After playing all three versions of Fire Emblem Fates last year, I thought I would be burnt out on the series for a while... turns out I was wrong. I was initially only going to give the new mobile game, Fire Emblem Heroes, a quick spin just to see what all the hype was about but soon found that I was hooked by anime-themed turn-based strategy once again. I've played through about a third of the main campaign at this point; here are my thoughts so far:
- The mobile game does a really good job of condensing the core gameplay of Fire Emblem. Battles may only be between 4-character teams on an 8x6 grid, but that makes for quick pick-up-and-play sessions that still feel like a satisfying little hit of Fire Emblem goodness.
- Fire Emblem Heroes makes me realize how poorly the Fire Emblem Awakening engine and the 3DS have aged. It's pretty sad that this pared-down freebie mobile version of Fire Emblem on my crummy $50 Android phone looks far more crisp than the "real" Fire Emblem games on Nintendo's dedicated hardware.
- Touch screen controls are a natural fit for Fire Emblem, but spending so much time playing the previous games with a cross-pad and buttons has made the adjustment a little tricky for me. Particularly, in Heroes, the player makes a character attack by dragging and dropping them on top of an enemy, while in the 3DS games, the player selects a space in front of the enemy and then selects"Attack" from the action menu. As a result of this change, I've wasted countless turns absent-mindedly dropping my characters next to enemies instead of on top of them, thus leaving my units as sitting ducks.
- It's kind of cool that each character profile screen shows the name of the English and Japanese voice actor for that character. It's nice to see voice actors be given credit for their work in such a prominent fashion.
- Most impressively of all, this game solves one of the oldest dilemmas in the Fire Emblem series: character death. In the 3DS games, the player must choose between two highly polar settings: Classic or Casual. In Classic mode, if a character gets killed, they're dead for the entire rest of the game. This forces the player to be very cautious and strategic, but also can lead to a lot of tedium and frustration. In Casual mode, characters that fall in battle are revived automatically and the end of each stage without any consequences. While playing Casual is usually more enjoyable, it leads to sloppy playing as there's no penalty for sending units out on suicide missions. Fire Emblem Heroes strikes a great compromise by eschewing "permadeath" but still punishing character deaths by making that character lose any experience they have earned during that battle. This requires the player to strategize in order to develop their characters without making a single mistake so costly as to be discouraging. I really hope future mainline Fire Emblem games include this as an option going forward.
The Android version of this game has some bugs. Make sure you link the app to your Nintendo account to avoid losing progress!