Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore review

Striking and colorful, perhaps the biggest problem with its relaunch is that Persona 5 and FE: Three Houses have made it somewhat redundant.



Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore

One of the first questions that the game makes you just start, just after deciding on what difficulty you want to play, is whether or not you want Tsubasa, one of the protagonists, to wear glasses. It is a detail of a very strange self-consciousness, but that in a way makes sense: beyond the fetish, Tokyo Mirage Sessions, in its original and current release, is a game about aesthetics, about performativity in the most literal sense of the word. Indeed, the theme of the game orbits the culture of idols, actors and Japanese television, and it is almost impossible to understand what it tells us if we remove it from this context, from where it takes practically each of its tropes and absolutely all its visual elements.

There had to be a script twist, of course; It is true that there is always room in the market for a game more than being idol, but perhaps the RPG is not the best genre for it. The peculiarity of the history of Tokyo Mirage Sessions is that, in its universe, within each person inhabits a substance: the “Performa”. There are evil creatures who are dedicated to steal it, and a few chosen can use it, when they manifest their creative abilities, to obtain special powers that will ultimately serve them to fulfill their dreams. If it sounds a little ñoño it is because it is: we are in front of a story of normal kids who will discover their powers through the magic of love and perseverance, and can thus become stars. Our protagonists – first Itsuki and Tsubasa nothing more,

Apart from colors and video clips, the most striking element of the game may be the fact that it is a crossover between two well-known and revered sagas among JRPG fans: Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem. It is true that the title takes from the Nintendo franchise some relevant characters, such as Chrom and Caeda, which will be the kind of mystical entities that give our protagonists special abilities, but in everything else the game is cut by the saga’s pattern from Atlus. This means that during the bulk of the experience, our feeling will be to be playing a Shin Megami Tensei or, even more, one of the last Person.

It shows, especially, in the structure. We sail a city – in this case, Tokyo – distributed among different areas that we can travel as we please, but in which there really isn’t much to do beyond visiting a store or collecting side missions. We will also be unlocking new areas over time. The story is divided into chapters, each one centered on a character that has been, in some way, possessed by one of the evil forces of the game; we will free her, overcoming a dungeon and a final boss, and sometimes we will even get her to join our team. Thus, both the space in which we move and the characters we know are expanding as we overcome the challenges we face.

Within the dungeons, the fundamental thing is combat: another occasion in which we will clearly see the inspirations in Shin Megami Tensei. We explore preset dungeons, with the occasional puzzle and visible enemies on the map that we can choose to attack, to catch them by surprise or dodge them through the use – precise, of course: it does not always work out – of the weapon to stun them. We will overcome different levels of these until we reach a final boss that we will end up freeing from the evil power that has trapped him.

The combat is, without a doubt, one of the strengths of the game. With a very simple system of turns in appearance, and a table of weaknesses and strengths quite similar to those of a person, we do not have exactly the entire “press turn” system but we do choose between attacking normally or using magic that can be combined in different ways Even so, we will have to learn to pass over a somewhat chaotic distribution of the stage in which the characters are placed in a circle, as if they were looking at the center of a stage, in whose nucleus are the enemies. Every time we change character, we change our perspective, and it takes us a while to get used to the enemy in front of us, in a few moments, to be placed in another place on the totally different map.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore Switch

The key point to overcome any battle, even those of the smallest enemies, are the combos. Our protagonists will learn new attacks and skills as we improve their weapons. The skills are passive, and will be activated automatically, but the attacks are divided into two types: those that we can use normally during combat and those that will be used automatically when a member of our team uses a skill related to them. This means that, when we use a skill towards which our enemy is weak, and the rest of our team members have some other attack of this type, we will chain several strokes in a “session”. Creating a session means attacking two, or even many more times per turn, instead of just one, so we will constantly look for them; and to optimize them, we will have to create our team in such a way that the attacks of some realize effective synergies with those of the others. We can rotate and alternate characters at any time, but the key will be to find which protagonist works especially well with which other in combat. For example, if we think of the two main characters: Itsuki fundamentally learns Electric-type skills, and Tsubasa has the possibility to learn a lot of attacks that react to effective Electric-type blows, so we usually want to put these two units in our team at the same time. 

but the key will be to find which protagonist works especially well with which other in combat. For example, if we think of the two main characters: Itsuki fundamentally learns Electric-type skills, and Tsubasa has the possibility to learn a lot of attacks that react to effective Electric-type blows, so we usually want to put these two units in our team at the same time. but the key will be to find which protagonist works especially well with which other in combat. For example, if we think of the two main characters: Itsuki fundamentally learns Electric-type skills, and Tsubasa has the possibility to learn a lot of attacks that react to effective Electric-type blows, so we usually want to put these two units in our team at the same time.

In the middle of the magic and the slashes, as an interlude between chapter and other, we will be left a little time of free movement so that we carry out secondary and character missions that are not obligatory, but very useful in the course of the game. Making the most of the lapses between chapters to increase our friendship with each character and do optional tasks is not only recommended because they make the protagonists stronger and unlock special skills, but because it is in these small moments where the game and its history shine with more strength. Perhaps the story of achieving success as artists and saving the world from monsters is too grandiloquent for some players, but I think it is impossible not to get carried away by the illusion of seeing friendship and affection grow among this group of energetic and well-meaning teenagers. 

It is true that the number of conversations per message – simulating an instant messaging application – can be overwhelming, but the small missions that concern each one’s personal development are well written, excellently embedded in the universe that is presented to us, and full of references to both the sagas on which the game is based and the Japanese culture and the Internet, with nods to the anime and idols of the real world, and even Vocaloid, one of its most direct inspirations in regards Aesthetics

The elements that this version of Switch adds to the original Wii U finish rounding up the experience. In addition to a handful of new costumes with which we can dress the characters – with references to Persona 5 and Fire Emblem: Three Houses, among others – and some character that this time becomes playable, we have a complete level in which A totally new mission is developed. But, instead of having to wait until the end of the game to access this content, the EX Story is unlocked almost at the beginning of the game, and is divided into chapters that we will be able to access as we move forward in the main story. Regarding these sections, there is little to say without going into details about the events, but it is true that they stand out for being interesting and, surprisingly,

Balance is precisely one of the problems of Tokyo Mirage Sessions. For a title that invests so many efforts in creating a distinctive aesthetic, a solid universe, a foundation on which to build a story, and to be a game with such a satisfactory feedback cycle at times, we spend more time than we would like to face against random enemies to raise levels that allow us to continue progressing. 

The “farmeo” is intrinsic to the JRPG genre, and at this point it is difficult for any player to be surprised to find level limits well above his current team, but neither the game offers us any entertaining way or, at least, varied to do it or it makes sense that we need to spend hours strengthening our characters between chapter and chapter when the pace that the game would have, if not for this, would be very good. 

The problem increases even more when his successors in both sagas, Persona 5 on the side of Shin Megami Tensei and on the other, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, had already been able to identify this problem and solve it so that the progress curve was still satisfactory, But keeping up the challenge. Thus, the re-launch of Tokyo Mirage Sessions remains a good JRPG, one with charismatic characters and a story that catches, but that in 2020 seems a bit anachronistic because of its mechanics. Not that it is impossible to enjoy, because it is not the case at all,