Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore: I shouted “A thief” and I loved it!

Who I am
Marie-Ange Demory
@marie-angedemory

In a videogame context increasingly characterized by the predominance of iterations exquisitely multiplayer, there is an increasing need for strong exponents capable of holding up the flag of the single player game. Companies such as Nintendo often respond to this unspoken request, which with the arrival of Nintendo Switch has strongly beaten this path, with excellent results. The company has been able to quickly become the home of the indies, for one thing, but also the stronghold of a genre that makes the single player its only (or almost) dimension, which has begun to give way too quickly, crushed from the tastes of an ever-changing public. We are talking about JRPG (Japanese role-playing games), whose media coverage - even for its own faults, mind you - has faded more and more, so much so that it has become, in some ways, a niche genre. The repetitiveness and the lack of real revolutionary ideas within the large productions linked to the genre in question are the most incisive elements of this success that is gradually less and less marked but, fortunately, there are several exceptions that have been able to bring high, with pride and above all style to sell, the good name of what, in the PlayStation 2 generation, was probably the most fervent exponent of the videogame sphere.



We refer, for example, to titles such as Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Nintendo exclusive), the first Ni No Kuni, recently returned to the market in the form of remastered, but also the splendid Dragon Quest XI, until the achievement of a real sensory sublimation reached by Atlus with his Persona 5, in all probability the best exponent of the genre in the current generation of consoles and the previous one. The same company has always made Japanese role-playing games its main source of inspiration, but it has not always managed to achieve the right media attention obtained with the aforementioned Persona 5. Thanks to the publication on Nintendo Wii U, one of the consoles less widespread and popular than the last few generations, it has gone completely unnoticed Tokyo Mirage Session #FE, JRPG with an incredible style, son of the "fusion" between the universes of Shin Megami Tensei e Fire Emblem. If just putting the two high-sounding names next to each other has made you shiver with pleasure, you have already taken a good step forward in understanding where this review will go.



Hey now, you’re an all-star!

The title of Atlus is strongly inspired by the Persona saga, from which it strongly inherits the themes and the technical direction in general, but woe to consider it a mere derivative. It must be said that, once the game has started, everything will make us believe that we have a new chapter in the series in our hands, since the aesthetic and structural similarities are immediately events and very marked. However, a few moments will be enough to understand how much Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore - name chosen for the Switch version - is different from its more famous cousins, starting from the narrative component, decidedly less complex and stately from the point of view of the themes, but which turns out to be one of the most interesting aspects of the game. It all starts in an incredibly current context, a reality show-style audition, in which (albeit with different roles) also those who will later turn out to be the two protagonists of the story participate: Itsuki Aoi e Tsubasa Oribe. The two young people, in particular the latter, cultivate the great dream of becoming great celebrities, prominent exponents of a rich and multifaceted universe like that of show business, incredibly current and focal in the Land of the Rising Sun. And that's exactly where the title of Atlus strongly detaches itself from the Persona saga, thanks to a less fantasy and above all less "dark" contrast, in which everything revolves around the world of entertainment, also using as the main vehicle of an intriguing and discreetly functional narrative, but which never stands out truly, remaining linear from start to finish and closely tied to its identity.

After all, as per tradition, Atlus is a master in creating bivalent universes, split in two, a double face of a coin that is so light but which can turn out to be a boulder in the wrong hands. And, here too, you take part in this contradiction, in which the colorful "human" world unknowingly lives on a dimension that is not unique, but shared. Hidden under the unsuspecting eyes of a population perhaps excessively blinded by a world of entertainment and its strong media coverage lies a dark and threatening danger, skilfully contextualized in its simplicity. In the world there are entities called Mirages that feed on people's talent, called Performa, which once absorbed by these figures end up disappearing, literally, sucked into a mysterious and above all invisible otherworldly dimension. Due to her great talent, the beautiful Oribe becomes the main target of the Mirage and the race of her childhood friend Itsuki to be able to rescue her is in fact the event that opens the doors wide at the beginning of the game itself, which is realized with the access in a mysterious dimension, dark and twisted abode of the same antagonists. From here on, the events will basically follow this double path: on the one hand the rise to success of the young protagonists, on the other their desire to defend the innocent to whom, clearly, Oribe and Itsuki are strongly linked by talent and desire. to become, in fact, famous artists. The result is a much more linear story than that of the other Atlus productions, but no less interesting, indeed, whose real flaw lies not in the quality of the story, but in that of the various characters, probably too stereotyped and "flat" , with which it is very difficult to empathize, especially with the male protagonist, who is sometimes excessively anonymous.



Pure JRPG!

The narrative duality also has direct repercussions from a playful point of view, albeit with major differences compared to the more famous cousins. Unlike the Persona saga, in Tokyo Mirage the "human" component is much less pronounced and not equally relevant than the more practical one. Therefore, long school sessions or the management of a whole day are forgotten, all elements that here give way to a much more frenetic and linear pace, in which the narrative phases are broken up by long sessions to be faced with weapons leveled within increasingly complex and layered themed dungeons. Once inside a dungeon, usually divided into different floors culminating with a spectacular boss (all very beautiful to look at, indeed), you come across a multitude of secrets, often hidden through small, easy-to-solve environmental puzzles, which they often offer the player a good pay, in terms of consumable items and, why not, new pieces of equipment. These, in truth, are rather small, but not due to the lack of generosity of the loot, but due to the very nature of the wearable objects, deliberately reduced to the bone by the developers.

The role-playing component of the game, at this juncture, is clearly less marked, for a very precise choice and not for unfortunate causes of fate. There are only two equipment slots (three if you consider the costume): weapons and accessories, which give bonuses and malus to both the player and his "Person". In Tokyo Mirage, in fact, each member of the party is flanked by a warrior entity who accompanies him in battle, drawn from the Fire Emblem universe (see Crhom) who finds himself in the game world for no apparent reason. All this information adds up on the altar of what is one of the most successful parts of the game, namely the combat system. Without upsetting, the engine that drives the battles of the Atlus title is one of the freshest and funniest and above all pyrotechnic. Thanks also to a scenic rendering on the shields, every single fight will be a rush of pure adrenaline, but woe to think that it is all due to an unbridled button mashing, indeed. The clashes, while retaining that characteristic nature of the genre, are already from the very beginning technical and more difficult than expected and require the player to have a strong strategic sense in approaching each enemy, also based on what are the characteristics of the latter. Just the "bestiary" is one of the spearheads of the series, and you can easily notice it not only from the splendid bosses, but also from the simple enemies, all very aesthetically inspired and well organized in battle. Often, in fact, the game puts us in front of opponents with very different characteristics, with varied weaknesses and strengths, in such a way as to make each fight more and more difficult and gradually more difficult as the hours of play go by. Furthermore, the enemy artificial intelligence is very witty, capable of targeting the weak link of the party often times, thus giving rise to an almost constant situation of numerical disadvantage. To deal with this "problem", in addition to the healthy grinding, the player must keep an eye on the issue of upgrades, available in the Bloom Palace, a sort of training center, in which it is possible to create new weapons and unlock new skills to party members. Each weapon corresponds to certain skills, to be developed precisely through the use of the weapon in question in battle, but not only.



The different weapons are linked to different skills, often divided by element (fire, water, etc.), and their use becomes fundamental against one or the other opponent, for a playful depth that is all in all much more elaborate than it might seem. . These peculiarities are embedded in a system in which, in any case, the level of general challenge is always quite high, not only that of the clashes, and this is particularly noticeable in the secondary activities, which often become fundamental in order to break the progress of the plot, whose linearity risks spilling over to the playful level as well. Overall, however, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore, today as yesterday on Wii U, is an incredibly fun and rewarding game., shame about a difficulty curve that is not always in focus which can lead to avoidable moments of frustration. To deal with these problems, the game provides an area specially used for training (which in the base game was sold separately, as a DLC) whose access and development is however linked to the progress of the main story.

Boku no ... Idol!

