Jordan over at SwitchWatchTV has released his video review for Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore. This is a new port for the Switch, but initially it was a brilliant game on the Wii U. Take some time to check out this video below, or you can continue downward to read the transcript.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions was one of the best Wii U games, no question. Perhaps my favorite game on the system. When the Wii U ports started flowing to the Switch, this was my number one request and it’s finally here. Let’s see if the Wii U’s quintessential JRPG, is still as good today on the Nintendo Switch. I’m Jordan from SwitchWatch and Here’s my review of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore.
Alright, before I delve into it, for some reason the name of the game always trips me up when I say it ou loud. I always end up saying Shessshion or something, as though I think I’m channeling my inner Sean Connery. So, err, I’m going to be referring to it as TMS mostly from here on.
TMS’s leading star is Tsubasa, a survivor of a mass disappearance five years ago when everyone watching an opera disappeared, including her sister. Jumping to the present day, she’s about to perform her debut during a talent show in order to become an idol when things get a bit weird and she is kidnapped by evil mirages who what to steal people’s performance power. Basically it’s their enthusiasm. They make everyone mopey, pretty much everyone is like me as a 16-year-old. Yeah. Anyways. Then Istuki, the main playable character, rescues her thanks to awakening power within.
At that point they are headhunted by a talent company by day and world savers by night in attempt to become superstars and help fight mirage attacks away. The story is absolutely bonkers. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. There are loads of made up words and loads of poppy happy-go-lucky stuff J-Pop. It’s just mental, and I really enjoy it. While it’s not quite as complex or compelling or serious as other top-tier JRPGs, it’s fun and it doesn’t care. And I appreciate that.
In terms of gameplay, well TMS is basically a Persona game. I mean, getting your expectations in check, it’s Persona-lite. Persona with a little less oomph behind it. Streamlined and more Nintendo-fied. If you go in expecting tons of Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem, you’ll be scratching your head at the lack of both. Persona is definitely the main influence, with a tiny smattering of Fire Emblem thrown in that could have easily been replaced by original concepts and no one would have noticed. And that’s a good thing, in my opinion. It is very much it’s own thing and is probably far better off for it. It’s unique and it’s lovely. It’s Tokyo Mirage Sessions.
The game is split between three gameplay styles, as is mostly the case with JRPGs. You have your walking around town segments, interacting with people, buying stuff from shops, and picking up sidequests. It’s briefly done here. They’ve trimmed a hell of a lot of fat, even if its fat that people quite like. Areas around Tokyo are quite small and compact, but it’s a minor point as you won’t be spending a whole lot of time here. Mostly just for progressing the talky bits of the game. Fast travel makes light work of this area of the game, though.
Then there’s the dungeon crawling. Each chapter, a new dungeon will pop up somewhere in Tokyo, and you and your team delve into it to defeat the bad guy at the end. These dungeons are teeming with evil mirages that want to do you harm. There are no random battles, you’ll be bumping into the monsters as you make your way through these dungeons. You can initiate battle yourself by whacking them with your sword prior to touching them. This will give you a higher chance of getting a first strike and less of being taken by surprise.
But anyways, back to the dungeons. They are simple in design, at least from a visual perspective. Lots of random floating platforms, linear corridors and such, but I do think they are well designed despite how they may look. Each dungeon will have it’s own gimmick and they all feel very different from each other. It’s great how areas end up connecting to each other the more you progress, so they are well thought out and planned. There are puzzle elements to them which, yes I will say that they are simple, but it’s very much balanced perfectly in my opinion. You kind of always know what you need to do since it’s intuitive enough, and you don’t get bogged down.
The battle system is fantastic and really has its depth. Obviously based upon the Shin Megami Tensei universe-style. It’s turn-based and has you exploiting weaknesses of enemies in order to deal major damage. There are lots of linking attacks in this one which can make for some awesome combos. The problem with the original game is that some people found it to be a bit long-winded. Attacks aren’t exactly brief, and now in this updated Switch version, much can be skipped should you so desire.
There’s a lot going on with the battle system, because they’ve actually packed it with a good few gimmicks. Session Attacks, Performance Attacks, Dual Attacks, it’s pretty hefty in the stuff it offers and is really interesting as you can combo attack. But explaining all the bits would make this a long, dry review, which I don’t really want to do. I will just say that the battle system is really a fantastic highlight of the game, and it’s made even better in this port due to the opportunity for speeding things up and much better loading times this time around, too.
This is really a packed game. So much going on. Character progression is great thanks to the way you construct weapons. Each weapon as different abilities is something they can teach the characters to use in battle. They can even change what weapons or elements the characters are weak or resistant against.
I mean, just to give you perspective, I reviewed this game when it originally released on the Wii U, and since that time, it’s still a struggle to talk about everything in this game.
There are plenty of side quests, bolstered even more so in this port thanks to the EX Stories that you can unlock alongside the progression of the main story. These are small, but interesting extra bits of stories for your allies that can also unlock some nice cool stuff like costumes as well as giving you some higher value items than you’d normally find.
