Review: Fire Emblem Heroes21 Feb 2017 5
Review: Fire Emblem Heroes
Released 02 Feb 2017
We live in strange times. Within the world of video games, one of these unique situations has been Nintendo’s jump into the mobile gaming market. Nintendo has primarily kept itself isolated to its own platforms - besides unprecedented disasters like Hotel Mario and the trifecta of terrible Zelda games to appear on the Philips CD-i.
So far, the jump to mobile has been somewhat of a mixed bag: Pokemon Go made, quite frankly, a ridiculous amount of money and was lauded for getting kids out of the house and bothering old couples around the park. There were heart-warming stories but it was in all honesty a shallow experience. Super Mario Run caused the world to go into meltdown over its price, but was overall met with praise for taking the core idea of that series, and changing the mechanics to fit for touch gaming in mind, and not just making a shoddy port with virtual controls, which would have killed the game dead on arrival.
Now we have Fire Emblem: Heroes, a turn-based strategy game that has seen countless iterations, and is one of the most popular series for their handheld platforms. It, and the yet-to-be-released Animal Crossing feel tailor made for the mobile market, and where Nintendo would hope to see a solid reception and install baseline, but more importantly, longevity.
You see, the key is in keeping people playing, as Pokemon Go is too shallow of an experience to achieve this, and Mario Run is a platform game with a finite amount of level, instead of being an endless runner that most people presumed it would be, which, to be fair, I don’t consider a negative.
Fire Emblem: Heroes feels less like a reconstruction from the 3DS to mobile, as much of a serious trimming down. One of the most noticeable changes is in the environments: the battleground has been reduced to a single screen – a result of trying to emulate the short, snappy gameplay of popular mobile games, where a single level can be beaten in less than a couple of minutes. While this is achieved, it strips away the core of what makes Fire Emblem such a revered series: sacrificing gameplay for a style not conducive to what fans know. It’s also odd that Nintendo would make this sacrifice, considering the game requires you to always be online to play and you can’t just jump into a level.
The in-game mechanics revolve around a simple rock-paper-scissors system, requiring you to create a stable of warriors that fit all descriptions: warriors, mages, support, wizards, and so on to be able to take on any assortment of opponents put it front of you. You’re placed onto a grid-based map and take turns moving and attacking with your characters. The thing is – and this has always been my biggest complaint with Fire Emblem – a significant number of the levels can be completed by bottle necking opponents – something made all the more apparent with the single screen environments. The rock-paper-scissor element adds a level of tactical thought, but you’ll be able to complete most levels with brute-force. Another of the big changes is the removal of permadeath to your characters. Fire Emblem is famous for getting you invested in your characters – making death all the more of a haunting spectre that looms over your team. Here, though, the removal is the most fitting change to the mobile counterpart, and kind of necessary as the restrictive environment means its impossible to not go anymore than a few levels without a character or two dying.
There is an easy, hard, and lunatic mode, with the latter requiring a serious amount of grinding levels and collecting crystals to build up your team. In what will be the crux for keeping players coming back: time-sensitive events occur, giving players a chance to earn extra orbs and characters.
Heroes is home to IAPs, as you would expect from a free-to-play game. Orbs are used as the in-game currency and can be earned by progressing through stages or by purchasing with real money. Price packages start at 1.99 and go all the way up to 69.99, which is simply egregious that Nintendo would allow such a thing to appear in one of their games. Kids are going to play this game, and yes, iOS and Android devices have parental restrictions in place, but that does not excuse Nintendo from including such a price point. These orbs can be used to hire new heroes to help in your quest. You can hire up to five at a time, with a healthy dose of RNG thrown into what type of class they are and how good their stats will be. The incentive of purchasing orbs is to hire more heroes in the hopes of building a five-star team. Naturally, the chances of grabbing a hero with max stats is around 3% so you’re going to need a lot of orbs. Though the game does play but letting you use any duplicates of heroes obtained to bulk up your originals, which is also handy for keeping things tidy as you amass a team quickly. In what will likely be a trend, there are rewards and incentives such as orbs rewarded for installing the game at launch and playing at the weekend – standard fare for this genre, but always welcome.
Mechanics like stamina and cooldown periods rear their heads, as you would expect from a free-to-play game, though the game is surprisingly lenient, allowing you to play for over an hour and not run into these obstacles. A big positive for the game is that is rarely feels like it restricts you from playing.
The game looks fantastic and runs with fluidity on my Samsung Tab A. The artwork and character designs are full of detail, though the outfits for some of the female designs are hardly what I would call practical for war – how very anime. Flash animations that pop-up in battle are smooth and fit the fast-paced style the game aims for, and the voice acting is fine for five minutes but yet again, we have another game that overrides the audio on your device, and the entire sound design outstays its welcome within a short time.
Fire Emblem: Heroes is the equivalent to a packet of crisps: it’s easy, you can keep going back to it without any thought – but you’re never truly satisfied. Everything here works, but it feels stripped down, creating another Nintendo game for mobile that just ends up feeling hollow – not bad, but hollow. Of all the games Nintendo have released for mobile so far, Heroes succeeds the best in creating a sense of wanting to play past the first week, but it’s done through the compromises it implements – creating an artificial need to keep playing.