Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Drew Hurley 15.01.2020 2

Review for Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore on Nintendo Switch

A crossover between Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem. That premise set fans of both series aflame when it dropped during a Nintendo Direct way back in 2013. A brief glimpse of famous characters from each franchise was all it took. Attention was grabbed. It took two years to get a glimpse of what this would actually be, and that glimpse certainly caused a reaction. A heavy J-pop focused aesthetic, and what was perceived as a waste of the Fire Emblem franchise resulted in a wave of backlash. Regardless of this reception, there's a video game here; a Shin Megami Tensei video game, at that. Now, with the popularity of the Switch, and the recent boom of the popularity of Persona in the West, there's a whole new audience interested. Knowing what they're getting, can Tokyo Mirage Sessions be judged for what it is, and not what it could have been?

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is going to feel much more familiar to audiences with this rerelease thanks to the explosion in popularity of the Persona series after Persona 4 and Persona 5. Tokyo Mirage Sessions feels very much like a light version of a Persona title, if a little lax on the drama and seriousness, and with some Fire Emblem Easter Eggs mixed in. The story opens in modern-day Tokyo where a group of teenagers are forced to fight against a shadow threat against humanity, whilst the masses are blind to the dangers.

Certainly familiar to Persona, or Shin Megami Tensei fans. This time that group of teenagers begin their journey in Shibuya. The hero - Itsuki - is heading along to a talent contest to find new idols, his friend Tsubasa is hopeful to kick start her career there, while the third wheel of their friendship, Youma - a hopeful Tokusatsu actor - keeps in touch via text message. As Tsubasa's moment to take centre stage the host transforms, the audience is knocked out and the world alters. Tsubasa and Itsuki find themselves in a twisted version of their world, with ghostly creatures lurking, attack the bystanders and absorbing some light from within them. By using this light, this 'Performa,' Tsubasa and Itsuki manage to cleanse two of these creatures, returning them to their true forms, Mirages, and forms that will be familiar to the Fire Emblem fans in attendance.

Screenshot for Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore on Nintendo Switch

The Mirage's names are Chrom and Caeda, and by using their power the duo is able to transform and fight. Fusing with their Mirage partners and fighting in classic Megaten fashion. After cutting through the first dungeon, Itsuki and Tsubasa are reunited with their friend Touma, revealed to also be a Mirage Master. Even with this more experienced warrior joining the juniors, they are almost overwhelmed, until they're saved at the last minute by idol superstar Kiria Kurono. Kiria and Touma come from the Fortuna Talent agency. This agency is a front for a team fighting back against the dark Mirages whenever they appear through Tokyo.

After the first chapter, a lurking threat is promised, some dark force that is attempting to break through from their world to this one, the shadowy Mirages being the vanguard of this force. However, for the majority of the experience, that story thread is completely undeveloped. This is possibly the weakest aspect here. It feels very familiar to other Shin Megami Tensei titles, and like many other aspects, most like a Persona title - but, it lacks the emotional complexity and dark undercurrents which help to elevate its contemporaries. Each chapter introduces a new dungeon, with a new character that has been possessed by a Mirage, but the story of each just consists of going to a new Dungeon, learning a new performance skill, cleansing the Shadowy Mirage there, repeat. It takes to the final quarter of the game for the story to pick up. This conclusion is wonderful at least. While it lacks an emotional punch, it weaves some Fire Emblem lore with a grand "save the world" arc.

These types of games have always thrived on the strength of their casts, and there are some enjoyable characters here. There's the quartet already mentioned. Itsuki is a pretty bland protagonist, but then most Megaten protagonists are blank slates. Tsubasa is a classic "childhood best friend" love interest, who also serves as the innocent girl trying to step out of her shell into fame. Touma is a Tokusatsu fan that wants to be a hero to kids, like the ones he grew up on. He pairs with Cain to be the team Spearman. Kiria is super famous and known to be the aloof beauty ice queen, while she secretly has a love for all things cute. Her Mirage is Tharja and she becomes the team Mage. There are plenty of tropes here, but they work. It's just a shame they lack any real depth or growth over the game.

Screenshot for Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore on Nintendo Switch

Joining this core group is Eleanor, a half Japanese, half Scandinavian, young, up-and-coming actress obsessed with Hollywood pairs with Virion from Fire Emblem Awakening to transform into the team's archer. An aloof and arrogant rival joins with Navarre to add a Myrmidon option. Finally, there's the wonderful Mamori, a petite little girl, and star of a cooking show. She pairs with the colossal Draug and becomes an adorable little Tank. Struggling with the gargantuan two-handed axe which is literally double her size. These characters have a similar system as the Confidants and Social Links. Opening up Side Stories as the game develops, not just for the party members, but also for each of the extended cast of the Fortuna Talent Agency. These quests are mostly completed between the main chapters of the game, where a chapter intermission gives an opportunity to take on these Side Stories, or to undertake small requests, or even just to grind out some levels and skills.

