Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE has made its way from the Wii U to the Switch in this ‘Encore’ edition. A technicolour blast of anime mash-up goodness, it was regarded as one of the best games of 2015 – but how does it fare in the brave new world of 2020?
As far as genres of ‘thing’ to be interested in, the vast, collaboration-rich world of JRPG’s (along with the world of anime and manga which inspires them) can be an incredibly dense thing to build a newfound love for. There’s always going to be mainstream crossovers like Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts (still, try understanding that one!), but making the leap to enthusiast games which draw on more obscure parts of Japanese culture, iconography or fiction can often prove difficult. Fire Emblem: Three Houses is superb, for example, but what if you’re looking for something a little lighter? A little less… demanding?
Enter Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore. Originally released for the Wii U in 2015, the game was a mashup of the Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem universes, pulling elements of those series’ characters, battle systems and narratives and coming out with a surprisingly ‘fluffy’ JRPG with a J-Pop bent. It came as a bit of a shock for fans of the original franchises, but Tokyo Mirage Sessions has its own flavour that deserves appreciation.
Set in modern-day Tokyo, Tokyo Mirage Sessions follows a team of perfectly average (or are they?) teenagers who become embroiled in an interdimensional invasion from ‘Mirages’ – beings that are hellbent on stealing the world’s ‘Performa’, a unique lifeforce that every entertainer has inside of them. A lot of them are adapted from Fire Emblem, with heroes from those games standing in as Mirages that team up with the main characters as pseudo sidekicks and weapons (as in, the friendly Mirages literally turn into swords and spears for your heroes to use – so far, so anime!)
The story itself is stuffed with beats that will be familiar if you’ve seen any kind of teen coming-of-age-in-a-world-of-daemons anime before – lots of discovering the power within, tragic characters trapped and acting against their will, and downtime chats where characters are perfectly oblivious to all the double-entendres they’re dropping. Most of the moment-to-moment is one ear and out the other, but the characterisation takes itself seriously enough that you do start to care about everyone’s personal journey. It’s the kind of relationship-building via side-quest rigamarole that is taken straight from the Shin Megami Tensei and Persona franchises. You’ll make your way around places like Shibuya and Harajuku, and while there isn’t a mind-blowing amount of stuff to get done, the side quests prove to be cute, character-focussed distractions that are worth your time.
The J-Pop influence shows itself best in the fully animated cutscenes that bookmark each chapter, but the whole game is lavished in a colourful, kaleidoscopic palette which ensures that battles and special moves are always a joy to watch – unlike the dungeons, which are more hit or miss, depending on whichever one you’re in. Dungeons all involve getting your head around an environmental puzzle or two, whether that be avoiding cameras which send you back to the entrance, or cracking a numerical code to advance, but navigating around them can definitely be something of a chore along the way to each story beat and major boss fight.
Speaking of battles and joy – the combat system is where Tokyo Mirage Sessions truly shines. The key strategy here is the opportunity to perform ‘Sessions’, extra attacks which exploit an enemy’s weakness. This means if you land a particularly well-suited attack on a target, your party members can also get a whack in outside of their usual turn. Sessions get the damage stacking high, especially if your companions are using attacks the enemy is also weak to. Beyond the simple matter of causing massive damage to an enemy, Sessions also see the animations during battles become an unpredictable ballet of strikes, spells and elemental effects. It’s just so cool to both use and watch, and since it nets you more loot with which to upgrade your characters, the battles never become a chore.
“The accessible and constantly entertaining experience of playing Tokyo Mirage Sessions makes it a perfect ‘first-try’ for those curious about JRPGs.”
Outside of the battle system, characters can upgrade both their passive and offensive skills, or ‘Radiant’ and ‘Carnage’, respectively. These make use of items dropped by enemies and general junk received after completing battles. There are tonnes of upgrade opportunities within Tokyo Mirage Sessions, from the aforementioned character upgrades, to levelling skills and your Mirage companions later in the game.
The thing that sticks out the most about Tokyo Mirage Sessions is how it serves as a perfect entry point into not only JRPGs as a whole, but also as a possible stepping stone into the beloved franchises of Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei. The accessible and constantly entertaining experience of playing Tokyo Mirage Sessions makes it a perfect ‘first-try’ for those curious about JRPGs, and its new home on the Switch made sitting back and playing through another dungeon on the couch in handheld mode a breeze (and it looks gorgeous on the Switch’s screen too).
If you’re looking for something fun and beautiful to blast through in a couple of dozen hours, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is definitely one to get.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is available now on Switch.