This past weekend while trying to stave off the flu, I made an effort to complete a large portion of Tokyo Mirage Sessions. My son was out of town and my body needed to spend as much time as possible relaxing, so what better way to spend hours lying in bed than helping Tokyo’s up and coming idols defeat some Fire Emblem villains to a snazzy J-pop soundtrack? Last week I shared my first impressions and those impressions stayed strong. The session system kept combat quick and sharp, experimenting with different characters and abilities was engaging, and each of the game’s dungeons had a strong theme that helps each one to feel unique. I was having a really good time until all of a sudden, something interrupted the game’s exciting pace.
On the upper floors of a particular dungeon, I encountered what is known as a savage enemy. Most enemies in Tokyo Mirage Session appear on the field as red cloaked figures hovering just above the ground; touching them begins an encounter but a slash with your sword will knock them down so you can choose whether or not to engage. Savage enemies are cloaked in black, and a swipe of your blade won’t knock them away. And most importantly, savage enemies are more powerful than you. Regardless of how overleveled you might be for the local area, savage enemies will always be four to five levels higher than your party. This makes them dangerous no matter where you encounter them, and this particular instance was no different. As the battle started I wanted to play carefully, so I targeted the opponent that seemed the most dangerous based on encounters with weaker forms and began my attack.
Despite pulling off a great session with multiple blows hitting the enemy weak point, I only chipped down around half of the monster’s health. Two of its companions immediately cast spells to put two members of my party to sleep, and then began casting AOE magic spells. The spells were powerful, doing 100+ damage to characters who were neutral to the element and almost 200 damage to the characters who were weak to the attack. It became clear that I was about to be wiped out, and sure enough, all three of my party members fell and it was my first game over of the game. I waited to see where I would respawn – the beginning of the room? The beginning of the dungeon? Fortuna Entertainment? It was none of the above. Horror began to set in as the game took me back to the starting menu. When was my last autosave? I asked myself. The answer, as it turns out, is that there was no autosave. And my last manual save was over two hours prior to the point where I died. With no warning, with no ceremony, and with little means to prevent the situation from coming about, two and a half hours of progress were thrown in the trash.
If you’ve been playing video games for a long enough time, chances are you’ve played a game where something like this happened to you. This isn’t the first time I’ve lost progress in a video game. Nevertheless, it was a frustrating moment, and it was one that made me stop and consider whether or not I wanted to continue chipping away at Tokyo Mirage Sessions. Sure, right now I’m enjoying an unusually large amount of gaming time due to the circumstances, but during the work week an incident like this would effectively ruin what little bit of gaming I managed to cram into my evening. Was this game really worth my time when it was so easy to lose my time?
Ultimately I decided to keep going, and luckily the ability to fast forward cut scenes reduced the amount of time spent catching up. For awhile I was more aware of the need to save and made a point of doing so more often. The game fortunately seemed to back off the number of savage enemies I encountered for a little while (not intentionally, as far as I am aware), and after awhile I forgot about the incident. Outside of the savage enemies, the game really isn’t difficult – even the bosses are quite manageable. Additionally, any time you are about to encounter a scripted difficult enemy, the game warns you to prepare and save by indicating that a dangerous presence is on the other side of the door. On top of all that, I did have one or two more savage enemy encounters which ended with my party being victorious, which certainly boosted my confidence.
The next morning I got up to play some more. With a new dungeon to explore and a new character in my party, I had a lot to keep me engaged and was having lots of fun learning abilities. Many of my characters needed some additional weapons so I decided to grind for rare encounters in a particular dungeon where the enemies were a low level. My grinding was going smoothly and I had almost all of the rare performa I needed – and then suddenly a savage enemy grabbed me from behind. The camera angle had kept them away from my view, and now I was locked into a battle. I considered running but decided to try and fight through the encounter as I had the past couple of savage enemies I met. Two javelin rains later and once again 2+ hours of progress went down the drain.
Savage enemies live up to their name, and as a player if you run through Tokyo Mirage Sessions without being prepared for them, this is a situation you will ultimately have to deal with. For me, a significant time loss may mean the difference between completing a game and setting it aside for a different title. If you’re the same way, then it’s important to understand the perfect storm of circumstances that creates these situations and to have tools in your belt for dealing with them. My suggestions will focus on two main topics: advice for dealing with savage enemies when they appear, and advice for mitigating your time lost when circumstances get the better of you.
SAVAGE ENEMY STRATEGIES
The first thing you’re going to want to do comes way before a savage enemy ever appears on your screen. This option will only be available to you starting after chapter one of the game. Visit the Hee Ho Mart in Shibuya and talk to the masked clerk on the right side of the counter. In her inventory are items called Smoke Machines. These nifty devices are an almost-guaranteed escape from battle when used, and they are your best friend when dealing with savage enemies. Your instinct when starting a battle may be to fight instead of run, but when the risks are high the potential rewards for defeating a savage enemy are not worth it.
There are a couple of other tools you can purchase from Hee Ho Mart in order to help you out with savage enemies as well. Fasterine is a useful consumable that reduces the movement speed of enemies in the field. Part of what makes savage enemies difficult to avoid in the tight corridors of a dungeon is the inability to knock them onto the ground with your sword. By using Fasterine, you’ll be able to easily outpace them in order to walk far enough away to despawn them, or to start an encounter with a regular enemy. That’s another valuable technique when avoiding savage enemies – starting a different encounter will cause the savage enemy to be gone when you return to the field, so if you see a savage enemy and a normal enemy close together, make an effort to encounter the normal enemy instead.
The next thing to be aware of is how often you’re saving the game, and this for me has been the trickier habit to build. So much of Tokyo Mirage Sessions feels safe due to the fact that the rest of the game is quite easy that going awhile without saving is an easy trap to fall in to. It’s relatively easy to remember to save when progressing through a dungeon, but what about when you’re running random errands during an intermission? My first recommendation would be to manually save each time you finish a request or side mission – these are natural moments to stop and take stock of your current situation, so you can save while thinking about what to do next. I would recommend doing the same whenever you enter a dungeon – you’ve officially passed into an unsafe space, so this will at least make it so that at worst you’re returning to the beginning of the area you are about to explore.
Now in my case, just thinking to myself “I should remember to save at these specific times” didn’t help me remember to save. I’m pretty conditioned to autosave at this point and except for when you’re about to face a boss, Tokyo Mirage Sessions does not have save points or save prompts to assist you in remembering to save manually as often as you need to. That places the responsibility for remembering onto you as the player. In my case, what I do is set a timer to go off at set intervals and save when the timer goes off. It probably seems silly, but I genuinely don’t remember to save without some kind of concrete reminder, and I certainly don’t want to lose 2.5 hours of progress for a third time! After some time of using your phone or a timer to help you remember, it might be easier to establish the habit of saving without outside help. Practice makes perfect, so at first you may need some extra assistance but after awhile you’ll be saving like a pro.
“BUT IAN, I WANT TO FIGHT AND DEFEAT SAVAGE ENEMIES INSTEAD OF RUNNING AWAY!”
I can appreciate the desire to use your preparedness as a way of getting the jump on savage enemies instead of planning to escape them. After all, they give significant amounts of experience and drop some rare items that you can use later to craft better weapons. So what can you do to prepare yourself to face a savage enemy in combat and come out the other side? One of the key weapons in your arsenal for this is the Special Performance. Special Performances do increased damage, tend to have helpful side effects, and they use a different resource (SP) than your other moves. When you use a Special Performance the actual weakness of your target doesn’t matter – your allies will still session off of you regardless. This allows you to deal heavy damage as many as three times if you’re using cheap enough moves. Of course, when the opponent is more powerful than you sometimes the best offense is a good defense. Hee Ho Mart sells consumable items which place protective barriers around your party to improve their defenses against enemy attacks or buff your team’s attack power. Since savage enemies will definitely be on a higher level than you, evening the odds by increasing your stats can be a valuable approach. Just know that sometimes taking the offensive before the enemy can is a key strategy when dealing with savage enemies. If you’re using the saving strategies described above, the penalty for losing should be minimal, so feel free to try your luck against savage enemies to your heart’s content.
It’s been tough recovering from the hours of progress I’ve lost playing this game, and I do wish there were some tools present that helped prevent the chain of events I experienced. At the very least, there’s no practical reason why this game shouldn’t autosave when you fast travel or when you enter a dungeon. But in the absence of that the above advice will hopefully help you (and me!) make steady progress through Tokyo Mirage Sessions without an unexpected and difficult encounter getting in the way.