Becoming an idol in Tokyo is much harder than you can imagine. Especially when you have to deal with monsters, also known as mirages, attacking the city. Jump into the shoes of young entertainers thrust into chaos who’ll have to lead double lives, being a superstar as well as a mirage master, an individual that is able to call on and utilise a mirage’s power.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is an enhanced port of the Nintendo Wii U’s crossover RPG. A crossover between the Fire Emblem games and the Shin Megami titles from Atlus. The game is set in two different worlds. The world we know, which is based on modern-day Tokyo, and possesses areas such as Shibuya. And the other world or another dimension full of mirages, beings bent on taking over our world.
The entire battle is like one big stage production, with the attacks being the performance.
Consider the mirage world the dungeons of the game, known as Idolaspheres. Colourful and decorative settings placed in the other world that similar to Persona’s dungeons represent the individual’s conscious or passions of objects and people they desire. They act like mazes with minor puzzles such as traps or mirages at every corner. A maze that will eventually lead up to a boss battle. Admittedly, just as it was with Persona 4 Golden for me, I didn’t enjoy the dungeons a lot except for one aspect, the battle system.
To Battle…or rather, to the Stage
The battle system is a turn-based battle style, where players can select actions from a turn-wheel. Once that action is selected, each character depending on their turn in the performance line will act it out. This includes enemies, so players will be able to see when an enemy is about to attack. Actions include a normal melee attack, magical attacks, item selection, a defend option, tactics change option and an escape option. There’s also a separate selection to begin an auto-battle, but I wouldn’t recommend this as the characters seem to only use melee attacks which aren’t very effective against enemies, and dying in battle will result in the game taking the player back to the main menu. Although it does also ask if you’d like to continue from a point prior to the battle.
Battles in Tokyo Mirage Sessions are quite entertaining. They’re played out in a stadium surrounded by crowds of adoring fans. The entire battle is like one big stage production, with the attacks being the performance. What’s more is that if a player hits an enemy with a super-effective attack, a session is performed by the player’s other characters within the same turn, even if the additional character turns are not up next. Think of it as a kind of free shot.
However, be warned as the enemy can perform this as well. Creating a rather interesting battle effect, especially if you’re hanging on by a thread and expecting to take one hit, but end up taking two or three more. Another flashy yet entertaining bit of the session attacks is the performance appeals. Characters during session attacks usually go into a battle strike animation during this time. However, after 50 to 100 battles, you may want to skip past this animation and just want to end the battle. Thankfully the game allows you to do this.
Throughout it all though, the battle system in Tokyo Mirage Sessions has truly become one of my favourite systems within a game. It also allows you to substitute in party members, not on the field. This helps exponentially when your active party member’s attacks aren’t super effective against an enemy, or when their HP is low and the player can even attack within the same turn after the substitute. This may seem unfair, but keep in mind that party members not on the field won’t be able to perform session techniques since they’ll be on the “bench”.
Gotta keep your day job
When the mirage masters aren’t battling it out within the Idolaspheres, they’ll be roaming the streets of Tokyo, training to become an idol or something similar within the entertainment industry. Players will have the opportunity to run around a few streets resembling the real Shibuya. Visit a restaurant and also purchase goods that restore the player’s health at vending machines. You’ll also be spending a lot of time at the studio where your characters will learn the fundamentals of what it takes to perform on stage.
It felt more as if Atlus has a share of 80% of the game with Nintendo having only 20%.
Just like the Persona titles, these events affect the way your character will develop and attain skills within the mirage world. A communications system that resembles a smartphone with an app known as Topic is also available to the player. Players will receive texts continuously throughout the game from other characters informing them of meetings they need to attend along with the location. Characters will also provide players with information pertaining to certain missions. Think of Topic as WhatsApp. The game even has a section called Intermission. During this time the game does not have anything specific happening. You can spend your time attending to side quests or just exploring. Side quests or side stories, as known in the game, allow the characters to deepen their bonds with each other. Doing this is highly recommended since you’ll obtain skills that will be useful in battle. If, however you choose to rather continue with the main storyline, you can just skip past the Intermission.
Although the game is based on turmoil and battling mirages, it really is a lot lighter than the Shin Megami Tensei, Persona and Fire Emblem games. Littered with colour in both world sections of the game and filled with witty and sometimes awkward dialogue, it doesn’t really stretch itself as far as Persona does in character social development. This isn’t to say that this is a bad thing. In actuality, it kind of gives a chance to those who don’t want to sit playing a Persona title for over fifty hours. And much like Persona and Fire Emblem titles, players will grow attached and even dislike some of the characters of the game.
All in all, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is quite enjoyable. Filled with anime cutscenes to appreciate, a battle system that’s both entertaining in aesthetics and battle tactics. As well as a full cast of characters to love and hate. Yes, it may be a crossover but it really does stand on its own in respect of story dialogue, stage production entertainment, and setting. However, in the same breath, admittedly, although the games a crossover between Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem, it felt more as if Atlus has a share of 80% of the game with Nintendo (Fire Emblem) having only 20%. Apart from the main characters’ mirages being Fire Emblem characters and a few musical tones here and there from the Fire Emblem series, there’s not much Fire Emblem within the game. The plot itself does have something within it but it’s just not enough to support the Fire Emblem fans.
So, if you’re picking up Tokyo Mirage Sessions expecting that hardcore Fire Emblem tactical battle grid-styled gameplay, I recommend giving it a pass. And if you’ve played the Wii U version and can’t bring yourself to double-dipping, I’m here to say, don’t feel guilty. There really isn’t that much more in Encore with an exception of the three EX chapters, selecting whether one of the protagonists wears glasses and a few new costumes. There was quite a storm brought up on censorship of this version of the game, but honestly, that censorship doesn’t affect the gameplay or story in any way. If you’re picking it up for a new JRPG experience with a touch of Fire Emblem and the essence of Shin Megami/Persona and you haven’t had the opportunity to play it on the Wii U, I’d say go for it. With one last thing to keep in mind, the entire game only possesses Japanese voice-overs with English subtitles.