little longer but maybe, just maybe, we might get a sequel to follow up the events of the game with a new threat to face. Who Knows?
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore truly deserved its second debut. It is the best fun I have had in an JRPG in ages. It’s over-the-top, charming characters and addictive gameplay had me coming back again and again.
THE VERDICT: 9/10
*A Digital code was provided by the Publisher for the purposes of this review
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This post was written by Mike Scorpio