I know many of you want to know about Social links, and sadly they didn’t go whole hog with that aspect. Yes, you can improve your relationship with characters by using them in battle, which in turn will unlock special side quest stories for them which leads to even greater rewards. But that’s as simple as it gets. Like I said, it’s not Persona. It’s Persona-Lite.
I kind of feel bad for comparing it so much to Persona, because like I said, even though it’s born from a similar template, Tokyo Mirage Sessions is very much a star of it’s own without needing to be compared unfavorably to Persona. Because, in honesty, it’s just different, not less. If that makes sense.
So what else is new? Well, there’s a little bit of new things added to the game. There are a few more crazy costumes for your characters which, I think is a fun addition, but nothing I get overly excited for. I already mentioned the new story elements and dungeons, which does add something worthwhile I think. Don’t feel quite as tacked on as many games do when they add content to an already finished game. They unlock alongside your story progression, so they slot in very nicely with the side quest stuff that was already there.
Now, I know many people complained about the amount of grinding needed at certain points, because TMS wasn’t exactly a walkover. Bosses can prove to be a major difficulty spike due to their annoying knack of calling in reinforcements and having the ability to attack multiple times in one go. It could seem unfair, and if you were unprepared, one attack could wipe out an ally if their weakness was exploited and they get comboed. TMS puts up a fight.
Now, Atlus have addressed this with the inclusions of some side dungeons which can boost certain aspects. You have a dungeon that has rare items to build weapons. You have a dungeon that can help you learn abilities faster, and another for experience to level up pretty fast due to some cheeky items you can find. Which, if used wisely, will make a character need only 1 XP to level up. This can be exploited, and may be useful if you don’t fancy getting bogged down too much. Although, if you level up above what the game expects, it can really ruin the fun of the battle system, so boost responsibly.
The soundtrack is absolutely fantastic for TMS. Put together by Yoshiaki Fujisawa who, at the time, wasn’t exactly known for his video game work. He mostly works on other types of media, but it really suits the idol theme perfectly. The songs are fantastic! Brilliant battle music and great variety that really exude the idol nature of the game but is also not afraid to go a bit dark.
Added to this game is a whole new track plus variations of older songs. It may sound minor and is to me, but fans of the J-Pop style will appreciate this a lot more. Overall, excellent music.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE
The game is a visual treat, sure, in terms of polygon count and animation frames. It’s not benefiting from a massive budget that blockbusters have. They knew it was niche and budgeted accordingly which means there’s a simplicity to many aspects. But the art style and presentation easily wins, something which Atlus are best at doing.
In your face, color and happiness is the order of the day. Some great character designs from Toi8 that really make the idol theme come alive and realized. Many of the dungeons are absolutely gorgeous. Simple, yes, but wonderful to look at.
The animated cutscene are excellent, the menu – oh my god the menus – you can see this is made by Atlus just from that aspect alone.
In terms of performance, it’s fantastic! I would say flawless as far as I could tell, and the loading times, well, they are a godsend. Far better than the flow killing Wii U original.
And by the way, can I just say how stunning this looks in handheld mode? Holy crap. I mean for this review I had to play mostly in docked to capture the footage, but when I took it out for five minutes to record handheld, I almost wept when I had to put it back in the dock. I just wanted to play this an inch from my face in handheld. It just pops off the screen and the color is just so, so good!
Despite being an older port, that doesn’t seem to phase Nintendo into pricing Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore any lower. It’s still a full-fat $60 in the US and £50 in the UK, which probably seems excessive and it’s hard to argue in its favor. If it was a brand new game, there would be no question about its value honestly, and similar updated ports like Dragon Quest XI also did the same and no one complained.
Granted, they probably did a bit more to update things, but you know, this is not far behind. If this was my first time purchasing it, I would not be even slightly bothered by the price. For me, it’s worth every penny. Especially if you can get it physically, which should be a decent amount cheaper if you shop around. I mean, it’s a 50-hour story, plus god knows how much longer if you want to do all the side quests and stuff. For me, that’s well worth the full price.
Overall, Tokyo Mirage Sessions was easily one of the best games on the Wii U and… it’s also one of the best JRPGs on the Switch. It has an excellent battle system, a unique and well-presented story that’s off the chart bonkers but compelling, nice bright visuals, an amazing soundtrack, and it runs like a dream on the Switch.
There are so many great JRPGs to choose from on the Switch these days, but we have no doubt that this is one you should gravitate to if you’re looking for your next JRPG purchase. I want more of this. Please show Atlus and Nintendo support by buying this! These are the kind of games we want. Well, what I want. For me, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is an easy 9/10.
Alright guys, perhaps check out some JRPGs that we’ve already reviewed on the Switch. A nice bit of variety for your viewing pleasure. I hope you enjoyed this review, enough to check out our vast amount of other content. We’ve got a lot to offer, so we’ll see you over there!
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