I’ll come right out now and say it — I completely missed the original Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. The reason for this was twofold, with one being obvious and one less so. The simplest is that I never owned a Wii U, so the 2015 release was completely unavailable for me. The other is that at the time of the release, I didn’t really care about either Fire Emblem or Persona. Fast-forward five years later, and Nintendo is giving the RPG a second life with the arrival of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore for the Switch. I’m still not the biggest fan of either property, but is the quality high enough to make that a non-issue?
What if inside you, there was an energy you could harness to achieve your dreams? Such a thing exists in the world of Tokyo Mirage Sessions. The title posits that inside all of us is something called Performa, an energy source that unlocks inner talent. The downside to it is that it also attracts the presence of Mirages. Something of an other-worldly presence, Mirages can either prey upon the inexperienced or bond with their hosts. Those that do form a bond are known as Mirage Masters, who are ultimately tasked with taking out Mirages that have sinister motives.
Protagonist Itsuki Aoi eventually finds himself battling Mirages for the force of good. After his and good friend, Tsubasa Oribe’s Performa are drawn out during an attack in Shibuya, the two are recruited to join Fortuna Entertainment. On the outside, Fortuna is an idol-producing factory, but the company is actually responsible for repelling evil Mirages. The duo, along with the company’s other Mirage Masters, will have to balance burgeoning careers in show business with their duty to save the world. No one ever said being an idol was easy.
Frankly, I’m split on how I feel about the story of Tokyo Mirage Sessions. On the one hand, I don’t really care about any facet of the idol industry, and the game does little to change that. It’s all a little too much for me, if that makes sense. It also takes a bit to fully get into gear — the plot doesn’t really get moving until around chapter three, which is several hours in. On the other hand, though, I appreciate how earnest it all is. It’s delightful watching the cast work their way through the treacherous world of show business. They are a great bunch that you’ll genuinely want to see succeed. I may not love all of the bells and whistles of the story, but there’s enough here that I still enjoyed it.
Even if the setting really bugged me, though, the gameplay would be strong enough to make up for it. After a Mirage touches down in Tokyo, a portal between dimensions known as an Idolosphere opens up. Each Idolosphere has a unique gimmick, but they are all similarly built. If you’ve navigated any video game dungeon, you’ll be right at home exploring these ones. Mirages will randomly appear while you’re walking around, and you have the ability to stun them before battle or avoid the fight altogether. There are certain enemies that can’t be stunned, though, and these foes bring a tougher fight along with them as well.
Once a battle is initiated, Itsuki, Tsubasa and the rest of the team go to war alongside their Mirages. Rather than stand alongside them, the Mirages take the form of the weapons each protagonist wields. The battles themselves are traditional turn-based affairs. Each member of Fortuna has both a regular attack and a set of special skills. Each skill has its own dominating attribute, and enemies are often weak to at least one of these attributes. It’s important to figure out what that weakness would be — exploiting them is often your best chance for victory. Not only do these attacks do more damage, but they also trigger a combo known as a Session. Sessions are multi-pronged attacks that let all three members of your party get in on the action, provided they have the right skills equipped. This adds another layer of strategy to battles, as you need to not only determine what these weaknesses are but whether or not you have the right party members on hand.
As someone who doesn’t have a ton of time to spare, I appreciate how fast-paced Tokyo Mirage Sessions can be. Win or lose, the battles often fly by. Since both you and your enemies can utilize Sessions, you constantly need to be on your toes when you step into action. To speed things up more, you can even skip past the extravagant animations that accompany some of the more powerful attacks. It doesn’t hurt that the combat engine is a blast to begin with. Between the flashiness and strategy, it’s hard to take your eyes off the screen while playing. I didn’t even mind spending the extra time to play around in dungeons that are specifically designed for level grinding. It’s a great system that can draw novices in, but provide enough depth for the hardcore crowd.
#FE Encore is one of the rare Nintendo Switch games that probably looks better on-the-go than it does when docked. That’s not to say it looks bad, because it really doesn’t. Both the Mirages and regular character designs are great, and I really love the aesthetic of the dungeons. Each one feels unique from the other, and they are all memorable in their own ways. However, I feel that the colorful, flashy visuals really pop on the Switch’s small screen. When it’s docked, it’s hard to shake the feeling that it looks more muted and dated when scaled up. I know there has been some drama over Nintendo toning down the more lewd aspects of the title, but rest assured, there is still some questionable content here.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is the latest gem to get a (much-needed) second chance on the Nintendo Switch. Even as someone who doesn’t care for the idol industry, the flashy gameplay and earnest storytelling make this RPG a can’t-miss experience. While the original release was already well-praised, all of the additional content included here make this the definitive version to play. The new EX stories are a treat, and it’s hard to imagine playing without support dungeons and quality of life improvements. If you’re like me, you probably missed your chance at joining Fortuna previously. Don’t make the same mistake again.
This review was based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. A copy was provided to us by Nintendo.
The idol-centric story may put some off, but Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is still a dynamite RPG that features an excellent combat engine and wonderful, flashy visuals.