I will spare you, our great readers, from having to read through another introduction spouting the amazing/detrimental to the fact that Nintendo is now making mobile games. Instead, let’s discuss Fire Emblem Heroes. Fans of turn-based strategy games, like myself, are often finding ourselves scrounging the various digital stores for our chosen mobile device. They simply are not a lot of good releases in this genre. This is what I think Nintendo does better than anyone else: taking something not available, or misused to that point, and then just “Nintendo-izing” it. Fire Emblem is one of those style releases, at least for Android and iPhone, that fixes the turn-based strategy genre on those platforms.
For those that don’t believe me about the lack of good turn-based strategy games, name five good ones off the top of your head for either Android or iPhone. Go ahead, I will wait. It is harder than most people think. This is why I think Fire Emblem Heroes is such a popular release on Android and iPhone.
This review will not touching on the story at all due to spoilers. Please keep that in mind while reading.
Okay, Fire Emblem Heroes is a “freemium” game. That means there are In-app Purchases and precious items that you will use regularly but have a hard time collecting without paying. That is just the nature of the beast. If you don’t like IAP in your Nintendo games then you may need to purchase a Nintendo hand held, not an iPhone or Android device to get your Nintendo fix.
Anyone that has played a Fire Emblem game before understands the basics. The battle system is based on a form of “rock paper scissors”. This model is popular, because it works quite well and is simple to remember. Sword beats ax, ax beats lance, and lance beats sword. Understanding this system during battle is easy as each characters icon displays their weapon clearly. Just don’t attack an enemy with a strong enemy or you will face some serious consequences and possibly lose the battle. Complexities enter when you add in flying and mounted enemies. Thankfully, Nintendo helps newer players with a bit of color coding for each type of weapon the character carries.
It is not perfect, but it is better than 99% of the competition on mobile platforms
In previous Fire Emblem games, there is a brutal aspect to the battles. When a character on your side dies during battle, they are done for the rest of the game–no bringing them back to life. This can seriously hamper your chances of winning the later campaigns if you lose a key character early on. Nintendo has removed this little caveat from Fire Emblem Heroes. Now characters that die during battle are revived at the end of the fight. You can also revive them using Orbs (part of the IAP, so be careful). Fire Emblem purists will probably not like this change to the challenge level, though.
Another aspect of the In-app Purchases rearing their ugly heads is the stamina used to actually battle. Early on, battles will cost a couple of stamina points to compete in. Later on, though, be prepared for campaigns that require a lot more of your stamina (you max out at 50 units of stamina). Sure, stamina regenerates over time, but if you are addicted to playing Fire Emblem Heroes, it is not going to regenerate fast enough. That is where paying real cash comes into play.
Battles are carried out by simply touching your character and then moving them within the highlighted area. If an enemy is close enough to attack then make sure to go ahead and swipe over them, too, during your move. Otherwise you will have to wait till your next turn to attack–that sucks, too, as you just handed your opponent a free extra attack.
Fire Emblem Heroes just comes across as more of a visual novel with a really good strategy game engine between character interaction. I am not complaining, as I enjoy visual novels, too, and the artwork used here is great.
I think Nintendo could have been the first company to have gotten away with a dual release here. For those that are fine with IAP there could have been the freemium edition. For everyone else that remembers buying a game outright, having a version for $10 or $15 may have been a better option. I am sure confusion of the marketplace, and going for more money over time was a huge factor in this not happening.
The way it is now, Fire Emblem Heroes is the #1 turn-based strategy title on Android, at least, by default. There simply is nothing that is better available. Please note, I do not count games like Mobile Strike, Game of War, or The Hobbit as turn-based strategy games–those are more menu clicking than anything and severely lacking on the actual game play side.
Fire Emblem Heroes by Nintendo
Genre: Turn-based Strategy
Platform: Android (ZTE ZMAX 2 used for review) and iPhone
In App Purchases: Yes
Rated: E 10+ on Google Play and 12+ on iTunes
Available now on Google Play and the iTunes App Store