It’s time to take centre stage in Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore and dazzle your audience with stylish moves any J-pop star would be proud to present. And, when the time is right, swap your mic for a sword, bow or battle axe and sweep through the Idolosphere, stopping any enemy – savage or boss – in their tracks. With the Switch port comes many small changes, but it’s the little things that count.
Back in 2016, Atlus released its blend of Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem franchises onto the Wii U. Received well by fans and critics alike, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE was known as one of the best titles to grace the console. But with all that said, there were still some that resisted. When I reviewed the original title, I wasn’t entirely onboard. While I praised the gameplay, the storyline and side quests often felt clumsy, nothing more than pointless filler. Three years later, I can say that my opinion has changed for the better.
Now, the storyline feels fresher (ironically) and more focused, albeit still cringe-worthy in places. Perhaps that’s because I’ve watched more anime in these past three years and can feel the change blossoming inside me; performa, if you will. I still harbour the same gripes, where the translation isn’t quite right from Japanese to English, but for the most part these are fewer and farther between. Plus, if the side quest or main story is a little too twee for my tastes, I can fast forward the dialogue in a flash.
As detailed in our preview and for those new to the game (or that need a refresher), here’s a quick summary of the main storyline. 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, Itsuki Aoi, supports his fellow comrades 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.
While the main storyline remains unchanged, the Switch port has (like my opinion) changed many small areas for the better. There is now no need to level grind. Players can simply access the original Wii U DLC areas ‘EXPedition Hunter’, ‘Masterful Hunter’ and ‘Savage Hunter’ at an early point in the game to gain level experience, weapon skills and new challenges with harder-hitting enemies. Honestly, I’ve never been happier. These support quests are a godsend as it’s turned my 50- to 80-hour playthrough into 30 to 50 hours. As these quests are entirely optional, it means those who wish to level grind can continue to do so. It’s a win-win from Atlus.
Perhaps one of my major gripes with the Wii U version was being unable to play the game off-screen. At the time, though, the game was able to make up for its shortcomings with an invaluable UI, mini-map and messaging screen. After 30+ hours with the Switch version, I haven’t exactly missed holding the Wii U GamePad. Now, there’s a mini map in the bottom left corner, ‘Topic’ conversations overlay the game’s screen, and cast / enemy stats can be viewed by pressing the ‘+’ when in battle. And, of course, there’s now the capability to play Encore in handheld mode, which continues to look impressive.
Since the Wii U is still hooked up, we conducted a ‘blind’ comparison test on a six-year-old Samsung HD television. Ergo, the Switch version was set up in the same Idolosphere with the same enemies as the Wii U version. Between the views of one gamer and two non-gamers, all three chose the Switch version as the best visual version. And while Altus hasn’t necessarily tweaked Encore’s visuals, the resolution on the Switch is clearer and crisper than that of the Wii U, particularly on older TVs. While we can’t ascertain the exact technicalities, the Wii U appeared to distort the game’s resolution, making it appear bigger and less crisp. On the other hand, the Switch version appears as originally intended, sharper and cleaner.
As alluded to in our preview, the turn-based gameplay remains engaging with ‘Sessions’, Encore’s version of physical and elemental combo attacks. Ad-lib performances and special performances are highly useful when facing Savage and Boss enemies, giving your cast of characters additional buffs, dishing out negative effects to enemies and enabling healing properties, depending on the performance used. The quick session feature is also incredibly useful, allowing players to fast-forward through these segments at alarming speed.
If you need a break from the main gameplay and side stories, players can stop by Bloom Palace and enter the ‘Area of Aspiration’ to discover new story-led content in ‘EX’ stories. Serving as an extension, these stories are unlockable at different stages of the game. Although we won’t spoil how you unlock them, they contain new costumes such as the ‘Rebellious Joker’ from Persona 5 for Itsuki, the ‘Cross Bravery’ from Etrian Odyssey Nexus for Ellie, and the ‘Demonica Replica’ for Yashiro. A blessing for fans who love to obliterate enemies in style. And while these extra stories aren’t heavy on dialogue, they do offer interesting moments between the characters.
There are minor frustrations to the game, those of which still exist in the enhanced port. You’ll need to do a lot of backtracking during side quests and main story events, some of which aren’t clear cut. There’s a specific side quest where Tsubasa needs to speak ‘cat’ language to understand how to act appropriately in her new gig. It’s bizarre, yes, but the location of the alleyway will only make an appearance when your character steps inside the parameters to kick-off the quest. It’s not something you can physically walk down. Whether or not that’s a translation error, it’s frustrating, nevertheless. Plus, there’s still a real lack of ‘Fire Emblem’ moments in the game. Atlus has created a new costume for Mamori based on Three Houses to satiate fans, but it’s frustrating knowing Encore still isn’t a ‘true’ crossover between the franchises.
Another flaw to consider is the complete lack of an auto-save feature. This is atypical when firstly, you haven’t saved in a while and, secondly, you run into a savage enemy. If you don’t have the acquired item, escaping from battle will often fail, resulting in a grim game over. I lost around two hours of gameplay (four side quests and a boss fight) during such an occurrence. While the game does prompt to save during main story segments, these are infrequent.
At its heart, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore has delivered what’s expected in an enhanced port. New content, improved UI and small tweaks to make the gameplay faster all make a significant difference to the overall enjoyment. Although flawed in places, it’s a JPRG that dares to be bolder and braver with its stylish sequences and kawaii (though bizarre) story. It may not be to everyone’s tastes, but its whimsical ways will spoil those who can’t help but enjoy adorable things. Thanks for reincarnating this one, Atlus.
A review copy of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore was provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK.