Preview: Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore
It’s a little under two weeks until the launch of Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore, and ahead of our review next week, we’ve put together a little rundown preview of what it’s all about.
So far, I’ve spent about 40 hours with the game, and for the most part I’ve enjoyed it. As a little bit of a disclaimer, I am not particularly well-versed on Fire Emblem history or lore, and I didn’t play the original game on Wii U. Some of the knowledge in this preview comes from personal research, Nintendo press materials, and friends who have a little bit more knowledge on the world of Fire Emblem.
With that said, let’s jump in!
What is it?
Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore — which I’ll be referring to as TMSE from here on out, because wow what a name — is a spin-off crossover game developed by Atlus, featuring gameplay inspired by the Shin Megami Tensei series, and themes and characters from the Fire Emblem series. It also features some pretty heavy influence from the Japanese music idol scene, and by pretty heavy influence I mean this game is entirely about idols. To put it lightly: it’s niche on niche on niche.
It originally launched on the Wii U as Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE, but its ultra-niche status combined with the let’s say ‘middling’ sales of the Wii U all but doomed it to the annals of history. Thankfully, Nintendo decided to give the game a second life on its massively successful Switch console, with the appropriately considered ‘Encore’ tacked onto the title. And as is often the case with encores, TMSE delivers the goods.
TMSE features all the content originally featured in the Wii U release of the game, including all of the DLC, unlocked from the get go — that means all the support quests, side stories, and optional grinding dungeons. The game does warn you against exploiting the latter, as massive overlevelling could lead to a lack of enjoyment with the game’s battle systems, but enemies (especially bosses) tend to knock you on your butt most of the time anyway, so it’s far from an unwelcome addition.
On top of everything included in the original and its DLC, TMSE adds on an all-new dungeon, as part of a new feature called EX Stories. These EX Stories act a little bit like Side Stories, except they feature more than just one character. The story told here is pretty consistent with the rest of the game, it doesn’t feel out of place in any way, which is always a bonus for content added into a game several years after its release. There’s also some good rewards for delving into the stories as soon as they’re available — but unfortunately I can’t go into that in this preview. You’ll have to read our full review to find out more about that.
In addition to everything mentioned above, there’s also new costumes, new songs and performances to unlock, and a tonne of minor quality of life additions. There’s nothing generally huge in that last category, just things like a mini-map accessible at all times, and some options to speed up or skip some of the slower parts of the game. As I mentioned above, however, I haven’t played the original, so it’s more than likely I’m missing a few of the new things. Rest assured, at least, this is absolutely the definitive version of the game.
How does it run?
Honestly, pretty flawlessly. As mentioned in the intro, I’ve spent about 40 hours with the game — 10 hours of that was in docked mode, and the remaining 30 in handheld. In that time, I’ve yet to have a single issue with the performance, it’s handled itself spectacularly in every single moment. No major frame drops, no overtly ugly moments, no horrendous screen-tearing or aggressive dynamic resolution drops. In all honesty, it’s actually kind of a beautiful game.
It’s stylish, for sure, but the graphical quality itself is on par with some of the best-looking games of the system. In fact, a lot of the time it even looks better than some of Atlus’s flagship titles, like Persona 5 on the PS4. And sure, it’s a port of a Wii U title, so it was probably always going to look great, but it’s impressive nonetheless. Those who’ve played the Wii U release will also be pleased to know that load times have been reduced dramatically, to the point of being near-instant in most cases. Our friends over at GameXplain have a great video showcasing this, which you can take a look at below.
To make a long story short: it looks great, it runs great, and the previously monolithic load times have been cut down to barely nothing. It’s a fantastic, potentially even flawless port. I will admit, I did have one crash in my time with the game, during a particularly long battle — but it’s difficult to know if this was the result of the game itself, or if my Switch had just decided it had had enough of rendering inappropriate jiggle physics and
cried crashed itself to sleep. I’ve not been able to reproduce the crash yet, so I’ll just chalk it up to bad luck.
Who’s it for?
This is a bit of a tough question. I would say that if you’re a fan of Shin Megami Tensei, Fire Emblem, and Japanese idol culture — particularly J-Pop and all that entails — then you’re likely to have a blast with TMSE. But that’s a bit of a niche category, so I’ll break it down a little further.
If you’re a big fan of Fire Emblem, there’s enough here to keep you engaged. As someone who’s not played a lot of FE, a lot of these references have flown right over my head, but friends and colleagues familiar with the long-running franchise tell me there’s absolutely plenty of Fire Emblem ingrained deep into every aspect of the game.
If you’re not a fan of Fire Emblem, that’s okay too! If you’re fond of Shin Megami Tensei — or its spinoffs like Persona — like I am, there’s a good, familiar foundation here in its dungeon-crawling and its turn-based battle system. Fans of other turn-based RPGS, like Final Fantasy X and Dragon Quest, could even find a lot to enjoy here; the battle system is engaging and innovative, and frankly a dream to exploit and explore. Provided you’re okay with missing out on some of the FE-themed subtext, and you can put up with a lot of very tropey Japanese idol stuff, you’ll probably get along with the game just fine.
Oh, and it also helps if you like long, often-frustrating dungeons. Because there’s plenty of those — for better and for worse.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore launches on the Nintendo Switch eShop and at retail on the 17th of January, and our full review will be available shortly before launch. You can find the best deals for the game in our Aussie Bargain Roundup.