This Week in Games
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore

by Heidi Kemps,

I get a lot of random games PR stuff in my email inbox. A decent chunk of it is welcome and relevant to what I write, but there are a fair few press releases and solicitations for… odd… products. By “odd,” I mean these things are downright shady at worst, but at best, they just make me go “who the heck is going to want this?”

The latter is my reaction when I saw an email with a press release announcing that some folks got together and decided it was a good idea to open Atari-themed hotels.

So we've all heard that Universal Studios parks are going to be equipped with brand-new Super Nintendo Worlds over the next several years, right? I think we're all excited to see what a Nintendo theme park is going to look like. Almost as if to counter the announcement that Super Nintendo Worlds will be seen outside of Universal Studios Japan, Atari (or, more specifically, the people who own the Atari name) and GSD Group are planning a bunch of Atari-branded hotels across the United States.

Here's my question: why would you want to stay in an Atari hotel? The brand has been endlessly dragged through the mud since the mid-80s, and currently, the brand is most associated online with terrible crowdfunding campaigns. On top of that, all of the IP that Atari somehow still hasn't sold off – Pong, Asteroids, Missile Command, and so on – doesn't hold value to anyone under the age of 40. Why is this company that can't even ship its crowdfunded projects trying to get into hospitality, and why should we trust them to give a good themed hotel experience? I'm just so utterly baffled.

EVO JAPAN ANNOUNCEMENTS: THE SAMURAI COMETH

Well, EVO Japan 2020 was a bit lighter on news than I would have hoped, but we did get a couple of great DLC character reveals… all centered around Samurai Shodown!

First off… we had first heard about Haohmaru coming to Soul Calibur VI at EVO 2019, but during the Soul Calibur VI finals, we got our first chance to see what our favorite ronin looks like on the stage of history!

Yup, they nailed it. Even got the classic Gairyu Isle stage in there! Namco never seems to disappoint when it comes to guest characters.

Meanwhile, back on SNK's home turf, we've got an announcement for Season 2 of Samurai Shodown DLC, and, uh… I hope you like fanservice, because we've got a lot of it here.

While Sogetsu was leaked some time ago, this is the first time we're seeing Mina Majikina and Iroha in glorious 3D! Mina was first introduced back in Samurai Shodown V and quickly became a fan favorite, while Iroha debuted in Samurai Shodown VI and extremely quickly became a fan favorite. I mean, sideboob + maid outfit + submissive demeanor towards the player hits a whole bunch of specific moe points. I think it's easy to see why Season 1 of Samurai Shodown DLC was free: they were cool characters but, perhaps aside from Shizumaru, not ones to really stoke fan furor. But Season 2… these are the characters people want to drop money on (plus Sogetsu to ward off accusations of pandering too hard). But who is that last character being teased? Speculation is pointing towards Amakusa, which I can believe. I'm just bitter it's not best girl Cham Cham. *sob*

POKEMON HOME WILL KEEP YOUR CRITTER COLLECTION IN THE CLOUD

Pokémon Home was announced as a replacement for Pokémon Bank a good while ago, but now we actually know a bit more about what it does!

Pokémon Home is available on mobile platforms and Switch, and comes in two flavors: Basic and Premium. Both tiers let you move a bunch of Pokémon around from different games: Pokémon GO, Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu/Eevee, Pokémon Sword and Shield, and presumably other games that will come down the pipe. (GO will not be supported immediately.) Home will let you store your creatures in cloud storage, deposit Pokémon you want to trade with others for other random Pokémon in a Wonder Box, put Pokémon you want to trade for something more specific on the GTS, hop in a private room to trade with other trainers, get mystery gifts sent to you from time to time, and even have your Pokémon's stats analyzed with the Judge feature.

But, as you may have guessed by there being a “premium” tier, some services are either restricted or unavailable to those who don't fork over a monthly or yearly fee. You can't transfer Pokémon over from the old Pokémon Bank at all without a Premium subscription, and the size of your cloud collection is significantly smaller (30 for Basic, 6000 for premium). Basic users also can't host trade rooms or use the Judge feature. Here's a full breakdown from Nintendo's site:

One month of Pokémon Home costs $3, 3 months is $5, and a year will run you $16, making that the best value. People are understandably a bit salty about those prices, as Pokémon Bank was only $5 yearly. Yes, Pokémon Home is more fully-featured… but a lot of folks feel like GTS and Wonder Trade should be in the base game rather than an outside program. $15 yearly still isn't awful, all things considered (you'd probably spend more trying to get a good Pokémon Masters roll), and I'm sure the super-serious Pokefans already have some money set aside for it.

TWIG BONUS REVIEW SPECIAL: TOKYO MIRAGE SESSIONS #FE ENCORE

When Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE first debuted on the Wii U, I wasn't terribly interested in playing it. I'm sure I had a lot of other stuff to play at the time, but honestly, the whole theme just turned me off. I'm not a huge fan of idols and idol culture in general, and that sort of theming was not what I expected or wanted out of a game announced as a Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem crossover.

Skip ahead a few years and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore has emerged again to give this oddball crossover a second life on a far more successful console. I was offered a code to do a review on ANN, and I said, sure, why not? Maybe it's time to finally check this game out. And boy, am I glad I did, because once you're past the initial barrier of always-in-your-face idol themes and imagery, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is a fantastic RPG.

Let's get the negatives out of the way first: I still don't really enjoy idol stuff, and the weird mishmash of reverse-isekai, anime, and becoming-a-star tropes that make up most of #FE's backstory aren't terribly exciting. And, as someone who likes both Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei, I feel like #FE's connection to either series is not a particularly strong one. But once you're into the game, it's surprisingly easy to set those complaints aside.

Unlike several other major RPGs, #FE does not waste a lot of time before dropping you into dungeons and battles. And that's great, because man, the turn-based combat in this game is fantastic. The main gameplay conceit focuses on “sessions,” which are essentially tag skills party and support members have that activate when you successfully target an enemy's weakness. Session combos start out small in the early game, but with some clever skill planning and setup can became amazingly ridiculous. Hitting enemies with a juicy attack and having your friends all engage in an increasingly enormous damage pile-on is tremendously enjoyable.

It's not just the combat gameplay that's fun, either – the dungeon designs are fantastic, filled with surrealistic imagery and unique gimmicks that make every area you explore feel memorable. There aren't all that many big dungeons in #FE, but thanks to some creative puzzle and map design, every one of them leaves a lasting impression. (Well, save for maybe the generic training dungeon you can visit.)

The other thing I really came to love were the various side stories that took place between #FE's main story chapters. In-between all of the nonsense about Mirages invading and stealing people's Performa energy, there are some really fun little sidequests that focus on various central characters (both playable and NPC). Much like Persona's Social Links, it's in these quests where you'll see many of #FE's most enjoyable character moments. While they do yield substantial gameplay rewards (in the form of randomly activated special attacks during battle), spending time with your friends in the talent agency and seeing all the nifty little side stories is satisfying in itself.

I enjoyed #FE a lot more than I was expecting, and I always love it when a game I have doubts about manages to win me over. I won't deny that it's a tough sell: The idol stuff holds little appeal to a Western audience, the lack of an English dub track can make a player feel like they're missing out on little details (there are no subtitles outside of story scenes), and it doesn't feel anything like either of the two franchises it's supposedly combining. There's also the issue of content having been altered from the original Japanese Wii U release, though I would hope some graphical edits wouldn't keep anyone from enjoying such a fine title. (The edits are inconspicuous enough that, if you didn't know about them, you wouldn't realize anything was changed.)

Anyhow, my verdict on #FE is: give it a shot, even if you're skeptical. Heck, especially if you're skeptical. I was, and I loved it! Just be prepared to hear Tiki call you onii-chan. Like, a lot.

Alright, I think that's all for this week. Oh, crap, I forgot about Steins;Gate 0 Elite! … but then again, my reaction to that is mostly the same as the Atari hotel: does it really need to exist? Did anyone like the anime-still-images replacements for the original art in Steins;Gate Elite? Sometimes I feel like MAGES banks too hard on just that game. Anyway, I'll see you all again next week!


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