It’s been three years since Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE blossomed in the West. Back then, the JRPG – a dual blend of Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem franchises – was hailed by critics as one of the best titles to grace the Wii U console, with many fans and critics alike requesting it to be ported to the Nintendo Switch. Those prayers have since been answered, albeit with the censored Western version as the ultimate ‘special’ edition for all territories, including Japan.
But that’s not all the changes afoot. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore has seen several updates, including changes to its UI, a few tweaks to gameplay and all the previously paid for DLC now automatically included within the enhanced port. While its main storyline remains unchanged, Switch players will now be able to access exclusive new story content, new songs – designed specifically for the Encore edition – and costumes based on the critically acclaimed Fire Emblem: Three Houses. So, if you missed out on the Wii U version, Encore’s got you covered.
For the bases of our preview, we’ll be covering up to the end of chapter three of Encore. At this point, we’ve played 15+ hours so far, taken on multiple side quests and completed one ‘EX story’ of additional content. Plus, we’ve accessed the additional support quests, which were paid for DLC in the Wii U version. But for now, here’s some backstory for those less acquainted with the Atlus game.
Set in Tokyo, the game follows a group of teenagers as they climb their way up through the ranks of stardom at Fortuna Entertainment. The leader (and the main protagonist), Itsuki Aoi, is clueless in the arts, preferring to support his fellow comrades; Tsubasa Oribe, Touma Akagi and Kiria Kurono, amongst others, as they discover their talents in acting, singing, modelling and more. But underneath all the glitz and glamour of Fortuna Entertainment’s rising stars is something more mysterious. The talent agency’s idols are also masquerading as Mirage Masters, tasked with protecting the real world from an ethereal void known as the Idolosphere; a dimensional rip that causes malicious mirages to emerge and sicken the human population, occasionally taking them as hostage.
Yet it’s when Tsubasa’s sister, Ayaha, reappears several years after going missing that things start to take a turn for the worse. Idolospheres begin popping up all over Tokyo, dragging innocent citizens into the ethereal dimensions to brainwash them for battle. And the Mirage Masters’ powers are weakening, bending to the will of their dark master. Fortunately, Itsuki and Tsubasa join forces with Fortuna Entertainment’s idols to help take back control, gaining the ability to bond with two new mirages; Chrom and Caeda from Fire Emblem.
Although Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE draws some of its aesthetics and charm from the Fire Emblem series, its gameplay is firmly rooted in Shin Megami Tensei’s domain. Dungeons are built to be explored with their lavishly themed settings, random encounters and hidden traps or switches. While turn-based battles are soaked in a unique formula that delivers exuberance through its coquettish appeal.
As they were in the Wii U version, ‘Sessions’ remain the crowd-pleaser on Encore. During battle, your characters will work together to form chains or ‘Sessions’ of elemental and physical attacks after hitting an enemy with an attack it’s weak against. Chaining sessions together to defeat enemies in one fell swoop is the key to victory and rare item drops, particularly when ‘overkill’ is engaged. Handy when level-grinding, Atlus has added the ‘Quick Session’ feature to Encore, which can be toggled on or off to fast-forward through battle sequences. While sessions are superbly orchestrated, repeated visuals can be tiresome, so it’s great to see this feature added.
When it comes to the User Interface, Encore has had to ‘switch’ things up. Relying solely on the Wii U GamePad for its instant messages, maps and enemy statistics, the two screens were used excellently back in 2016. For the Switch, there’s now a mini map in the bottom left corner of the screen (which can be toggled on or off) and all topic conversations with characters are now relegated to the ‘+’ button, which overlays onto the game screen. Now, a circular icon pops up on the upper left side of the screen to notify you of messages. It’s still an arduous feature, only now it feels like you can’t ignore messages. It’s a bit like real-life, I suppose (which is why I have my phone on silent…). On the other hand, enemy statistics can be accessed by pressing the ‘+’ button while in battle, or via the ‘Analysis’ sub-menu outside of battle. An understandable adjustment, given the platform differences.
Perhaps what’s most appealing to fans of the original is the ability to play the DLC support quests ‘EXPedition Hunter’, ‘Masterful Hunter’ and ‘Savage Hunter’. The first quest is an excellent way to level up your characters quickly by collecting and using ‘Tomes’ to deliver quick and easy experience. These ‘rare candies’ aren’t in short supply either and, if you’re not careful, you could end up with over-levelled characters. And in a bid to not get ahead of ourselves, we’ll tackle Masterful and Savage Hunter quests in the review.
As it stands, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore has made substantial changes in its first 15 hours of gameplay. Whether or not these changes continue throughout the game is an angle we’ll explore in the review. But for now, it’s all about Reincarnation.
A copy of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore for preview purposes was provided by Nintendo UK. A full review of the game will be published in due course.