First impressions: Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore

The original release of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE on Wii U didn’t get nearly as much attention as it deserved. The people who loved it loved it—myself included—but it didn’t make a huge splash when it came out, even by Wii U standards. As the latest in Nintendo’s ongoing effort to port just about every Wii U game to Nintendo Switch, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is a second chance at life for a game that really deserves it.

Though it was originally conceived as a crossover between Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei series and Nintendo’s Fire Emblem, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE bears more resemblance to SMT spinoff franchise Persona. Set in modern-day Tokyo, it follows a group of young idols from the up-and-coming Fortuna Entertainment company who moonlight as “Mirage Masters”: with the power of Persona-like Mirages—each one based off a Fire Emblem character—the kids from Fortuna Entertainment fight to save Tokyo from otherworldly demons that feed off people’s creative energy.

It’s a set-up that lends itself to a story that’s often funny and lighthearted, but also goes to some dark and introspective places as it explores the good and the bad of Japan’s idol industry. Tokyo Mirage Sessions, for all its bright colours and energetic music, isn’t afraid to question the lengths that people go to for the sake of entertainment, and the expectations placed on idols.

The setup also allows for one of the most satisfying JRPG combat systems I’ve encountered in a long time. In keeping with the music theme, combat revolves largely around the “Sessions”: when you hit an enemy’s weakness, other characters will jump in to lay on extra attacks. The effectiveness and length of these Sessions largely depends on how you’ve set up your party and what skills you choose to have everyone learn (not everyone can combo off every type of attack), which really sells the idea of the party being bandmates as much as fellows in arms.

And finally, the idols-via-Persona thing means Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE treats players to some marvelous, thematic dungeons. The monsters invading Tokyo aren’t visible to normal people, and to fight them, the Fortuna idols have to travel to the outlandish “Idolasphere”, with each new area drawing on some aspect of idol culture. One early example sees you navigating a giant, multi-level department store (based on Shibuya 109) by way of giant mannequins that can be posed to act as moving stairwells between different floors. Another takes place in a sprawling, disjointed photo gallery, as you avoid giant cameras that’ll send you right back to the start if they manage to snap a picture of you.

The main appeal of Encore is simply having Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE on a current and far more popular console, but it also sports a bunch of new features. There’s a handy function to speed up animations for Session attacks—the difference isn’t that noticeable early on when you’re only getting two or three extra attacks per session, but I have no doubt it’ll be a godsend later on, when you wind up dropping 10+ hit combos on just about every turn. You can also now unlock the ability for a few support characters to also participate in Sessions, opening up the combo possibilities even further.

All the DLC from the original release is also included in Encore, including a handful of different costumes and a couple of extra dungeons designed for levelling up your characters. Finally, there’s a brand new EX Story, which comes with its own new dungeon and offers a bit more insight into the lives of the Fortuna idols. A new side story also means new songs, music videos, and costumes too, just to sweeten the deal even more.

There’s plenty more of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore ahead of me, and I can’t wait to jump back into it. But a few chapters in, it’s a constant reminder of why this was my favourite game on Wii U, and I’m very excited to see it finally get the audience it deserves.

Matthew Codd

Matthew is a writer based in Wellington. He loves all things pop culture, and is fascinated by its place in history and the wider social context.