What started out originally as a strategy RPG crossover of the Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei series ended up taking quite a dramatic twist early in development and ended up forging a more unique identity in the form of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, a Persona-style turn-based RPG that has its roots soaked in anime and Japanese pop culture. Who could have seen that coming?
Even if you’re a huge fan of those respective series, there’s a good chance you’ve had intentions but never got around to playing Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE when it originally launched on Wii U in the West in 2016, because not a lot of people did. Regardless of its high review scores, the combination of the Wii U's low install base and the fact that many fans were expecting a different Fire Emblem/Shin Megami Tensei experience overall just didn’t bode well for sales. Thankfully, this Japanese pop-idol of a game is getting called back on stage for an encore on Switch, and it’s bringing some new content along with it.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is a joint effort between Atlus, Intelligent Systems and Nintendo, and is set in a fictional version of modern-day Tokyo in which humans can unlock hidden creative energy within themselves known as Performa. This Perfoma power can then be used in conjunction with beings from another world known as Mirages. Most of these Mirages just want to steal your Performa and watch your world burn, but a select few actually want to help protect it, and will aid you in battle.
You play as Itsuki Aoi, a high school student who learns to control his Performa to help his friends take on the overwhelming force of mirages. But Itsuki and his friend Tsubasa quickly learn that this newfound power of theirs comes with a slight caveat; to enhance their skills and continue fighting they have to dive headfirst into the Japanese entertainment industry. Throughout their journey into stardom, they’ll meet a wide cast of characters who’ll help enhance their pop-idol abilities and join in the fight against the mirages.
As we’ve stated before, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE borrows elements both from the Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei series. Characters from Fire Emblem take the form of your alley mirages like Chrom of Awakening and Caeda of Shadow Dragon, you’ll acquire Fire Emblem weapons through the game and fans will even notice the level-up jingle has carried over, too.
As for Shin Megami Tensei, the references and comparisons are a bit thicker; the majority of skills your characters use (Zio, Dia, Bufu, etc) have all been carried over, battles take place in an alternate dimension known as the Idolasphere which is similar to how battles go down in Persona, there’s a special area you use to enhance the abilities of your characters and mirages which has a blue door just like the Velvet Room and there’s even a convenience store themed around the Jack Brothers. There are more references sprinkled throughout the adventure that we could mention, but we’ll save some for you to discover on your own.
One other large factor that pulls this even closer to a Shin Megami Tensei or Persona title is its turn-based battle system. In battle, you’ll have control of three different characters who are all buddied up with their own friendly neighbourhood mirage (think demons or personas) who end up morphing into weapons for you to wield. Each character can do all the standard turn-based battle moves – attack, guard, use an item or a skill (magic) – but one unique feature is the Session Attack which allows each character to string together extra attacks when you hit an enemy with its weakness, depending on if your teammates have learned the corresponding Session Skill. As you level up, your characters and partake in side quests, you’ll gain new Session Skills that will allow your teammates to jump in more often. It definitely helps keep battles interesting to watch and fun to play.
However, something that is very plainly covered up is the darker tone often found in Fire Emblem or Shin Megami Tensei games. There are some dreary moments here and there, but those have sort of taken a back seat to a world full of bubbly and excentric anime-style characters, pop idols and the music they create. It can be a little eye-opening for anyone who doesn’t really watch anime or isn’t aware of the culture behind it, but if you can get past the idea of Tiki calling you her big brother, there’s a lot to love tucked into this game.
Plus, anyone who’s played through Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE on Wii U will be happy to hear this new Encore edition on Switch has a few new features that could pique your interest. Encore includes a new dungeon, new songs and music videos, new costumes and a few previously unplayable characters who will jump in and join your battle with the Session Attacks.
The main playable characters, the story and the overall identity that wraps around Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE are entirely it's own and in many ways, it reminds us of Disney's and Square's first collaboration, Kingdom Hearts. You have some characters and elements you remember from their past games, but things aren’t the same. Both Disney and Square took a few key ingredients from their own franchises and planted them with the seeds of something new and watched it blossom into the behemoth of a franchise it is today (which is kind of a confusing mess, but that’s beside the point).
You don’t have to be a huge fan who’s played every Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei title under the sun to enjoy this game; you just have to be a fan of a good RPG. Atlus and Nintendo worked together to create something fresh and new, and sure, it may not appeal to everyone with its heavy anime/pop idol influence, but the love and attention to detail that went into this game is apparent and we’re happy to see Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore join the Switch's neverending library.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore releases worldwide on Nintendo Switch on the 17th of January. Will you be giving this game another look? Let us know in the comments below.