Fire Emblem Heroes is Nintendo’s newest major mobile app. IP tells me that it is the hottest game app on the Google Play Store right now. I’m not surprised. Since 2003, Fire Emblem has been a staple of the Nintendo franchise library in the West. Fire Emblem Heroes gets resounding approval from IP and me, and I’m here to tell you why.
Arguably the weakest aspect of Fire Emblem Heroes is its story. Games that follow in the vein of Fire Emblem Heroes tend to be light on story anyway. For example, Sonic Generations had little to no meaningful plot. One could fairly compare Generations to Heroes: both are celebrations of a franchise’s storied history by revisiting old places and faces. Fire Emblem Heroes tells the story of Prince Alphonse, Princess Sharena, and Commander Anna of the Order of Heroes. Anna summons you, the player, to be their tactician. The goal is to stop the evil Princess Veronica from conquering all of the other Fire Emblem worlds.
As I said, plot is at a minimum here. You confront the lords from various Fire Emblem games, but why the lords are obedient to Veronica is inconsistent. For instance, some lords, like Chrom and Ryoma, are brainwashed. Other lords, like Marth and Roy, know that they are subject to Veronica’s will, and are acting purely out of contractual obligation. As the game progresses, it drops more hints as to Alphonse’s strained relationship with summoned heroes and delivers absolutely no surprises about where this plot line is going. If you want plot, there are about nine other Fire Emblem games for that.
As a mobile game, Fire Emblem Heroes is fairly simple upfront and plays just like any other Fire Emblem game. Vanquish all the enemies on the screen to win. As you defeat enemies, your characters build up their stats and level up. You move your characters by tapping and sliding them across an 8×6 tile grid. You slide your characters onto enemy characters to attack and you slide your characters onto your own characters to give them buffs. As you progress through the story, you acquire orbs, which are necessary to summon more heroes. Orbs can also upgrade your castle, which produces additional benefits. You can also gather a trove of all kinds of junk. Hero feathers and badges unlock potential in allies over level 20. Shards and crystals help your characters level up more quickly, akin to the bonus points system of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance.
While most of the core elements of Fire Emblem are here, some have changed. As an example, mages are limited to ranged attacks only and cannot strike in immediate proximity to their targets now. Character death, another iconic element of the series, is gone; heroes come back after every chapter. Plus, Fire Emblem Heroes automatically locks your starting position, unlike other games, so you are sometimes forced to shuffle your characters’ positions to anticipate how the enemy will advance.
Despite all that, this is Fire Emblem through and through. The weapons triangle, the bonus damage, and the leveling up system are still there. Characters also learn skills. When characters level up, they acquire Skill Points, which can be spent on skills like giving healers the ability to fight, giving mounted units trample damage, or unlocking more advanced weapons. Outfit your heroes with the best weapons and take the fight to the enemy!
In addition to the main story, there are also different places to battle. For example, a training tower allows you to train your parties to get better. You cannot grind out your way straight to the end with a single party. You also get rewards for completing different strata of difficulty in the training tower. Special maps allow you to unlock certain heroes (I summoned Fire Emblem Fates‘ Subaki and then got him from a special map; be prepared for that a lot). Arena duels allow you to go one on one with real players’ parties. Each season lasts one week and you can get bonus points for using certain heroes in your party. If you win seven duels in succession, you rack up a high bonus for points, which determine the tier of difficulty in which you are placed.
Quests and Summoning
As you complete story chapters, you get rewards. Some challenges are presented on a month-to-month basis and give bigger rewards. However, orbs are the best reward. Orbs allow you to summon more heroes. You need at least 5 orbs to summon a new hero. The game allows you to choose the type of hero you want, but it will roll the dice on which hero you actually get. For instance, you can ask for a sword character/red mage and get anyone from Shadow Dragon‘s Marth himself to Awakening‘s Henry (which is what happened to me; be prepared for that a lot too). If you stack up your orb collection and summon multiple heroes at once, the orb cost decreases.
Of course, since orbs are so valuable, the game is rather stingy with them, and this is where Nintendo reminds you that you’re playing a free, mobile game. You can pay microtransactions to get more orbs. Yes, microtransactions make their tacky appearance here in deference to tradition. In addition, the game limits you from freely cruising from start to finish in a night. Each battle uses up stamina. More difficult battles use up more stamina. A point of stamina replenishes every five minutes. When you consider that later chapters and harder difficulties can use up eight stamina points in one go, you can see why you don’t want to lose a level and have to start over.
Fire Emblem Heroes is highly enjoyable. Whether you are a veteran of the series like me or a newcomer like IP, Heroes is very accessible. You can do a battle on the train or while eating lunch. Unlike Pokemon Go, this game has something new to do every day. All in all, this game is fun if you like strategic role-playing games. It’s Fire Emblem on your phone. Go forth and vanquish Veronica, Great Summoner! Together we ride!