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Eliwood8

Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore Review

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257003001_TokyoMirageSessionsEncoreboxart.jpg.31a9340e905b0c3274ce4220231c61d3.jpgAt this point it feels like it'd be faster to count the number of Wii U games that haven't been ported to the Switch, though to be fair, few deserve a second chance in the spotlight as much as Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE. This Encore performance adds a few new features—as well as including the DLC released for the original game—but just giving Switch owners a chance to experience the engaging RPG mechanics of the game is treat enough.
 
TMS♯FE takes place in modern day Tokyo and the story revolves around the idol industry of teenagers becoming pop star singers and actors. However, the city is also beset by phantom creatures called Mirages who are attacking people to steal their performance energy. Our heroes, a scrappy group of mostly novice idols, teams up with friendly Mirages to fight back. It's probably not surprising that TMS♯FE leans heavily on anime tropes and such—each character almost feels like a walking cliché, which can make the game's story beats a little tedious. The main protagonist, Itsuki, is particularly disappointing since he's really just a blank slate character to facilitate other characters' development. Still, the characters can be charming at times as well, and if you just let yourself go along for the ride on a light-hearted, campy, save-the-world story, the writing's lack of substance won't matter much.
 
Besides, TMS♯FE makes up for any storytelling faults with a wonderfully engaging battle system and inventive dungeon designs. Scattered throughout Tokyo you'll enter Idolaspheres (dungeons, essentially) in order to battle Mirages, and these Idolaspheres feature some clever and unusual designs. Exploring them is a lot more engaging that simply walking to the exit and battling creatures along the way.
 
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The battle system, however, is arguably the star of the show in TMS♯FE. The key feature here is activating Sessions by targeting an enemy's weakpoint with a combat skill, either an elemental weakness or weapon weakness. Each character has a limited selection of skills (Itsuki, for example, uses swords and lightning magic), so you'll need to select your party carefully to effectively deal with the Mirages in the current Idolasphere—don't worry though, you can also swap characters from your reserves to your active party mid-battle if you need to switch things up. Hitting an enemy with a skill they're vulnerable to activates a Session, where every available party member jumps in with their own attack, creating a satisfying chain of damage that can also leap to other enemies in battle as well. Eventually you'll also get the chance to further augment Sessions with special skills called ad-libs and duo attacks, which can lead to some satisfying damage combos.
 
On one hand these massive Session chains can make normal battles a little too easy, but they're still awfully satisfying to pull off. Plus there are always boss fights for the truly challenging moments, and when enemies aren't killed by a single session you'll realize there's more to the battle system and it requires a typical RPG's strategy and planning to survive (and a little luck). Boss fights can be pretty challenging in fact, but thankfully you can save at any time in the game (outside of battle) so as long as you remember to save frequently, a defeat won't result in much lost progress.
 
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The other major aspect of TMS♯FE's gameplay revolves around learning skills, which comes from crafting new weapons and using them in battle. Weapons can be crafted from items dropped from Mirages, so it's a nicely cyclical system—fight some Mirages, gather resources, craft new weapons, repeat. The crafting system is rather tedious in TMS♯FE though because you have to leave the Idolasphere and return to your base of operations to craft, and you'll probably want to do this several times in just a single dungeon, so there's a lot of running back and forth that easily could have been streamlined.
 
Speaking of streamlining though, the Encore edition of the game does speed up one aspect of the game. You're now able to speed through Sessions, which is a huge time saver. As mentioned you're going to be triggering Sessions in every battle, multiple times, and by the end of the game Sessions can get ridiculously long. As nice as the animations are, being able to speed through them is a welcome change. Beyond that though, the other new features for the Encore edition are kind of underwhelming. Some of the side characters are able to jump into battle during a Session, and the interface for the game's message system has changed (since you don't have the Wii U Gamepad in hand anymore), but the main new feature is the EX Story, a short dungeon focused on two of the characters. It's great to have a new area to explore but it's ultimately a simple, brief side story that doesn't add too much either story- or gameplay-wise. It's probably not enough to convince you to play through the entire game again if you're on the fence, but fans of the game might enjoy having a bit extra to do.
 
Not that the game's length really needs extending anyway—this is a full-length RPG, so you can expect at least 40 hours or so to finish the game. There are also several side quests with each of the game's main characters, and even though these are technically optional you really shouldn't skip them as they'll give you valuable bonuses and combat abilities. There are still some optional side missions to tackle though, and if you can't get enough of TMS♯FE you can try out New Game+ to keep the performance going even longer.
 
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Focused as it is on the Japanese idol industry, the look and sound of TMS♯FE is distinctly poppy: bright, flashy, and arguably overdone at times, but there's still a certain appeal to it all. Each character has multiple costumes you can use (including some from the game's original DLC as well as new ones for this Encore edition) so you can always experiment to find the look you like. Music is, naturally, a big part of a game focused on pop music idols, and there are some catching songs (including entire music videos) but again your enjoyment will largely hinge on your interest in the Japanese idol industry. The game is also fully voiced but only in Japanese which is, to be fair, appropriate for the game's style and setting.
 
Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore isn't much of an overhaul or upgrade from the original Wii U title, but for anyone that missed its first performance this is a great opportunity to find new fans with a second showing. The core RPG elements remain wonderfully satisfying when you pull off long Session chains, and crafting weapons to unlock new skills is completely addictive, even if the crafting process is slower than it ought to be. Switch owners should be pleased to find yet another solid RPG port on Nintendo's hybrid system.
 
Rating: 8 out of 10 Sessions

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I bought the Wii U version sometime after my birthday in August, the following month when we had our last direct, it was announced that there would be a port of this game to the Switch coming out early next year. When that was announced, I was 3 chapters in.

 

Bought the port in February and finished it a few days ago. As mentioned by Eli, they combat is what I feel you really come to this game for, I akin it to Chrono Trigger double and triple tech. In both games you are using moves you already learned and combining them for great damage, only it's like chain attack borrowed from the Xenoblade series as well.

 

Yeah, it can be easy to get session wants you know the mirage weaknesses but opposite is not true when your foes do it to you especially on boss runs.

 

Dungeon play is not bad but like the last to dungeons before the last chapter of the game, are ones I really detest. It requires you to memorize which doorway to go based on number location on some screens. It wouldn't be so bad if the next corridor are arranged in a way where you can locate the numbers but the corridor is disorienting, I had literally had to guess which door was correct and just save right after I go through the right door, if I didn't do that and go through the correct one you could be lost forever.

 

The pop idol and acting stuff were not a bother to me and I loved the character the only thing that is a misstep is the last couple of dungeons. Otherwise this is a really great game.

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45 minutes ago, DLurkster said:

Dungeon play is not bad but like the last to dungeons before the last chapter of the game, are ones I really detest. It requires you to memorize which doorway to go based on number location on some screens. It wouldn't be so bad if the next corridor are arranged in a way where you can locate the numbers but the corridor is disorienting, I had literally had to guess which door was correct and just save right after I go through the right door, if I didn't do that and go through the correct one you could be lost forever.

 

This isn't helpful at this point since you already got through it, but for anyone else: the Switch's screenshot function is real handy to remind you what order to go through the doors, and then just open the map frequently to keep your bearings.

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25 minutes ago, Eliwood8 said:

 

This isn't helpful at this point since you already got through it, but for anyone else: the Switch's screenshot function is real handy to remind you what order to go through the doors, and then just open the map frequently to keep your bearings.

Ah, you know what I did something like this for a couple 3DS games, the note feature and I just didn't think to take a picture at that part of the game. Which is funny because I took a lot of snapshots and short videos of this game because of how the character react and responds are hilarious.

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