This is another area that feels lacking compared to Persona. Whilst the Side Stories of the Persona titles help to give depth and heart to the characters, here there's a real lack of emotional resonance or growth to the characters. Like the main story, it feels "Persona-Light." For an example of these, Tsubasa wants to learn how to open up to attend a hand-shaking event; Eleanor needs help deciding whether to go to Hollywood; Tiki wants Itsuki to describe the flavour of doughnuts. The Requests are even worse - dull fetch quests or kill a set amount of enemies with nothing behind them. It's definitely still worth taking part in these Side Stories though, if only for the rewards. Characters can do special 'Ad Lib' performances that can regularly take the place of an attack. and are hugely more impactful. Even better are 'Duo Arts' attacks which can appear mid-Session and see two cast members working together for an ultimate attack.

The story aspects of the character development may be disappointing, but the development of the characters in regards to their levelling up and learning new skills is fantastically well designed and balanced. Skills are linked to the crafting of new weapons and then using these weapons in combat, weapons are regularly unlocked, keeping things interesting as the new abilities continue to come in at a steady pace throughout the game. Crafting these weapons requires items dropped from specific enemies, encouraging heading back into dungeons to track down rare spawns for materials. Tracking down these materials means slaughtering enemies, and the combat system for doing so is Megaten through and through. Bufu ice attacks, Garu wind attacks, Agi fire attacks, and Zio lightning attacks in their various forms along with almighty attacks and the usual buffs and debuffs.

Screenshot for Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore on Nintendo Switch

In addition, there's the nice addition of the Fire Emblem Weapon Triangle and Class system balanced expertly atop it. Each enemy has affinities and weaknesses to take into account in battles, and exploiting the weaknesses triggers the 'Session' element, causing a stack chain of attacks from party members and other characters to deal monumental amounts of damage. They can also roll over and hit the next enemy on and on, overkilling entire teams in some situations. The Session attacks are very much a double-edged sword, though. In more ways than one. They aren't a one-way street, and can be utilised just as much by enemies as by the party, and can thus result in swift defeat. Especially when facing off against 'Savage' Enemies.

Rare spawns of higher level and difficulty that are accidentally encountered can result in a quick Game Over. No autosaves here - it's old school. Save often. The other issue with Session attacks is they also take a long time. A quality of life improvement is added with this version that thankfully speeds them up, otherwise combat can take far too long, and feel hugely repetitive. Sadly the improvement doesn't affect the special Ad Lib and Duo Arts, which take far too long to play out with no way to skip. Thanks to the improvement, it's worth always using these Sessions to the fullest, even if it's just finishing off the straggler of a group of enemies who has the tiniest sliver of health remaining. A full Session will still play out even should the first attack finish the monster off, causing the subsequent hits to rack up Overkills. This mechanic means that the creature will haemorrhage out items and cash, essential to powering up characters and unlocking new abilities and skills.

This quality of life improvement isn't the only new one. This release is porting the original Western release, bundling with it all of the original DLC, alongside a few brand new features. The bundled DLC includes a marvellous addition in a set of Bloom Dungeons that cuts the amount of grinding needed dramatically. EXPeditious Hunter gives Tomes which increase the experience of each character to the point a single battle will level them up; Masterful Hunter gives Skillbooks to quickly unlock new weapon skills; and, finally, Savage Hunter gives an entire dungeon of Savage enemies - more powerful encounters that appear rarely in the regular dungeons and can quickly dismantle a party. Those who are able to take on this greater challenge are rewarded with stat boosts. Altogether these three dungeons give players the ability to max out all characters for far less effort than just grinding away. It also includes the EX Dungeons. On top of all this, there is entirely new content too. There are new Session attacks, new songs, new EX Dungeons, new outfits (Itsuki makes a wonderful Joker), new songs, and plenty more new surprises.

Screenshot for Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE has been judged quite harshly in the past, with the original release not doing particularly well in Japan or in the West, and for reasons completely outside of the quality of the game. Not enough Fire Emblem, not enough SMT, too much Idol content, cut out fanservice in the West... but, ignoring what could have been, judging this on its own merits, there is a hell of a gem here. The Switch continues to give home for the very best the Wii U had to offer, and this certainly falls under that category. A new Persona game in everything but name (and the lack of collecting Persona!), this delivers a fascinating blend of the franchises, some great dungeon crawling, wonderful combat, and a decent story… eventually. Any Megaten or Persona fan needs to give this one a shot.

Developer

Nintendo

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

Never tried this on Wii U, so I'm definitely eager to jump in now. Wish it wasn't censored, though Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]
Our member of the week

Never tried it on Wii U either, just skipped it for no particular reason. Got it ordered, should arrive this week or the next.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

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