Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore Review: Can’t find the beat

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is yet another Wii U game making its way to the Nintendo Switch. When the original Tokyo Mirage Sessions made its debut on the Wii U, it didn’t exactly make much of a splash. Like so many titles to launch on the Wii U, it languished in relative obscurity. Now, following the success of the Fire Emblem brand in recent years, Nintendo is ready to try again.

Fusion remix

Tokyo Mirage Sessions is a crossover game, combining two of Japan’s favourite IP’s. It blends Shin Megami Tensei (aka Persona) and Fire Emblem (explaining the #FE in the title). It’s a JRPG all about pop music and the people who live and breathe it. It takes it’s mechanical and presentational cues from the Persona series, while pulling its characters from the Fire Emblem universe. In this way, it’s the video game equivalent of an Alternate Universe fanfic.

Indeed, it’s hard to think of many other games that make their soundtrack so core to the storytelling experience. Like a friend excited to walk you through their latest hyperfixation, Tokyo Mirage Sessions is always looking for an opportunity to stuff a new song into your ears. And, honestly, for the most part, it’s all quite good. The soundtrack is made up of J-Pop bangers, the musical equivalent of a sugar rush. They’re high energy, high BPM and on high rotation.

Music the kids are into

Tokyo Mirage Sessions plays very similarly to a Persona title. You spend a lot of time living a simulated daily life, playing a school age character and interacting with other school age characters. From time to time, your character will dive into the Idolasphere, a warped, heightened version of the world and do battle with everything from personal demons to the raging egos of other people. The main character, Itsuki Aoi, is the atypical anime protagonist — he’s clueless about the world at large, and bafflingly chill about even the most outrageous things he sees every day. Itsuki’s entire worldview revolves around his friend Tsubasa Oribe.

Tsubasa is a dork. She is a quiet, anxious girl with a dream of becoming a pop idol and has no idea that Isuki has a giant crush on her. He follows everywhere she goes. He pulls the very high school trick of trying to find out more about the music she’s into despite having no interest in it himself. Tsubasa, of course, is just happy to have someone take an interest in her goals.

They are far from the only two characters in the game, but a sizeable chunk of its story revolves around their relationship. As is standard JRPG procedure, the rest of the character roster is filled out with seven other characters, all tied to the Tokyo pop music scene.

Play the hits

Combat is a strategic affair. Any given fight is about figuring out your enemy’s weaknesses and using them to your advantage. Finding the right combination of moves and weaknesses can make short work of any fight. It’s a much more direct methodology than other JRPG’s take and it keeps the combat feeling involved and dynamic. You’re forced to feel new enemies out — simply trying to burst them down with your best attacks won’t get you very far at all.

One of the biggest advantages you can give yourself in combat are Sessions, team-up attacks that allow multiple characters to get an extra hit in ahead of their turn. Sessions are often the key to victory, allowing you to maximise your party’s damage output turn-to-turn.

A further combat wrinkle is found in your Mirage. The concept of the Mirage will be familiar to Persona fans as they are just Personas under another name. Mirages are powerful entities bound to each of the lead characters, supplying them with powerful abilities and transformations. With each level your Mirage gains, they’ll learn new moves for you to incorporate into your battle strategy.

Final thoughts

It’s … yeah, it’s a JRPG. Like Persona 5, it doesn’t want to upend the genre. Mechanically, it plays things quite safe, relying instead on strong presentation and worldbuilding to pull the player through. Your tolerance for such things will likely be the deciding factor in how much you enjoy the game. For me, I kept coming to the AU fanfiction comparison. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore transplants existing characters into a different setting, but ultimately doesn’t really do anything new or interesting with either. It becomes an excuse to coast on a couple of very recognisable names and rest on comfortable laurels. By far the biggest question that Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore raises is “Where’s that Switch port of Persona 5 at?”

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THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Highlights: Great music; Strong localization effort; High-quality presentation
Lowlights: Still a standard JRPG experience underneath all the flash
Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Available: Now

Review conducted on Nintendo Switch with a retail code provided by the publisher.

David Smith

David Smith is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. He has previously written for PC World Australia. You can find him on Twitter at @RhunWords.

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