Nintendo has been trying to prove to the world that they are taking mobile game development seriously. At first, this wasn’t going so well. Miitomo was an interesting distraction for a weekend before it fell to the wayside. Super Mario Run was a step in the right direction but didn’t quite capture the essence of Mario. With Fire Emblem Heroes, it seems like we might have the first really good mobile game from Nintendo.
I’m not what you would call a huge Fire Emblem fan, having only played a few of the games, so the story is a bit of a mystery to me. Basically, there’s a conflict going on, and you are able to summon different heroes from past games to help out. Even being a casual fan, there were still enough characters I recognized that I was excited at the prospect of being able to summon Marth and Roy to help out.
The gameplay is exactly what you’d expect from a Fire Emblem game, but simplified to fit a mobile style of play. Turn-based strategy is still the name of the game but on a much smaller scale. Battles take place all on a single screen, and your team is limited to 4 characters. The game still features the weapon triangle that Fire Emblem is known for, so there’s still strategy to each battle. If you aren’t familiar, it’s basically rock-paper-scissors, but it’s sword-axe-lance instead. In addition to that, there are also a few special classes of heroes that don’t fit into the triangle, such as mages and archers. Also, certain characters have different abilities they can use to power up allies or unleash a devastating special attack on an enemy.
There are a plethora of story mode stages, broken up into chapters. Each chapter seems to focus on a particular character from a past game, at least so far as I’ve gotten. There’s also training stages to help you grind and level up new characters, a PVP area where you can fight other players’ teams, and an event area that usually has new heroes as a reward for completion.
No matter what mode you choose for your battlefield, the cost is going to be stamina. You have a limited amount of stamina, with the option to restore stamina using either items or money. However, this doesn’t feel at all limiting. The game isn’t designed for you to play for hours at a time. Instead, the game really feels like it was meant for you to play for 10-20 minutes in your free-time at work or, like me, while waiting to find a match in Overwatch.
The other big currency in Heroes is orbs. Orbs can be used for a few things, but the main use is summoning new heroes for your collection. Once you decide to summon a hero, you’re presented with 5 different colored icons. Each one represents a different type of hero, and the hero you get is random. As of the time this article was written, there are two different sets of heroes to summon from, each with their own list of possible heroes. The randomness might turn some people away, but you have to keep in mind that this is a free-to-play mobile game. The RNG could be a lot worse, as the longer you go without getting a rare character, the better your odds are of getting one on future summons. Also, if you continue to summon from the same group of 5, each new summon is slightly cheaper. Since you’re always going to need heroes of each type, it’s better to save up your orbs and summon 5 heroes at a time.
The heroes are definitely one of the deeper aspects of the game. Heroes are ranked from 1 to 5 stars, with 5 star heroes having access to stronger abilities and better stats. You can combine duplicate heroes to create a stronger version, and you can spend different types of currency you get to level them up outside of combat as well. For me, this is the best part of the game. It’s easy to develop a connection with your team or with certain heroes in your army, and collecting all the famous characters from past games is fun and satisfying.
Fire Emblem Heroes isn’t without a few problems. The game doesn’t feature the deepest or strategic combat. The small battlefield combined with a max team size of 4 means most of the battles only last a few minutes. Summoning new heroes is all up to random luck, with the low star heroes being next to useless without a large time and resource investment. The story is almost incomprehensible for me, as I’m not already familiar with most of the characters or the setting in general.
However, none of this really detracts from the game in a major way. This isn’t supposed to be a deep strategy game with a gripping and intriguing story. Fire Emblem Heroes is exactly what it’s trying to be, which is a fun, bite-sized mouthful of Fire Emblem flavor.
That’s why my score for Fire Emblem Heroes is a bite-sized Snickers out of 10.
Pros: Collecting heroes is fun, combat is simple but with enough depth to keep your interest, no need for real money transactions to get full experience
Cons: Getting new heroes is entirely random, battles can feel too simple in places, raising heroes can require a very large time and resource investment
Gaming for most of my life, writing for about half. Finally decided to smash the two together to create a wonderfully gory portrait of a gaming journalist. My opinions are usually long-winded, often misinformed, but I'd like to think at least well written.