Port Patrol – Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is the best game no one played, now playable!
Nintendo is in the business of porting Wii U games to the Switch for a second chance, but Tokyo Mirage Sessions needs it the most. It came out at the end of the Wii U’s lifetime, well past the point where anyone cared about new Wii U software with the Switch on the horizon. Not only that, Persona 5 was fast approaching, so no one particularly wanted to play this weird Persona/Fire Emblem crossover when they could just get the real deal by waiting a little while. Things could not have been worse when it came to release timing, which is a shame because Tokyo Mirage Sessions is and always has been genuinely a fantastic game.
What is Tokyo Mirage Sessions?
If you missed TMS the first time around, think about something like Persona light. You have the dungeon crawling, the turn based battles with huge rewards doled out for hitting an enemy’s weakness, character customization that lets you tweak your abilities through a complex puzzle, and much more. What you won’t be getting is the time management aspect of Persona nor will you be getting the trademark dark plotlines or 150 hours of gameplay.
In its place are a handful of Fire Emblem mechanics including randomized stats, recognizable equipment, Personas, or in this case Mirages, made out of Fire Emblem characters drawn in the Persona art style, noticeable Fire Emblem locations, music, and themes, and even a decent bit of Fire Emblem based strategy in combat, such as the weapon triangle. You’ll also get a handful of side-quests standing in for social links, more heavily puzzle oriented dungeons standing in for palaces, and a more lighthearted plot surrounding Japanese idol culture, instead of the dark plots of the Persona series. All of this is tied up in a nice little package that you can finish in 50-ish hours.
The new content
Of course, this is an Atlus port, and Atlus is known for ports that go above and beyond. Persona 3 Portable, Persona 4 Golden, and Catherine Full Body were practically entirely new games! Tokyo Mirage Sessions Encore is… well it’s not. It’s certainly the least impressive of all of Atlus’s ports, however that still means it’s a cut above every other port out there.
You get your standard spread of new abilities to try out, such as the ability to make NPCs join into Tokyo Mirage Sessions’ iconic multi-character “session” attacks. You also get a handful of “EX Chapters” which put you through dungeons that let you unlock costumes which were DLC in the original version, as well as get some items and abilities exclusive to the port. While all of this is welcome, it’s not exactly impressive. The EX chapters aren’t bad, but they are short and aren’t nearly as complex as the puzzle dungeons you usually go through. Their stories are also kind of shallow, not necessarily bad but wrapped up nicely without a lot of effort or investment.
The best new additions to Tokyo Mirage Sessions come from the very fact that it’s on the Switch rather than the Wii U. Load times were a major problem in the original, with battle transitions sometimes taking up to 10 seconds, and major scene transitions taking up to thirty. In this new version you’ll rarely find a load time that lasts more than a second or two, and that makes a huge difference when you really want to dive in and binge for long periods of time.
And if you don’t, that’s fine too. Tokyo Mirage Sessions’ dungeons are shorter than Persona’s, lending themselves to quick spurts of gameplay which, once again, can be taken advantage of in the Switch’s portable mode. You can just as easily play this as a side game as you can your main RPG. It’s a very light but enjoyable affair, which fits the Nintendo brand perfectly.
In the shadow of Persona 5
When Tokyo Mirage Sessions first came out, we were still waiting for Persona 5. We gave it a 9, saying that it was the perfect game to hold you over until Persona 5’s release. Now, history is repeating itself. While Persona 5 is out, it’s much anticipated expansion Persona 5 Royal is on the way in a couple months. So we get to see Tokyo Mirage Sessions Encore both in relation to its previous version, and to what could be considered the best Persona game of all time.
Looking at this game in relation to Persona 5, it’s clear that this is meant to be more casual. It’s just not as hard, not as deep, and not as polished. There’s no English voice track, for example, and while many of us weebs would be fine with an all Japanese voice track, they also don’t subtitle battle dialogue for some strange reason. Persona is known for being a hard game, but Tokyo Mirage Sessions’ normal mode can fairly easily be blown through.
Looking at it in relation to the original on the Wii U, it’s clear that Encore is the definitive version. It just doesn’t add as much as other Atlus ports. The extra content and better load times are enough to warrant a purchase if you haven’t played before. There’s also a cleaned up mini-map and a new menu for text messages (since the Switch doesn’t have a second screen.) However, it didn’t really feel as if I was playing a new game, and if you played the original as well, it’s probably not worth picking up at full price.
Looking at this game in relation to Persona 5 Royal, we can only repeat what we said before. It’s a fantastic game, another 9, and it’s perfect to hold you over until Royal comes out. There aren’t a lot of RPGs releasing in the next few months, at least not until the deluge that Final Fantasy 7 Remake seems to bring on. Many high profile titles like Cyberpunk 2077 have been delayed leaving a huge gap in the early year release calendar. This is a gap that Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore fills nicely.
The same great game it always was
In short, the new content isn’t anything spectacular, but it doesn’t make Tokyo Mirage Sessions any worse. It’s still a solid 9 out of 10, one of the best JRPGs to be had on a Nintendo platform. And let’s face it, this is as close as you are going to get to a Switch Persona 5 release. If you missed it the first time around this is a must play, and if you didn’t, I wouldn’t say to avoid a purchasing it again, but there’s no rush. Wait for it to go on sale and then enjoy the same great experience all over again.