The mobile gaming revolution continues its imminent invasion! Released worldwide for both Android and IOS on February 2nd, Nintendo’s Fire Emblem Heroes is perhaps the most colorful and enthralling example of free-to-play, pay-to-win yet!
Set in the kingdom of Askr, which is besieged by the kingdom of Embla, the game envisions you the player character as a magical summoner. With your special gift to rally and muster troops from across the many realms of the Fire Emblem franchise, you must piece together an army of four heroes and win the war! However, the enemy can recruit and summon the same characters you can–it’s one bloody nostalgic war!
The story is most definitely a thinly-veiled excuse to gather your favorite characters for battle, but the execution couldn’t be more beautiful. Utilizing a combination of vivid manga illustrations, adorable chibi sprites, and a crack team of talented voice acting veterans, Fire Emblem Heroes will pull you in like a fully-fledged entry in the series. Pegasus knights, mages, swordsmen, lords, ninja, and dancers all make an appearance on the game’s six by eight tile board.
However, there are several mitigating factors that become evident as one plays through the game. The first is the limited access to heroes.
All That Glitters is Five Star Gold
Heroes come ranked between one and five stars, with each star reflecting both a character’s rarity and strength. Five star characters are one-man-armies and generally the main protagonists of the game they first appeared in: Marth, Lucina, Roy, and the royal families from Fates. Four star heroes can be weaker versions of five-star characters or stronger versions of supporting casts. One to three star heroes are generally forgettable and weak.
By completing story chapters and special side missions, one is rewarded with special orbs that act as the currency of the game. By spending five to twenty orbs at a time, players can gamble for new characters in traditional gacha collection style. Unfortunately, in the current version of the game, the player has access to roughly only 60 orbs for beating all the levels in the game.
You can enjoy a daily login bonus of two orbs per day and both special promotional bonus maps and further chapters seem like a given, but the harsh reality is that nabbing all the five star heroes you’ll want is close to impossible without shelling out real world money.
Many players, myself included, spent the first few days of their Fire Emblem Heroes experience installing and uninstalling the game in a mad dash to score a five star or two in our starting character packs. I must admit, watching my 5-star Princess Lucina draw her sword while hearing Laura Bailey’s uncredited vocal talent pledge itself to my cause brought a surge of euphoria to my inner fanboy.
However, I can also recognize that just as much smug satisfaction also came from knowing I had obtained a highly desirable hero that someone else might have to shell out their real cash for. It’s also worth mentioning that Lucina slaughtered just about the entire campaign on normal mode on her own.
Time is Energy–Time is Money!
Making matters worse, is the game’s stamina mechanic. Every mission in the game costs stamina to play. With 50 starting stamina and the earlier missions only costing one to three points, the early game is a gentle roll. However, with later missions costing up to 23 stamina points and stamina taking several hours to regenerate, you could find yourself waiting the better part of your day to play. Additionally, there is also a pesky stamina cost for the simple task of equipping skills and weapons to your characters.
You can instantly recharge all your stamina by using an orb, but intelligent players will want to save those for rolling new characters—that is of course, unless you have plenty of orbs to spend and plenty of real world money to blow on this addictive mobile game.
Part of what made Pokemon Go so engaging for me from summer to fall was its ability to be played for hour after hour due to the core gameplay mechanics all being easy to access without spending money. In fact, the only money I had to spend was on a portable charger to rescue my rapidly dwindling iPhone battery.
Luckily, Nintendo had the generosity to remove one classical Fire Emblem mechanic. You won’t have to worry about your heroes dying forever should they fall in battle. In Fire Emblem Heroes, the only thing permadeath applies to is your wallet!
All in all, Fire Emblem Heroes is a beautifully rendered, engaging mobile game with an excellent cast of characters and voice actors and thrilling gameplay. It’s also an evil trap that will get you to spend money on it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still definitely be playing it. I pulled a five-star Takumi just yesterday—daddy’s hooked! Feel free to Venmo me more money for orbs. My venmo is @Otter-Lee
Fire Emblem Heroes - 7.4/107.4/10
Last modified: February 8, 2017