A brilliant performance deserving of a standing ovation.
What They Say:
The worlds of the Fire Emblem™ series and Atlus games have crossed paths again and the result is coming to the Nintendo Switch™ system. An interdimensional evil has invaded modern-day Tokyo, resulting in this fantastical barrage of music, style, and yes, danger. So, fight back! Battle through dungeons to pump up your strategy and creatively decimate your foes…before all hope fades to black.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is one of those few Wii U games that almost convinced me to get the system. Fire Emblem mashed up with the Shin Megami Tensei/Persona series? Count me in! So, its release on Switch was something I looked forward to as someone who has never played this title.
Right from the start, I can tell you that Tokyo Mirage Sessions is going to be right at home for those players who love the SMT or Persona series but what is odd about the game is the lack of Fire Emblem love. While it does have some nods to the series in multiple ways, this is very much a Persona game with an idol makeover.
In Tokyo Mirage Sessions, you play as a young man whose two childhood friends just so happen to have dreams of making it in the show business; music and acting, respectively. This feels like a more lighthearted and unique entry in the Persona series with a focus on lots of music and performances.
In this way, the game excels at being one of the most different feeling games than I’ve ever played before. Everything about the game is embellished with that pop atmosphere from the actual songs themselves to the colorful aesthetic. Though it does get serious at times, it is a fairly refreshing experience with its poppy characters and story.
But where Tokyo Mirage Sessions really shines is in its gameplay system. If you’ve played Persona 5, you’ll feel right at home here. There are various parts of Tokyo that you can explore, doing various activities like completing side quests, doing party member side stories to learn more about them, and buying new items.
These are done in between the dungeons, of which there are several in the game. Just about every chapter in the game will introduce you to a new dungeon that is themed around show business in some way. The general premise is familiar with normal people being taken over by the enemies in this game: the shadowy mirages.
These mirages are the same companions that each party member has that helps them turn into their showy carnage forms for battle. The form is basically mixing these performers with their mirage partners who just so happen to be some of the most popular Fire Emblem characters like Chrom.
That is one of the few instances of the Fire Emblem references playing a part in this game, the other being the weapons that you use. While you have the traditional level up system, most of the progression of learning new skills and magic is tied behind the weapons that you currently have equipped.
The weapons are modeled mostly after Fire Emblem ones, with each one allowing the party member to learn new and upgraded skills. The progression in this game is actually quite unique and varied, having not just weapons but the normal leveling up for stat increases, and passive abilities that you can unlock as well.
In fact, there are even advanced classes that you can unlock later on in the game to evolve and allow for more options. The progression and customization in this game is extensive, mostly coming back to the rewards you get from battles. The battle system is less Fire Emblem and more like a performance-based Persona fight.
You each take turns on a stage, using abilities and the like to take down enemy mirages. The same general Shin Megami Tense abilities apply here with the usual weirdly named magic skills and their weaknesses system. The Fire Emblem series does get a little nod here, too, with the traditional weapons system showing up with swords, lances, axes, and bows.
The combat is fast and engaging, allowing for quick battles where you need to emphasize on the strengths and weaknesses of the enemy while trying to maximize the sessions. Sessions are at the core of the gameplay in Tokyo Mirage Sessions where using the abilities that an enemy is weak against can cause your teammates to join in and fight with you all on the same turn.
You can chain combos of up to literally over a dozen attacks for the price of one and it is constantly expanding over the course of the game. The sessions system is deep and rewarding with each of the extra sessions also granting you more items and money. It continues the idea of idols and actors with the characters frequently flying around the arena, singing and randomly acting out.
One of the unfortunate things about battles, though, isn’t actually about the gameplay but the localization for it. There is no English language voiceover option with Japanese only being available – which isn’t a major issue on its own – but battles have no subtitles. Unless you know Japanese, there is no way to know what your teammates are saying, which is really unfortunate for boss battles.
This isn’t a problem outside of battles where subtitles are available but it does seem odd for no text to show up in like the corner of the screen or something. On the topic of the localization in general, this is an example of one of the not-so-great localization efforts on Nintendo’s part.
There are quite a few times that the meaning of certain moments are lost in translation because of some odd decisions. This is typical in anime and games that were originally developed in Japanese but Tokyo Mirage Sessions is one of the most glaring examples of this issue.
Thankfully, the story and characters are enjoyable nonetheless as it doesn’t exactly have the most complex writing around. This is because it is mainly notable for its gameplay and the music, which is phenomenal. If you are an audiophile like myself, you will likely appreciate the soundtrack that is one of the best that I have ever heard in a game.
This is a game where they could have just had a single solid theme song with lyrics but there are actually several songs that have been wrote for Tokyo Mirage Sessions, which is quite impressive plus the actual background music that is great as well. Beyond that, there is a lot of content to enjoy in this JRPG, too.
Beyond the lengthy main story, there are a ton of side quests to complete, many of which aren’t that interesting but the character side stories are great at least. Then there are the optional dungeons as well, many of them that come from post-launch DLC from the original Wii U version and allow for crazy things like letting you easily over level past what is necessary.
What’s new in this version of the game, though, is the new EX dungeon that tells a short side story that is brand new and offers some awesome cosmetic rewards like new outfits inspired by Persona 5 and Fire Emblem Three Houses. For a newcomer who has never played the game before, it is highly recommended if you are a fan of the Shin Megami Tensei or Persona series.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions is a mix between Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei, with a very heavy emphasis on the Persona and SMT side of things. The combat will be familiar to anyone who has played Persona 5 but with the addition of game-changing sessions, flashy animations, and more. In this encore version of the game, there is a ton of content for players to enjoy long past the main story with extra dungeons and new costumes to unlock. Though the localization suffers from some odd choices, this is one solid JRPG that deserves your attention on Switch.
Age Rating: 13+
Release Date: January 17, 2020
Platform: Switch (reviewed)
This review was completed with a review copy provided by the publisher. We are grateful for their continued support.