Fire Emblem Heroes
(2017)

[ファイアーエムブレム ヒーローズ]

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Director: Kohei Maeda, Shingo Matsushita
Platform: Android/iOS

Overview:
Two rival kingdoms wage war by summoning heroes from other worlds to wage their battles.

Gameplay:
As you might imagine, streamlining the Fire Emblem experience for mobile platforms requires some sacrifice. You lose a lot of the complexity, but in exchange you get much faster gameplay as you'd expect for the pick up and play model. Maps are much smaller and characters' movement is reduced to match, which often makes it feel very inflexible, particularly if they throw in a lot of obstacles. You can argue that's just another element of strategy. You can move units on the map via swipes and if you stick with the default settings, there's no confirmation prompt, which can lead to botched moves if you lift your finger too early. (It takes some getting used to.) Hit/evasion and critical hits are removed from the system, which means that every attack hits, a big difference compared to regular entries in the series. The rock-paper-scissors weapons triangle applies to melee weapons, magic and dragon breath. While archers being unable to counter is nothing new, here mages can't counter melee attacks either, so it's something to watch out for.

Characters have five star ratings that influence the available abilities and maximum stats. Speaking of abilities, you have active abilities like regular attacks, support (healing, buffs, etc.) and specials, and passive abilities that influence a number of factors. Abilities are earned by SP, which increased with levels (and is given out as a bonus for a successful mission). With enough leveling (and resources), any unit can be upgraded to 5-star, so you're not at the mercy of the RNG gods for a good gacha draw. Characters can be customized with ability inheritance to gain abilities they wouldn't normally have and combined with like units of the same tier to exceed the level cap.

The most basic gameplay option is the main story and gaiden/paralogue quests. There are also chain battles that roll several battles together. You then have the arena where you face off against other teams, both single matches and chain battles. Then there's the Tower, which offers random battles of increasing difficulty that's particularly good for grinding. You have special quests that change every few days and special events like the Tempest Trials, where you undergo a chain battle to earn points for rewards, and the Voting Gauntlet, where you pick a team and go head-to-head with other players to win "votes". Monthly, weekly, and daily rewards add extra incentive to perform certain tasks.

This is a Japanese mobile game and that of course means gacha. The currency for the gacha draws are orbs, which can be purchased, but the game can be pretty generous with them during promotional events. You can't get anything less than a 3-star unit and if you strike out enough, a "pity modifier" increases your likelihood of getting a 5-star. You have different banners that periodically change to emphasize certain characters, both regulars and limited run types. Recently, they made the first draw in a new banner free, so that's something. The first draw costs 5 orbs, then 4 for the next three and 3 for the last one. That's incentive to save up to 20 to do a clean sweep, but a lot of players prefer "sniping", where you just target the color of your desired character to save orbs. Now, you can also get characters in certain daily special quests (albeit as 1- or 2-stars), special events and the Tempest Trials.

Other than orbs, there are several other currencies to be had. You have stamina governing how many battles you can participate in, swords for the arena, and feathers and crystals for character upgrades. It sounds like a lot to keep track of, but it's not that bad.

In case you were curious, no, there's no perma-death here. The biggest penalty for losing units in battle is that they lose any experience they gained, which can be a pain if you're trying to level your characters. Apparently some hardcore types object to this, but given all the investment you put into characters and the fact that save scumming isn't exactly an option, you'd be crazy to expect anyone to stick with the game if it was a one and done deal.

Story/Characters:
While there is a story to the main questline, it's not much and the original characters aren't terribly compelling. The main reason most people are going to play this game is to round up all their favorite characters from the history of the franchise. Some people have complained that the characters have been flanderized a bit, playing up their quirks and ignoring any roundness to their characterization, but this isn't a very serious game and should be treated like the popcorn it is.

Graphics:
The core game graphics do their job. Simple, clean SD characters. Nothing too fancy. When it comes to character art, the cheapest solution would have been to just use official art from the source games, but instead they brought in a wide variety of illustrators to provide artwork. Each character has four portraits: default, attack, special, and battle damage. The battle damage portraits tend to be rather fanservicey for the females, which you may or may not object to. While there's some merit to getting a lot of different artistic interpretations of the characters, it leaves us without a unified aesthetic, which is a big minus in my book. Also, some of the illustrators are very good and others really aren't. If one of your favorite characters drew the short straw, you'll be disappointed and because gathering your favorite characters is the main draw of the game, bad character art is a bit of a drag.

Music/Sound:
We get a lot of well-loved tracks from throughout the series and voice acting for the characters in battle (but not during cutscenes). Honestly, the nostalgia trip of the music is almost reason enough to play the game.

Conclusion:
While this is definitely a pared-down Fire Emblem, it's a fun game adapted well to the mobile platform. Hopefully you don't feel tempted to throw money at the game in a bid to get your favorite characters, but if you just treat it as a light bit of side entertainment, you'll have a good time.

Rating:
Play It


Gab