REVIEW: Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore

Wednesday, February 5th, 2020

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Although the plot isn’t Encore’s strong suit, that isn’t the same as saying the writing falls flat. I found most of the dialogue very funny and revealing, whether it be conveyed in some grand speech or in digital messages called Topics. In the original Tokyo Mirage Sessions, Topics were relegated to the Gamepad, and notified you when one of your characters had something to say, or when you could start a new Side Story. Though Topics are alive and well here, instead they’re relegated to the + button. This wasn’t problematic per se, but oftentimes I would open up the main menu, which is separate from the Topic menu. This only cost me a few seconds to close it out and open the right one, but it was far less intuitive than originally on the Wii U. That said, the Topics are often hilarious, showing banter between Itsuki and his friends. The Topic menu also helps keep track of which Side Stories are in progress, and is where you’ll find the dungeon maps. I loved the Side Stories in the game, since not only did they showcase more of the cast’s personalities, but they provided powerful upgrades and Backup Skills for the sub characters. My only issue was when it wasn’t clear how to progress certain missions, such as when Tsubasa is on the hunt for a stray cat, and the clues you’re given are entirely open ended and unnecessarily vague. The missions that involved combat or just progressed like a Visual Novel were much more to my liking, since I get frustrated whenever I get stuck. That said, it occurred to me as I played that if there’s ever a VN made of Encore, it would most definitely be a Harem VN. Itsuki becomes the love interest of ALL the female characters, even though he’s too dense to realize it. Even the men all respect and admire him. In other words, there’s a universe in which Itsuki finally learns the full extent of Maiko’s many charms, and that’s a tale I would definitely read.

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The dungeons in Encore play out very much like a Persona game. Enemies will appear and chase you, though most can be stunned with Itsuki’s sword to gain First Strike during battle. There’s also terrifying Savage enemies, black wraiths that can’t be knocked down and which generally are 10+ levels higher than your team. Though dungeons aren’t littered with traps and false floors, they each have a unique gimmick that makes traversal a challenge. While the very first one is incredibly basic, the one immediately after that is a giant step up in terms of complexity and difficulty. It has you manipulate empty mannequins, raising or lowering their arms, then progressing through the cuffs to reach new areas. There’s another that is full of devious cameras that take your picture and return you to the very beginning, not unlike the Wallmasters in Zelda. Pretty much each dungeon is distinct looking and offers a robust challenge, and none other than the first can be breezed through. Most took me more than 2 hours, and the final one easily took 8 or more. Thankfully, early on Tsubasa acquires the Traport skill, which lets you transport yourself back to Fortuna HQ, where you can heal your team with a soda. Depending on the type of can, you will also increase the luck of certain characters temporarily. I had no issue with this, other than my confusion about the very first dungeon having a heal spot, and none of the others. But so long as you don’t mind a little back and forth teleportation, you shouldn’t have any problems getting through these dungeons. Just put on your thinking cap and get ready to fight back hordes of Mirages.

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It wouldn’t be a satisfying RPG without tough bosses, and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore delivers. Every time I thought I was getting overpowered in the game, the next boss would prove me wrong. None of the bosses here are easy, at least on the Normal difficulty I chose. Most of them can wipe you out in a couple turns, especially if your team is weak to any of their attacks. Each boss usually has a posse of minor foes, and while that might seem unfair, since they can summon more, they’re there for a reason. Namely, so you can defeat the minor foes to build up your Session meter and then unleash powerful attacks on the bosses. I enjoyed the challenge provided by these fights, and only found a handful to be a pain. One was a doppleganger of Yashiro that could split himself into clones, and which would go into a counter stance to parry any physical attacks. Another was Excellus, a floating mechanical mage that changed his resistances during the fight, and which could hit my team with unrelenting magical attacks. There’s a couple others, but overall I wasn’t upset with the more difficult bosses. They just required I be willing to grind up my levels and equipment a bit, a skill I gathered recently thanks to games like Persona Q.

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Now, it wouldn’t be fair to talk about Encore without touching upon the new content. First of all, you have a rather silly (yet awesome) ability at the start to choose whether or not Tsubasa wears glasses in the game. As a fan of the sexy librarian trope, I opted for it. Besides that, the DLC which was previously only available to those that paid for it is part of the main package now. It’s essentially free, since this version of the game costs as much as the base version of the original, $59.99. The DLC, which opens up a couple dungeons into the game, includes 3 areas you can tackle. One is full of Savage enemies that reward you with Tomes which help level up faster; another area gives you Skill Books, for learning new Skills much faster; and lastly one has Detritus, which can be traded for stat boosting Incense. While I’m fine with these options, I didn’t use them much. Mostly cause there was no story there, you can’t save in these areas, and frankly Savage foes are a giant pain in the ass. What I would have preferred was an area full of Rare Mirages, which often drop hard to find Performa necessary for powerful Carnage Unity. In my entire playthrough, I maybe encountered 10 of these Mirages, and what’s worse, they aren’t tied to any specific area. That wasn’t a huge problem til later in the game, but it is worth mention.

