Bottom line: This game offers fun turn-based combat, a fantastical look into the world of J-Pop, and gorgeous anime cutscenes. While it has Fire Emblem elements, it plays more like Shin Megami Tensei.
Fun turn-based combat
Gorgeous anime cutscenes
Lets you be a pop star
All OG DLC included
Interesting dungeon puzzles
Exciting and charming world
Can speed up battle animations
No auto save
Limited overworld areas
Vocal dialogue is in Japanese
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From looking at teasers and screenshots, it can be hard to tell what this game is about, and that's because it's a pretty strange concept. I mean, pop music and RPGs don't have a lot in common. Basically, if you've ever wanted to be a pop star with a secret hero identity, now's your chance with Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore.
Players take control of a group of teenagers who are out to save the world from an invading force of evil Mirages that are trying to steal everyone's Performa - basically their talent. The game asserts that the best way to combat this evil is by doing two things: 1. Becoming a pop star and 2. Fighting alongside the good Mirages of popular Fire Emblem characters.
The game originally released on Wii U in 2015, but due to the fact that Nintendo's previous console wasn't very popular, many players never got the chance to play it - until now. I hadn't experienced the game myself until its recent Switch release. I spent over 20 hours playing this JRPG. During that time, I discovered that this game has more mechanics in common with Atlus' Shin Megami Tensei than it does Fire Emblem. While it's nothing like what I expected, it's oddly-charming and provides plenty of energetic gameplay.
Energetic game play and fun combat
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore What I like
In some ways this game reminds me of Kingdom Hearts; it's a random combination of games that shouldn't work together, but somehow manages to be extremely charming by doing so. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore takes a look at the vibrant and energetic world of J-Pop and has elements from the Atlus and Fire Emblem games thrown in.
Creative worlds Bright colors and thought-provoking puzzles
Your team is made up of a mix of established and aspiring entertainers who have heroesque personas that battle talent-stealing Mirages. Keeping with this theme, the dungeons have a focus on the performing arts. For instance, one dungeon's puzzle's center on fashion, while another dungeon centers on photography and modeling. While part of me wants to cringe while encountering all the Pop-centered elements in this game, another part of me finds it all exciting and fun. The game is enjoyable mostly due to the fact that beating the dungeon puzzles and mastering combat is actually challenging.
I'll admit, I do wish that traversing the dungeons was a little more straightforward as it would have prevented me from running around in circles for several minutes. However, for people like me who love to overpower characters in RPGs, the good thing about being lost is that it provides plenty of chances for me to battle enemies and level up my characters before getting to the boss.
In JRPG fashion, players will sometimes be given options in their dialogue. From what I've been able to see, this is mostly just to give the illusion of choices, but sometimes the options given can result in funny conversations. If you're not sure what you need to do to progress the plot further, you simply pull up your Topic - basically your smartphone - and read the messages other characters have sent you. From their input, you'll be able to figure out where the game wants you to go next.
Entertaining combat Weapon triangle
The Fire Emblem aspects aren't as present as I thought they would be. Aside from including popular characters like Chrom and Caeda, the biggest mechanic shared with the Fire Emblem series is the weapon triangle, which hasn't actually been seen in the most recent Fire Emblem games. I had to pay attention to which enemy I was engaging with and try to use the proper attacks against them. Each character has different weapons, strengths, and abilities so you also have to be conscious of which teammates you bring into a battle. For instance, in the picture above, the Ironclad Myrmidon is weak against spears, ice, electric, light, and dark attacks.
The catch to this form of combat is that if you've never encountered an enemy before, you'll have to figure out what their weaknesses and resistances are by trial and error. However, once you've fought an enemy, you'll be able to see which attacks are more powerful against your opponents. This makes battling bosses difficult and provides more of a challenge than I expected.
Sometimes, selecting an effective move against an opponent can trigger a Session - a battle mechanic we've seen before in Atlus' Megami Tensei, which basically means that a character's allies will automatically attack right after one of their comrades without using up their turn. In addition to landing serious damage on your enemies using a Session, your own team can suffer a devastating defeat if hit with one. As such, you need to keep plenty of reviving and healing items in your inventory when facing certain enemies.
Gorgeous art style Anime cutscenes and character designs
One of the best things about this game is that whenever you beat a boss, unlock a character's newest hit song, or whenever any other major cutscene begins, it's all animated in a gorgeous anime style. There's plenty of music videos for you to watch, the characters themselves are all interesting to look at, and there is plenty of color and creativity put into each chapter to keep you engaged.
Several improvements All OG DLC and additional options
All the DLC created for the original Wii U game is included in the Switch version including additional outfits, side stories, and weapons. Anyone who played the original games will also discover that there have been a few improvements, which make the game run more smoothly. The improvement I like most is the ability to speed up battle animations, which can take a lot of time to play through - especially when a Session gets initiated.
In addition to including all of the original Wii U DLC, new outfits have been added to the game including a Joker outfit from Persona 5. These changes might not be enough to warrant someone purchasing the game again if they got it originally on Wii U, but they do provide a more fun experience.
It's a little weird
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore What I don't like
I want to preface this part of the review by saying that the whole time I played this game I felt strange. For one thing, I'm not into J-Pop or Pop music in general. Since those things were heavily at the center of this game, many of the plot elements felt bizarre to me. For instance, it's odd seeing that one of the most powerful fighters on my team wields a microphone-shaped spear.
It's also incredibly strange for me when a tense part of the storyline is interrupted by an unnecessary concert or music video. I will admit, the animation and music are catchy and fun to watch, but as with many musicals, it pulls you out of the plot's momentum. Still, this game works so hard to entertain you and put a smile on your face. I was unable to fully resist its charms, though I did feel a little unsettled at times.
No auto save Forgetting to save sets you back
Nowadays, saving capabilities make it a lot easier to progress in games. However, this one requires you to manually save and doesn't feature auto saving. For that reason, if you forget to save before entering a boss fight, and you lose said fight, the game will start back up at your last save. So you might have to repeat several of the things you already did, including watching long cutscenes, just to get back to that big battle. It's a little annoying, but then again you have no one to blame but yourself when this happens. Save often and you won't have this problem.
Japanese vocals You might not understand some dialogue
Now, I'm not against having Japanese vocals in this game. I'm sure that's a big pull for many fans of Japanese culture. However, I don't like that some areas of the game don't provide subtitles to let you know what the characters are saying. To be fair, the main storyline always has subtitles for you to read, but they are missing during battles. I usually have no idea what the bosses or even my own teammates are saying when we engage in combat and that makes me feel like I'm missing out on something. Even if it's something small like better understanding each character's personalities.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore Bottom Line
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is a strange-yet delightful JRPG. It's probably more likely to be a hit among fans of Japanese culture due to the Toyko location and focus on J-Pop. However, as someone who isn't familiar with that sort of thing, I found the turn-based combat mechanics fun and the world to be very vibrant.
Fire Emblem fans shouldn't expect much in common with the strategic games except for seeing some of their favorite FE characters and using the weapon triangle in battle. However, anyone familiar with Shin Megami Tensei will already be somewhat familiar with the Session element of battle. All in all, this is a great game filled with heart and plenty of upbeat energy.
Japan's Got Talent
Become a pop star to save the world
This charming-yet-strange JRPG has you taking command of a group of talented young teenagers who are out to stop an invading force by becoming pop sensations and fighting alongside popular Fire Emblem characters.
Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.