Games: Tokyo Mirage Sessions is stylish as hell – just ignore the more bonkers bits
Tokyo Mirage Sessions FE Encore (Switch)
SITTING on quantities the West can only dream about, crazy is to Japan what oil is to the Middle East.
Taking gold at the Crazy Olympics is J-pop, where its idols are, well, idolised – and this pop music theme is infused into virtually every aspect of Tokyo Mirage Sessions, where the main characters (called artists) are budding idols doing battle on stages full of shrieking fans.
A brilliant marriage of two beloved franchises – Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei – Tokyo Mirage Sessions originally saw light in 2015 on the Wii U. Doomed to obscurity by being a niche genre on a niche console, Encore is a second wind for the top-shelf RPG on Nintendo's popular portable.
Taking place in modern-day Tokyo, young Itsuki and a supporting cast from the Fortuna Entertainment Agency dive into the Idolasphere in pursuit of a friend kidnapped by hostile beings known as mirages and where Itsuki handily discovers his Mirage Master skills enable him to free possessed humans.
Swept up into the age-old world of pop-recording, modelling and demonic possessions, the game mixes dungeon-crawling role-play with turn-based battles, all given a unique bubblegum J-pop sheen.
TME's pop industry setting is certainly unique and combat takes place within glittering arenas ringed by an excited audience of Mirages. Using the language of performance, our heroes attack with music and mic stands while special moves range from Duo Acts and Special Performances to Ad-Libs.
In battle you'll control three characters joined by a friendly mirage that morphs into weapons, each of which improves as you earn experience and with new levels unlocking additional skills. And when you tire of dungeons and battles, it's possible to go off chasing cats through Shibuya and other bizarre side-quests.
With dungeon-crawling mazes perfect for playing on the go, this Switch-bound Encore edition features all the Wii U's DLC – meaning a raft of quests, side stories and optional dungeons alongside new costumes, songs and performances to swell the game's already immense content. Best of all, quality of life tweaks include nippy load times along with a mini-map and options to skip slower parts.
But for fans of underage animated girls, Western cuts excise some of the more questionable Japanese elements, including raising the characters' ages to one of consent and deleting panty shots.
If you can ignore the grind and copious tropey idol stuff, TME is a stylish-as-hell, utterly Japanese adventure getting the second chance it sorely deserved. Its musical numbers (by anime composer Yoshiaki Fujisawa) are irritatingly catchy while the cutscenes are anime at its bonkers best. A kitschy J-pop trip, Tokyo Mirage Sessions is a long-overdue resurrection for one of the last great Wii U games.