Libra: Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore
Release Date: January 17, 2020
File Size: 11.3 GB
Click here to view on the Nintendo eShop.
Libra is a series which provides first impressions of games before their full review. These are generally spoiler free, however, some base plot points – as well as some mechanic/system reveals – could lurk ahead.
Listen, if you haven’t picked up Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore yet, you’re doing yourself a major disservice. While the aesthetics and narrative of this game might not be everyone’s cup of tea, there is something to be said about its gameplay loop and progression systems. While it’s my mission in life to make sure people play this game, it’s also important that I give a bit of an overview of what it has to offer. Open world RPG Tokyo Mirage Sessions is not, but if you love dungeon crawling and flashy combat, you owe it to yourself to check this title out. Here’s a brief introduction of the updated Wii U port:
Tokyo Mirage Sessions is a hardcore dungeon crawling game, which might sound surprising considering its 3D nature. Atlus is known for their Etrian Odyssey titles, which use grid-based environmental design in order to craft deliberate, methodical experiences that push resource management and team composition to their extremes. Tokyo Mirage Sessions uses tight corridors littered with gimmicks and enemy encounters in order to produce a similar effect. This game is all dungeon, no filler- while there are a set of safe-areas that feature shops and NPCs, they are small and economic, save for the Shibuya area that is meant to be the game’s central hub. Even with this environment possessing the most stores and interactive elements, it jockeys for a position of importance alongside the Fortuna Entertainment offices, a meeting place for your party and the area where you will do most of your character progression.
The story centers around a group of artists employed by Fortuna Entertainment- some are singers, others actors, and then there’s Itsuki, who can’t really do anything but is friends with a whole bunch of talented people. Itsuki discovers that he is a Mirage Master, an individual who has utilized his performa, or creative power, to purify a mysterious Mirage. Mirages are the spirits of a people perpetually engaged in combat from another dimension. These individuals have fought for so long that their bodies have altered to accommodate this lifestyle, meaning some have taken on ghastly and futuristic features in order to survive. This means former horseback knights have traded the beast for a machine, now mounting a motorcyle and having grafted a lance to their arm. Some Mirages are more alien in shape, appearing as specters or ambiguous monstrosities. However, the core cast of seven are all Masters of vaguely humanoid Mirages, all of which go by names that may sound familiar. Itsuki is bonded to Chrom, while his lifelong friend Tsubasa is partnered with Caeda. The Mirages of the title are indeed the fighting spirits of classic Fire Emblem characters.
As the game was originally designed to blend the conventions of both Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem, the inclusion of iconic characters from the latter is not the only inherited element. The elemental weaknesses found in SMT have become a core tenant of the combat system, and FE’s weapon triangle combines with this in order to form the Session system. Not unlike the Press-turn system from recent SMT titles, hitting an enemy weakness with a skill will trigger other characters to join in on the attack, creating a Session. Sessions can only occur if party members have inherited Session skills from their Mirage’s Carnage form, which is the physical manifestation of the Mirage as a weapon. As you level up, you’ll max out the abilities of a Carnage and transfer what skills it has to your character. Enemies drop materials that allow you to craft new Carnage and gain new skills, potentially lengthening your Sessions as you gain the ability to have even your inactive party members join in. Long story short, if you’re not getting Sessions around fourteen attacks in length by the mid- to end-game, you’re not properly optimizing your team.
Because most of your time is spent in dungeons, you’ll constantly be leveling up, maxing out Carnage, and gathering materials, so the fact that this Encore version of the game has improved loading times is a huge boon. Entering into combat is quick and snappy, as is warping from one location to the next to upgrade your characters. Everyone has a Luck stat, but this can be manipulated by using vending machines scattered around Tokyo. If you imbibe certain drinks, you can improve the luck of your party members. This results in greater stat gains upon level up, which occurs in a manner similar to the Fire Emblem titles. Sometimes, you’ll get terrible gains, and sometimes, every one of your stats will end up with a nice boost. It’s a minor aspect of the progression system, but it’s still fun, especially for those with min/max mindsets.
Even in side quests, you’ll usually end up returning to dungeons in order to participate in special encounters or gather specific materials. The rewards of character-centric sidequests often come in the form of ad-lib attacks, which are randomly occurring supercharged versions of attacks that almost always result in a Session. In the Encore version, there have been some additional side quests implemented that will allow even more characters to join the fray, which is welcome and awesome. There are multiple kinds of attack formats- basic attacks are if you want to avoid starting a Session (which you sometimes do), skills are either for starting Sessions, buffing, and healing, and then there’s also Star Power skills, which are even more powerful abilities that use up Star Points, a special currency that generates from successful Sessions. You can save up Star Power in between battles, but it will take a substantial amount of Sessions in order to gain it back, so you want to be on the offensive at almost every opportunity.
Sure, I could talk more about character customization, specifically in regards to the class-changing system, but that might be too much of a good thing. Despite its heavy focus on dungeon navigation, this element never feels exhausting simply because the dungeon design is just that good. The earlier areas use very straightforward concepts, but the later environments are really something to appreciate. Each dungeon is centered around a theme that is an exaggerated version of a modern concept- a multi-level shopping mall becomes a twisting labyrinth where you’ll need to manipulate display figures. A television studio sends the party through a ringer of dressing rooms, game show floors, and actual sound stages, while a music video set turns into a full-on nighttime shrine. Sure, the aesthetics of the earlier dungeons are a bit busy, but the game refines and improves the further you progress in the story.
- This game is flashy as heck yo
- Are those NEW SUPPORT ATTACKS based on NEW SIDE QUEST CONTENT?
- Character progression is near-constant and always satisfying
- Dat dungeon design tho
- Lots and lots of character and scenario dialogue- not for the faint of heart
- Early-game dungeons are the weaker of the bunch
- No Smash Bros. representation. 🙁
Despite its hyper-focused content, Tokyo Mirage Sessions is still a hefty game- ranging somewhere between fifty to sixty hours, thanks to improved loading times and the Session speed-up setting. Once you’ve seen a flashy Session animation, you can switch them off mid battle so that you don’t sit there for around twenty seconds watching things all play out. While I’ve experienced a sizable chunk of the game’s content (and have played through the title previously on Wii U), I’ve still got a few hours to log before I submit my final impressions. Be sure to check back at SwitchRPG for my full review.