The aspect in which, probably, the duality we were talking about a moment ago makes itself felt in a more dominant way when analyzing the artistic and technical discourse of production, in particular that of character design. If from a purely aesthetic point of view everything is inspired, colorful and full of references to a continuous and commendable pop culture, in which the same protagonists are represented with maniacal care, worthy of an anime of great depth, the same does not we can say - unfortunately - of their characterization, excessively stereotyped and not very daring, which makes empathy with the cast a simple utopia. Fortunately, the secondary activities, including some additional missions included in the Encore version, are able to further deepen those who are, for example, some of the supporting actors, much more inspired than the protagonists but still far from the other productions of the software house. The scenes made in computer graphics, however, give on the Switch even more than on the Wii U a breath of charm that is impossible to ignore, and more generally the work done on the new version, in technical terms, appears to be of a good standard. This is felt, in particular, in the uploads, now much faster and less frequent, and in the general cleaning of the image, certainly more effective, capable of rendering the splendid artistic frame the daughter of an almost predominant pop art, only partially ruined by a cast made up of characters who are all in all amusing and pleasant to observe, but certainly far from the status of unforgettable.

The game, in any case, remains very pleasant to play, whether connected to the TV or in portable mode, and has never given us problems in terms of frame rates or technical imbalances in general. Too bad for some characters a little too small to read when playing from the sofa or bed, but the developers have integrated a very functional mini-map to make the exploration of the areas, actually very small and circumscribed, less frustrating and faster. The strong point of the production certainly remains the choice of using a cast of aspiring artists, singers, former actors and future idols, a solution so obvious but also "neglected" in the past that makes each passage very light, net of a plot general who never fails to point out the presence of a dark and threatening world, hidden under the eyes of those who spend their lives trapped in a routine that is also ours. We had fun, we were passionate, we really enjoyed fighting and, honestly, we struggle to understand why this title went so unnoticed. The only flaw? Censorship! But now, it makes little sense to talk about this. Finally, the songs that make up the excellent soundtrack are very beautiful, some of them original, created specifically for this new version of the game.

USEFUL INFO

I played Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore mainly in "docked" mode, often alternating with phases of the game in portability, comfortably lying in bed or on the sofa. My good impressions of the eve were all (or almost) kept: fun, pleasant to see and not too complex to "understand", the title of Atlus gave me moments of sincere emotion, clearly children of my great passion for culture Japanese and, above all, for that linked to the sphere of manga and anime.

Duration
  • Over forty, forty-five hours for the main campaign alone.
  • The secondary activities (highly recommended) easily double the general longevity.
  • Farming required to continue exploration, which increases the hours of gameplay even more.
Structure
  • Japanese audio, English and French texts.
  • The absence of the Italian language could scare some players.
Collectibles and Extras
  • "Internal" objectives, achievable upon completion of various activities, both in battle and "outside".
Game Card
  • Game Name: Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore
  • Release date: January 17 2020
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch
  • Dubbing language: Japanese
  • Texts language: English French

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is one of the most interesting titles of this 2020, net of media attention that is anything but enviable. The landing on the most fortunate shores of Nintendo Switch can give the particular "cross-over" of Atlus the right luster and it would probably be the time too. Even without being memorable on the narrative level and not particularly elaborate in its management structure, it turns out without too much trouble one of the best JRPG of recent years, characterized by a very accurate aesthetic appearance and a frenetic and fun fighting system. All this is accompanied by a cast that is not very inspired, of course, but which on the whole works, thanks to an original thematic choice, which takes as a reference the fascinating world of entertainment, a real "ball" on Japanese soil. It would be an understatement to call it a smaller and more direct Persona 5 (or maybe 4) but, net of our experience, this is the overall idea we have. And we loved it!

Review by Salvatore Cardone
Graphics

Definitely "cleaner" than its original version, the port on Nintendo Switch offers not only aesthetic improvements, but above all technical ones. The loads, for one thing, are reduced to the bone and the most frenetic combat phases are all in all stable and enjoyable. In the background, however, there is a colorful and highly inspired game, pleasant to see and "live".

83
SOUNDTRACK AND DOUBLE ROOM

The soundtracks are beautiful, some of which are exclusive to the Nintendo Switch version. On average, the dubbing of the various characters, slightly stereotyped also on a "vocal" level.

80
GAMEPLAY

In its simplicity, the Tokyo Mirage Session #FE Encore gameplay is one of the funniest in the colorful JRPG landscape. Technical, frenetic but at the same time complex, with a strategic component on display, the title of Atlus never tires and, indeed, is a constantly evolving challenge. The only flaw is some sudden peaks of difficulty that left us a little bitter in the mouth ...

87
Total Rating scale
85
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