NS Review – Fire Emblem: Heroes (mobile)
After the arguable negativity of my previous article, I thought I would follow with this little number. Let’s be clear, right here and now, I love Fire Emblem: Heroes. I must admit that I have not been a fan of Nintendo’s mobile output until now. Miitomo suffered greatly from just not being quite enough to fulfil its aim and Super Mario Run is essentially just a Mario coated cash-in on the popular genre of mobile gaming. However, Fire Emblem: Heroes looked intriguing from the outset, and also I couldn’t think of a franchise better suited to being bitesize and playable on the move. But how does the game actually stack up? Well …
The story of the game is simple, by Fire Emblem standards, but perfectly suits the format with which it is told. The player wakes up as a Summoner in the world of Askr, where you are immediately tasked in playing the Tactician in helping the army of Askr to protect both their world and others. These worlds are being invaded and then having their heroes controlled by the evil (but surprisingly amiable) witch Veronica, so the enemies that you will face throughout the game are recognisable heroes from Fire Emblem history.
The gameplay of Heroes is both simultaneously very close to typical Fire Emblem fare and a tremendous distance from it. The grid-based maps, turn-based structure and often intense strategic gameplay return, as expected. As do different units of varying powers, attack distance, and movement distance. However, it’s at this point that the differences between Heroes and the rest of its kind begin to appear. For the most part, these changes can be described as simplifying the mechanics that exist within the franchise, which I believe to be a fantastic thing as it now gives a very solid entry point into the franchise for beginners. Things such as making the weapon triangles (plural) into one solid triangle, placing most weapons in the game as either Red, Blue or Green, giving a new player a solid but intuitive introduction. Also, the limitation of weapons to only being able to attack from one set distance really helps in this too, as placement of the units in Heroes is taught just by following the weapon rules (unlike in standard FE in which some weapons can attack at multiple different ranges).
The key difference is the Summon mechanic, which comprises of most of the game’s plot, and diverges into the other key components of the game. To Summon, the player requires Orbs, which can be earned by playing the game or can be bought from the store for real money. Summoning allows the player to recruit heroes from Fire Emblem to join their armies, of which the characters come from 1 to 5 star ratings. The more you summon without getting a five star, the more chance that one will happen. This does, unfortunately, cause a rather large amount of randomisation within the game. For instance, I have not acquired a five star hero yet, whereas several people that I know have many of them. This might frustrate many players as even acquiring the well-known heroes is also behind this RNG element.
Aside from Summoning, other differences found in this spin off include the ability to merge two of the same hero to give stat boosts. To do this you choose which one you would like to keep and which you would like to use up, then the remaining copy of that particular hero will have randomised stat boosts and an increase of SP. This particular stat (SP) is used in the game to unlock Skills for each hero, which can be new weapons, tomes or special abilities that can then be equipped and used in battle. Furthermore, you can use the Hero’s Feathers (a consumable item) to unlock the potential of your heroes once they reach Level 20. The main hub of the game is the space to acquire bonuses you receive, check notifications, and see your friends details (which you can acquire through sharing IDs). Add to all this a variety of different battle modes, such as Special Maps that the player can get additional heroes to add to their party, and Arena Duels, the online competitive segment that sees you fighting other players armies from around the world.
Aesthetically, this game is as stunning as you expect from a Fire Emblem game. After the beautiful opening cutscene, you’re left with a set of bright, colourful and well organised menus. The music is limited, but impressive enough, however the character design is where the game really shines. All of the heroes are given a cutesy chibi look in battles but their essential art is stunning. Each hero appears to have a different artist in their core art and they all look amazing, and it truly gives the impression that they are really from different worlds. The whole package of Fire Emblem: Heroes feels cohesive and very true to the franchise with the medieval fantasy feel running all through the game’s many different artistic elements.
So, should you get Fire Emblem: Heroes? Well, as it’s a free download with totally unobtrusive in-app purchases, why not? It’s a very solid game with a large amount of content, which they keep updating and adding to, and even the Stamina mechanic (in that each action costs Stamina) in the game doesn’t restrict play too far and replenishes rather quickly. As I said earlier, this is a fantastic entry point to the franchise for beginners and can teach the basic knowledge required to play the main series. Go get it, it’s worth it just to try.
Fire Emblem: Heroes is available now on iOS and Android.