Whilst it is considered by many to be a slight tarnish on Nintendo’s almost immaculate record when it comes to releasing video game consoles, there’s no doubting that the Wii U was home to an abundance of top quality titles. A lot of those have already had a renewed lease of life on the Nintendo Switch, with games like Captain Toad Treasure Tracker, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Bayonetta 2, and even Mario Kart 8 just a selection of titles that’ve been re-released on Nintendo’s more popular platform.
It’s great to see Nintendo work to re-release these titles to an expanded audience, but there are still some games that haven’t made their way over to the Switch yet… yes, I’m looking at you, Super Mario 3D World and The Wonderful 101. One Wii U title that I was pleasantly surprised to see was making the switch to the, uh… Switch though, was Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore – the JRPG crossover of Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem that released late in the Wii U’s lifecycle. After being revealed in a Nintendo Direct last year, it has now hit the Nintendo Switch console, bringing with it an assortment of enhancements and additions for both newcomers to the title and returning gamers to dive into.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore takes place in a modern day Tokyo that has been attacked by strange beings known as Mirages that look to steal the ‘Performa’ from the city’s residents. What’s this Performa, I hear you ask? It’s their creative-juices, so folk are essentially getting stripped of their talent and personality, which is an absolute nightmare in a city that’s so driven by the entertainment industry.
You take on the role of Itsuki Aoi, who, alongside his allies, works to defeat these vicious Mirages as part of a group known as ‘Fortuna Entertainment’. This group of people just so happen to be Mirage Masters too, which means that they’re not only capable of defeating bad Mirages but can also enlist the help of friendly Mirages – fortunately, these just so happen to be war-hardened heroes from the Fire Emblem universe, which are the kind of friendly faces I simply LOVED to have on my side.
It’s pretty clear that Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore’s tale is a quirky one, though there’s no denying that it’s full to the brim with charm, with the entertainment-focused nature of the Tokyo setting making for some delightful scenes and the interactions with the Fire Emblem characters opening up some intriguing scenarios. Whether you’re a fan of Nintendo’s famed series or not, it’s easy to find yourself fascinated by the crossover concept and in turn totally engrossed in the weird but wonderful world of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore.
It’s probably worth mentioning that despite featuring familiar faces from the Fire Emblem series in combat, the gameplay is completely different to what you would’ve been used to with these characters. Warriors like Chrom, Caeda and Cain will appear to do battle, but you won’t be sending them into epic strategic wars with armies but rather more personal JRPG-style turn-based battles. It’s not a bad thing at all, especially when you consider how bloody fun the combat of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore actually is (more on that in a moment), but it’s worth keeping your expectations in check if it’s the thought of having a Fire Emblem-like experience that excites you the most about the game.
So it might not be strategy-based like in Fire Emblem, but there’s no denying that the turn-based battling of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is a WHOLE lot of fun, with it adopting mechanics that are simple in design but make for some intense showdowns where some clever thinking can really make the difference in how successful you are.
The basic actions of typical turn-based JRPG combat are present, with the player able to do the likes of standard attacks, defending, the use of items, or simply running away from combat – these will be familiar to just about anyone and work how you’d expect them to. It’s with your skills where combat really spices up, with each skill being broken down into specific weapon and elemental types that can be used to exploit your opponent’s weaknesses.
Sure, this might sound pretty ordinary by JRPG standards, but it’s the way that Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore flows them into attack combos know as Sessions that feels unique. Sessions are activated by attacking enemies with specific skills that they are weak to, which in turn sees other characters in your party automatically follow up each attack with one of their own provided they have a skill that matches the initial attack. It ensures that you’re constantly exploiting an enemy’s weakness in order to dish out some hefty damage, which isn’t only an effective means to take them down but a stylish one too.
An enemy’s weakness isn’t made clear from the get-go and it’ll take some experimenting with attacks to discover, so it’s never as simple as just hitting them with specific skills and watching attacks string together with Sessions – life is NEVER that easy. You also won’t be able to take full advantage of the system until you expand your skillset too, with a lot of characters not actually unlocking skills with the same attributes until later on in the game.
