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5-Minute Reviews – Fire Emblem Heroes

Excellent mechanics weighed down by terrible Free-To-Play trappings

| Categories: Mobile, review, SideArc, Video Games | 5 Comments »

How do you keep the legacy and mechanics of a multi-decade series alive while catering to the casual mobile gaming market?

If someone figures this out, please contact Nintendo immediately.

While at its core Fire Emblem Heroes is actually a very well crafted game, decisions made to capitalize on the money-making market that is iOS and Android gaming turned the full experience into a grinding slog.

If you already see this on your home screen, it’s probably too late to save you.

The Good

At its core the Fire Emblem series favors strategic thinking and careful positioning. To a large degree this has survived the massive downscaling to fit on a single screen. If you don’t carefully plan where your characters go, they will be swiftly defeated. Small-scale maps and miniature-sized armies keep things moving quickly – perfect to fit in a full match within just a few minutes. For the most part I actually didn’t find these maps as cramped as I expected.

On the other hand, between the small map size and limited movement range there’s simply not as much you can do. Your flexibility to craft and execute tactical maneuvers is limited at best, and virtually nonexistent at worst. At least your enemies don’t have any unfair advantages in this regard.

You will also always know exactly what is going to happen. This is both a pro and a con. Knowing that every hit is going to connect forces you to consider where you move your troops even more carefully. The classic weapon triangle still exists, and largely has the same effect on each battle… as long as your foes are reasonably close to your level.

The artwork is also enjoyable. The chibi sprites on the map remind me of Bravely Default’s style. The multiple artists that contributed character artwork are also consistently great, even though the different styles often clash. (AKIRA’s style is my personal favorite, though finding a sample image has been tough.)

The Bad

Before I get into the meat of the negatives, I should mention that the story in this game is barebones and not even worth mentioning. Anyone who has played a Fire Emblem game knows how big of a deal this is.

Your first couple of hours will be smooth and enjoyable. That’s almost guaranteed. Then suddenly the difficulty spikes and you’re left with no way of gaining the premium currency du jour – Orbs – which leaves you with no way to get newer and stronger characters. So you’re left with wasting your stamina on countless training battles to try and level up your team. Speaking of stamina, some of the later levels consume upwards of 20 stamina points all while your stamina bar is permanently capped at 50.

Oh, and did I mention that heroes are dropped at random and assigned arbitrary ranks/power levels?

Sadly this is an all-too common scenario when it comes to mobile gaming. Chances are you already know the drill and how this works from other games. I had hoped Nintendo would avoid this with Fire Emblem, but those hopes were in vain.

The cherry on top is how defeat is handled. In the core Fire Emblem series, by default your characters are permanently gone if they are defeated in battle. This obviously wouldn’t fly in a game where you have to buy your heroes, so instead of permanently dying they simply don’t get any experience from the entire battle if they die.

You read that right –  if one hero steamrolls 3/4 enemies and then gets taken down, they get ZERO experience. Zip. Zilch. Nada. You’re left with nothing except for wasted stamina.

Between the limited stamina, stingy supply of free orbs, and absurdly grindy character building, you’re left to either pay up and hope for a great character or spend hours upon hours fighting the same battles over and over. At least when you have the stamina to do these battles.


Even though there’s a good game hiding in here, it’s far too buried beneath the ridiculous F2P trappings.

It’s free to download and worth a shot. However, you should just consider the first few chapters a simplified demo for the far superior “real deal.” If you like what you see your money will be better spent picking up any of the other games in the series. Even the ones that have additional (and completely optional) Map Pack DLCs. And yes – even if you don’t already own the system to play it on.


Free-to-play elements ruined what could have been a good game

I obtained this game by downloading for free to my iPhone, and I played for approximately 8 hours; half of which I regret spending on this game.