Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore Review – Idols Can Be RPG Heroes Too

    Title: Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore
    Developer: Atlus
    Release Date: January 17, 2020
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Nintendo
    Genre: JRPG

It’s well known that the Wii U was a commercial failure, no matter how big of a Nintendo fanboy you are. However, that doesn’t mean that a few notable titles didn’t get released on the platform. Flying well below the radar was one such title known as Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Being a collaboration between Persona series developer Atlus and Nintendo, this would be an RPG that was wildly unappreciated on the console.

Now, the game has reemerged as Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore to release on Nintendo Switch. With a larger group of console owners, the game has a real chance of getting in front of gamers. As much as it differentiates itself from other titles, with some fantastic RPG systems, there’s something ultimately subpar about this adventure as it fails to hit the high notes.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore begins as Itsuki turns up at an idol event, which is the last place that he probably wanted to be. However, things turn supernatural as a portal to an alternate dimension opens and sucks in Itsuki’s friend Tsubasa. Set on saving her, he rushes in to find an abundance of ghostly enemies known as Mirages, which awakens his “perfoma” and turns him into a “Mirage Masters.”

If you thought this was all happening too fast, then you’re not wrong. The opening of the game doesn’t stop to explain the character’s relationships with each other or why any of this is happening. Regardless, these mirages feed off of human’s performa and it just so happens that idols have an abundance of it. After saving Tsubasa, Itsuki finds out that his best friend is already a Mirage Master, and the three of them join an entertainment company to fight Mirages and become idols.

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The story is perhaps the weakest part of the game as it gives you no real motivation to get through it early on. It heavily focuses on Itsuki and Tsubasa’s relationship but fails to get you to care about any of the other supporting cast members. The story does end up becoming a bit more entertaining after a girl named Tiki regains her memories. Still, you’re just supposed to believe in all the coincidences of the situation and how these characters are somehow connected.

To enjoy Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore its best to go into the story with a more open mind to the liberties that it takes. I mean, these are idol boys and girls singing and dancing to save the world. How serious can the story get? Surprisingly, some themes are impressively deep. Showing us how people deal with insecurities and believing in yourself, but its often tough to care about them when you barely care about the characters as it is.

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Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore has some amazing RPG systems that borrow much of what Shin Megami Tensei fans know and love. Throughout the story, new portals open up that the party must investigate to defeat whatever Mirage is creating the disturbance. Dungeons have some light-puzzle elements to them but expect themed maze-like dungeons with tons of enemies. Mirages can be seen around the dungeon, and encountering them will trigger a battle.

Battles are turn-based, and each takes place on a stage. Each character has access to a handful of skills tied to their weapon and Mirage. Each enemy has a weakness that should be taken advantage of to trigger a follow-up attack from another party member. Battles have a nice increase in difficulty as you make your way through dungeons. Utilizing your party’s skills will help get you through some tough situations, but expect to level grind if you don’t want to die at the end boss.

Battles are continuously entertaining throughout the game, and each test your skills as a player. However, given that I played through the game on Wii U, I do wish the game had a speed-up option or a quick-run option to get through dungeons faster. This would have just made side-quests a little easier since they require the players to return to previous dungeons.

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Weapons aren’t purchased like in typical RPGs. Instead, players will create new weapons using materials and monsters that they’ve defeated. Each weapon has strengths and weaknesses and a level that increases during battles. Various skills are learned as a weapon increases in level, but only a certain number of skills can be equipped to a character. It forces you to fine-tune your characters to fit your playstyle, and it’s a great all-around feature. Characters can even learn new moves by using materials, which ties into some story missions. These systems are extremely approachable, which makes this a worthy game if you feel like an entry-level Persona adventure.

Outside of battles, players can roam around districts in Tokyo. Most of the areas are pretty small and contained, but its still a fun feature. While not to the scale of what was seen in Persona 5, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore does have plenty of shops and areas to explore. Players are also able to take on side-missions, which gets them closer to the other party members. Luckily in the Switch version of the game, the load times have been cut down immensely.

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In terms of visuals, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is a beautiful looking game, but I even thought that of it on Wii U. The animations and character models are colorful and charming, as costumes are consistently unlocked to change events up a bit. I suppose I should mention that the alterations made in the Wii U release have reemerged in this title. If anything, I think I’m just a bit confused because there is still lewd dialogue and other sexual aspects about the game, so I don’t really understand the changes. I will say that I dislike the changes made to Chapter 2, where Tsubasa is supposed to appear in a bikini, but mainly because I don’t like the ugly costume they put her in. However, I didn’t feel like it affected the story too much because it isn’t all that good anyway.

If you end up taking Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore for what it is, then you’ll find a super engaging RPG on the Switch that offers well over 60 hours of fun missions and plenty of great battles. That said, where this game shines is found in its soundtrack. The game’s focus on idol music did wonders to its appeal for me as I caught myself humming along to the songs. Even if the story takes a while to become compelling, the soundtrack is there for you the entire time.

In terms of the extra content added to the Switch, there are new story missions and costumes, but other than that, the conclusion is the same. Still, I enjoyed the additional party members and extra dungeons, but mainly because the battle system here is just so good.

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Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore has some amazing RPG systems with a lackluster story. It’s nearly impossible to care about these characters and their relationship within the first ten hours of the game, and that’s more than enough time for players to just give up from disinterest. As soon as the real antagonist shows up, things get better, but its a crawl until that happens.

Thankfully, the battle system, great character models, and the fantastic soundtrack are there to accompany you until the story kicks into gear. I had an excellent time playing through this game again, and I do hope that more RPG fans get the chance to experience it on its new console home.

Score:
7.5/10
Review copy purchased by outlet or reviewer

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Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.