Actually uncovering a particular weakness and seeing your attacks hit is undeniable satisfying though, whilst the fact that the game keeps note of an enemy’s weakness is certainly convenient. As you battle, you’ll also earn which can be used to dish out an extra powerful attack known as a Special Performance, which in itself is a game changer and something that’ll get you out of sticky situations against particularly tough foes. You’ll also be able to inflict special dual attacks on enemies when certain requirements are met with specific duos of characters, whilst powerful Ad-lib attacks can cause a lot of harm for your enemies when they randomly kick in mid-battle.
It might sound like there’s a lot going on in the game’s combat, but honestly, when playing it’s so simple to understand and streamlined in a manner that makes it both incredibly accessible and super stylish at the same time. There’s a fair amount of depth to be found within its simplicity though, and whilst attacking and picking skills willy-nilly is certainly an option, it’s those players that take full advantage of Sessions that’ll find the most success in Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore.
Whilst the combat is spectacular and a lot of fun throughout, the actual dungeon-crawling of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore could feel a little underwhelming. That’s not to say that the dungeons (which are known as ‘Idolaspheres’ in the game) themselves are bad, because they have some good qualities; they’re certainly unique in design and all have their own distinctive aesthetic, whilst the puzzles you find across them are mostly fun to solve.
The problem came with just how linear some of them actually felt to explore. They’re all fairly expansive in size and spread across multiple floors, but navigating across them could just feel a little samey over time. It felt like size was prioritised over variety when it came to their design and for the most part you’d see all of what each one had to offer within your first ten minutes or so of exploring it. Of course, it’s not a huge flaw in the grand scheme of things and it’s an issue that’s been common in plenty of other JRPGs in the past, but I couldn’t help but to wish that some of the dungeons lived up to their eclectic design when it came to the gameplay.
Outside of battling and dungeon-crawling, there are plenty of side quests to delve into that’ll reveal additional details about the world of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore and the characters that inhabit it. Some of these side quests do involve a bit of backtracking across previously visited Idolaspheres, but they’re worth investing into in order to learn more narrative tid-bits and earn the experience points and items to keep improving your team. They’ll add plenty of additional hours onto your playtime too, though at around thirty-five to forty hours to beat the main story alone, you can expect to spend a fair bit of time playing if you want to see Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore through to its conclusion anyway.
Visually, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is certainly a striking looking game, with the bright and extravagant locales making for some pretty spectacular sights in-game. It’s certainly full of colour, whether that’s with the game’s unique representation of modern day Tokyo, its vivid Idolaspheres, or the abundance of colourful silhouettes of NPCs that help bring each locale to life. The battle animations and character models are absolutely on point too, with everything in the game coming together nicely to make for an incredibly jolly and surprisingly cinematic experience. Best of all, everything runs incredibly smoothly – in both the Nintendo Switch’s handheld and TV modes. I actually played the majority of the game in handheld and didn’t come across any performance issues whatsoever, whilst the quick load times ensured I was never out of the action for too long.
As mentioned, I didn’t play Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE when it originally launched on the Wii U, so I probably didn’t appreciate the extras included here as much as other gamers would. It’s worth noting that the Switch version of the game comes with an additional dungeon, attacks, and costume options though, as well as the previously-released DLC that made its way to the Wii U. It’s more stuff for gamers to play through, plus it gives that extra incentive for returning gamers to double-dip.
Want to know what I didn’t appreciate, though? The lack of an auto-save function. Whilst save points are a big hallmark of classic JRPGs, most modern releases contain some form of auto-save that prevents you from losing too much progress. Believe me, losing progress in any form of RPG is simply the worst, so make sure you save regularly when playing Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore offers a thoroughly enjoyable adventure, with the quirky and charming story, the spectacularly addictive combat, and the impressive visuals all coming together nicely to make for a memorable RPG experience. The only real downside came with some of the linear dungeon designs, though it’s pretty forgivable given how strong the other aspects of the game are.
The Nintendo Switch is slowly becoming the go-to console for quality RPG releases, with Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore yet another example of how strong the system’s catalogue is. Whether you already played it on the Wii U or you’re a complete newcomer to game, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is one heck of a charming RPG that fans of the genre won’t want to miss out on.
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch