It’s hard to imagine anyone seeing the day where Fire Emblem would become so relevant, it would end up being the second series Nintendo has brought to mobile platforms.
But this is indeed the case, and while audiences are getting a tremendously scaled back version of the popular strategy game, there’s certainly enough content in here to interest console and mobile players alike.
What Is It?
As was the case with Super Mario Run, Fire Emblem Heroes offers an authentic take on its mother series with one main caveat. While Super Mario Run didn’t give you complete control of Mario’s sense of direction, Fire Emblem Heroes limits players to four controllable units at a time on a 6×8 plane. So instead of the long and drawn-out battles that easily can take half an hour, the bouts in Fire Emblem Heroes generally take between three and seven minutes–perfect for gaming on the go.
The game’s plot is typical Fire Emblem fare. Medieval-looking people from the World of Zenith randomly find you and end up being at war with the Embliam Empire and it’s up to you to lead them to victory as a tactician. Along the way you’ll find that an evil entity is employing the services of various heroes from the lands of other Fire Emblem games, and the only way to stop that from happening is by taking each and every one of these new factions down.
Why Should I Care?
With exponentially smaller battlefields and shorter fights, it might be hard to imagine just exactly how Fire Emblem Heroes is able to retain any of its charm with the hardcore crowd, but Intelligent Systems and DeNA somehow got it to work.
Though it’s been all but eradicated in more recent entries, Fire Emblem Heroes doesn’t feature permadeath, so it might seem like the game is also much easier than its console counterparts. While this is the case, death is still quite the shortcoming.
Should you be unfortunate enough to have everyone die on a map, you can use what’s called a Light’s Blessing to have everyone revived, and that can be useful if you were just a few moves away from victory. Of course, these are a dime a dozen in the game, so you’ll have to use these wisely as you progress through the game where items become a lot more scarce. Choose not to use a Light’s Blessing, and all the experience you might have earned and the stamina used up to play that match are gone.
All that aside, longtime fans should be right at home with Fire Emblem Heroes and will be pleased to know that a lot of the strategies from the core games can still be employed in the game. Though it’s been a bit simplified thanks to a specific color scheme, the weapons triangle is back, so swords (red) still best axes, axes (green) best lances (blue), and lances best swords. Archers and magic users (both colorless) also make their return as wildcards in the battle system.
One key thing to note is every match in Fire Emblem is going to cost some stamina, so you unfortunately can’t just plow through the entire story mode in one setting. But it’s not really that bad of a thing, since this was made for on-the-go play after all.
As small as it is, it’s still Fire Emblem at its core.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Aside from the nine-chapter story mode, it’s really the meta game that’ll really keep players coming back.
With a name like Fire Emblem Heroes, some players will undoubtedly want to create a stable of the best heroes possible. Sure, you’re only limited to four heroes per bout, but like Pokémon for instance, it’s still a heck of a bragging right to say you have a specific hero on your team.
That said, the majority of heroes in the game will be obtained through summoning rituals that require five orbs (the game’s main currency) to take part in. Then you’ll draw five randomly colored spheres from which you’ll be able to draw your heroes. The colors of these spheres determine what kind of hero you’re going to get. So for example, since swordsmen are represented by red in the game, they’ll be in red spheres. There’ll also be blue, green, and colorless spheres all there for your choosing at random. Your first draw will cost five orbs. Should you choose a second, it’ll be cheaper at four orbs. The third hero will cost two orbs, and will continue to go down. So with that, every summoning ritual will cost you anywhere between 10 to 20 orbs depending on how many heroes you want to summon to per ritual. With all the characters in the game having ratings ranging between 3 (common draw, weaker in battle) to 5 (rare draw, strong in battle), running out of orbs will be extremely easy.
That’s where the game starts costing money. While almost any fight you win will net you an orb, the easiest way to get orbs is by spending actual money, and they’re pretty damn pricey. Three orbs will cost players $1.99, while 110 orbs (with an additional 30) will cost $74.99. So if you plan on investing in Fire Emblem Heroes‘ metagame, you’ll really have to think about the value of an orb. (What’s worth more, $2 or three minutes? But what about those bonus orbs for bigger bulk purchases?) There’s already been a report of somebody spending over $1,000, and they still haven’t drawn Hector, the best axe user in the game.
Put the mobile and gameplay spatter aside, the game looks fantastic and I’ll argue that the game is the best-looking in the series. There’s hardly any depth to talk about with the 6×8 battlefields, but the hand-drawn art is crystal clear the design rivals a lot of the high quality manga we see today.
All things considered, Fire Emblem Heroes is easily the deepest mobile experience Nintendo and DeNA have ever offered. If there’s anything to question aside from the gacha mechanics, it’s the replay value after you finish the lunatic difficulty, but a very small percentage of users will actually do that either way. The downloads within the downloaded app are a bit annoying, but it takes up about the same space on your phone as Facebook does.
Whether you’re a series veteran or somebody who’s ever had a remote interest in the series, Fire Emblem Heroes is definitely worth the download. Whether you decide to spend money is up to you.