The Nintendo Switch is a hybrid in more ways than one. So is Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore, which combines gameplay elements of Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei with characters from Nintendo’s Fire Emblem series (particularly the original Fire Emblem and Awakening). The recently released Encore edition of the game is a slightly enhanced port of the Wii U title that virtually nobody played.
Nintendo has received criticism for porting too many titles to the Switch in the past, but I don’t really understand the complaints. If you have played the games before, then it’s up to you whether you want to double dip or not. In the meantime, there are a lot of gamers who never owned a Wii U and these games that never got recognition deserve to be played. Mirage Sessions especially so, considering just how much of a niche title it is.
This is a great, light JRPG for those who enjoy the genre but don’t necessarily have the time to pour hundreds of hours into a game. The gameplay mechanics aren’t overbearing either, so even casual players should be able to figure it out with relative ease.
You have a party of characters that engage in battle, complete with options to attack, use items, or leave the battlefield. There are special skills you can use depending on how many points you’ve racked up, each one correlating to your choice of weapon or magic. Different enemies are weak against different attacks, which are usually pretty obvious but you’ll learn more as you go along.
Oh, and you can trigger special performances in battle that are really trippy. Like, imagine your anime-inspired character simultaneously busting out some fight and dance moves to remixed JPOP versions of Fire Emblem music. If you think the over-the-top animations are too much, there’s a feature to fast-forward through them (But why would you do that? They’re awesome!)
It’s all pretty straightforward and fun. Even if you’re usually not big on fighting your way through dungeon after dungeon, there’s a unique kind of charm on display here that just might win you over. And if not, hey, it won’t take a big time commitment to finish the game. You’re looking at maybe 50-60 hours to finish the main story.
That’s Tokyo Mirage Sessions greatest strength and weakness. While it’s a very polished and streamlined experience, it might feel a bit lacking. Especially if you’re looking for more of a Xenoblade, or ironically even a Persona-type experience.
Another potential drawback is that the game is very Japan-centric. Sure, Japanese culture and entertainment is highly appreciated throughout the world, but Mirage Sessions focuses on a very specific part of Japanese culture that’s not always well-received outside of Japan: the idol industry.
It might not help that all of the voice-acting is in Japanese and there’s not always subtitles available. For purists this is probably not an issue, but it could turn off some gamers.
And perhaps the biggest drawback is how inconsequential Fire Emblem really is to the proceedings. As previously mentioned, all of the gameplay here is inspired by Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei series. It’s your usual traditional turn-based fare. The fact Chrom and the gang are present doesn’t magically make it feel like Fire Emblem.
That said, this version of the game does try to incorporate some Fire Emblem characters in the combat more, like fan favorite Tiki who can join in on combo attacks now. She’s still just a supporting character, so don’t get your hopes up too high.
And if you are thinking about double-dipping, Encore does include a new EX Story mode with a new dungeon, plus virtually all of the DLC content from the Wii U release. Although some fans might be sad to see the ‘Hot Spring’ costumes are nowhere to be found. Sorry boys, it’s a different world than it was five years ago. Not even the Japanese version will receive that old content, so there’s no workaround.
But for the most part, everything remains intact with a few nice little additions for returning customers. The graphics look fantastic in handheld mode at 720p resolution, but seems to stay at 720p in docked mode so don’t expect to be blown away if you’re playing it on your TV.
If you’re a fan of Atlus titles or JRPGs in general, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is a fine addition to your Switch library. Fire Emblem fans will also probably find it enjoyable, even if most of the Fire Emblem ingredients boil down to glorified cameos and easter eggs. Casual fans can probably pass if they’re not into typical JRPGs or the Japanese idol elements, but serious collectors should pick this up.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore – Score: B+
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