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However, the real draw for Encore is the EX Story. It all takes place in a new dungeon called the Area of Aspiration, where supposedly your dreams are brought into physical form. I admit I was tentatively very excited about the EX Story, as I hoped it would provide an excuse to spend more time with this world. Unfortunately, I have to confirm it’s rather short and insubstantial. The story tied to the Area of Aspiration only involves Itsuki, Tsubasa and Kiria, and none of the others. While it’s cool you can find new costumes there, and I appreciated unlocking the use of Tiki, Maiko and Barry in Sessions, that’s also not the same as them being playable characters. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for tiny green dragons, busty ninjas and knights clad in dog-armor, but I also don’t feel like the process of unlocking them was fulfilling. In the main story, you progress in Side Stories and learn more about your teammates, and then those revelations empower them. Here, you just open a chest and get new features. Plus, I’m still not clear how Maiko and Barry, who lack Mirages, magically get the ability to fight Mirages, which the game states over and over again is the sole province of a Mirage Master. And though you can’t get through the Area of Aspiration all at once, since parts of it are gated behind other content, it’s still over way too soon. It only has 3 chapters and one boss. I was really hoping for a meaty dungeon to spend hours and hours in after I beat the final boss. Instead, I got maybe a couple hours of extra content that left me wanting more than the one new song, “She Is”, rewarded to you at the very end of the experience. Which isn’t to say I hated the EX Story, I didn’t. I just feel a game of this caliber deserved better.

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As for how the game looks and plays, both are fantastic. Even though the original Tokyo Mirage Sessions was on the Wii U, and while the limitations of that console are still apparent (reused enemy models, limited draw distance, a seemingly sprawling map that’s only composed of a few areas), it in no way prevents this from being a beautiful game. I love how random passerby are rainbow colored, or how the Fortuna office gets decorated after various performances with posters, or even the neon portraits of your team during battle. Hell, even though they reuse enemy models with a new coat of paint, there’s a good variety of foes, from giant clown heads to winged raiders to hideous giants and top-hat wearing ghosts. Of special note are the game’s bosses, which each are stunning looking and showcase a distinct aesthetic style. And each of the characters’ different Mirages are all full of personality that is matched by their design. Musically, I love the game equally. While the main combat and exploration themes are somewhat laid back, I live for when the music of performances enters the fray of battle. I still tap my feet to the Duo Arts “Dream Catcher” and “Give Me”, and am always impressed by the Kiria’s bad ass tunes, such as her Ad-lib Performance “The Labyrinth.” There’s tons of rocking tunes in Encore, from a wide range of genres. I never thought I liked J-pop, but Tokyo Mirage Sessions may have proven me wrong. Oh and though I am not fluent in Japanese in the slightest, I loved the personality and pop provided by the vocal cast, in and out of combat.

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Now, while I like almost everything about Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore, reviewing games for this many years has trained me to view things critically. As such, the following are minor frustrations that dragged the experience down a bit. One are the bestiary’s enemy locations. These can be viewed from your main menu, and are integral when you need to farm the right Performa for weapons and skills. Unfortunately, the enemy locations found here don’t correspond to the actual area map. Another issue is that I wish that once you see a scene, you can skip it entirely the next time. Often right before a boss fight there’s a ton of dialogue, and while you can speed through it, you can’t skip it, and you definitely can’t skip Topic notifications that are story related. This made the final boss fight all the harder, since there’s a massive scene right before it, and it takes a good minute and a half to speed through it. I also kind of wish the map wasn’t on the Topic menu, but the other huge main menu, since it can be time consuming transitioning between them. It’s also a bit irritating that you’ll get notifications of a side story about to open up, then have to wait til it’s triggered. This is after you level up your Stage Rank, which is in itself a nebulous process, since there’s no counter that tells you when it’s full, unlike character and Carnage level. And one last thing that really irritated me was that I always had tons of money in-game, literally millions, but not enough things to spend it on. The Carabia boutique has a very limited supply of equipment, and none that is really game changing. Even buying all the costumes from Harajuka left me millions in the bank. I almost wish this game took mechanics from a game like Persona Q, letting you farm materials that you trade in to create new equipment regularly. Other than these, I very much enjoyed the game.

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All in all, I’m still very much a fan of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE after beating Encore. It’s basically the same game, just with a bit of extra content thrown in and some minor quality of life improvements such as the Quick Session option and faster load times. While I was ultimately unimpressed with the EX Story, I still appreciate being able to play one of my favorite Wii U exclusives on my Switch portably. If you’re a fan of Japanese culture and love crazy RPGs full of heart, you owe it to yourself to play Encore. Now I just have to cross my fingers and pray we get a true sequel that improves on this already fantastic experience.

Review Score

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.

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