Fire Emblem Heroes Review: A Noble Mobile Try By Nintendo

Credit: Nintendo
Credit: Nintendo /

Fire Emblem Heroes has a fun early game for casual users, but heavy players may find the game rather taxing and short-lived.

Developer: Intelligent Systems, Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo

Platform: iOS (Version reviewed), Android

Release Date: February 2nd, 2017

Serving as an introduction to the World That Marth Built, Fire Emblem Heroes is Nintendo embracing a full mobile strategy with an established title. It opens with the familiar musical theme Nintendo fans will recognize from Fire Emblem games and the cross-genre establishment of the franchise in series like Super Smash Bros.

The kingdom of Askr is under attack by the Emblian Empire and its Princess Veronica. The Askr Kingdom and the Emblian Empire had a truce to keep the portals to the different worlds of Fire Emblem un-meddled-with. Now, the Emblian Empire is encouraging heroes from all realms to attack Askr. Enter you, the nameless Summoner and Tactician. Upon realizing you can summon heroes to assist their efforts, Askrians Anna, Alfonse, and Sharena enlist you to bring heroes to help them.

Fire Emblem Heroes has a nice central premise. You are the summoner and tactician strategizing the movements of four heroes across a grid to take down the 2-5 enemies on the board. These battles take no more than maybe three minutes for the most part.

Fire-Emblem-Heroes, Nintendo
Credit: Nintendo /

In this way, the mobile experience of Fire Emblem Heroes is perfect in the early going. With these short bursts of fun, you can find yourself playing a couple matches against the AI heroes while you have a moment of free time.

I played it this way for a good couple days and it was a really fun experience. It was never too difficult, but you could find different ways to challenge yourself. There are story battle maps, special character maps (with new heroes as rewards), PvP (of a sort) Arena duels, and training battles, all meant to provide you with multiple ways to play and various challenges.

Fire Emblem Heroes, Nintendo
Credit: Nintendo /

Story Mode – Divided into chapters with five battles apiece, Story Mode pits you against each realm of heroes as you look to save the Askr Kingdom. As you advance, you get an orb for each story map you beat. After you beat the chapter, you open up harder versions which allow you to get another orb apiece for beating a chapter on Hard and Lunatic modes.

Special Maps – These maps either award you a 1 or 2-star hero for a deathless victory. Currently, there is also an event map that awards three orbs for the same.

Arena Duels – These maps are PvP attacks against other players’ teams, though the teams are controlled by AI. You get three dueling swords to use automatically each day, with each battle costing one to begin. The mode also awards battle points, and you can choose harder difficulty levels for more. In my few tries, I never found this mode very challenging.

Training Tower – These maps are able to be done to level up your lower level heroes and earn items that will help you boost your heroes’ levels later on.

If you can understand the language in those descriptions, everything about this game is tailored towards milking hardcore players after a short amount of time. As a busy, casual player. I would play a few battles a day. Maybe I would complete a chapter. When I did try to play the game for extended periods, the mobile game experience kicked in full tilt.

Your heroes are limited by Stamina. In the early game, there is not a problem with this. It costs little stamina for each match. As you advance, it gets to the point where two or 3 battles utilizes all of your stamina. Stamina does regenerate, so you can do a couple matches every few hours; however, it is inconvenient enough to make purchasing a stamina-restoring potion tempting.

Fire Emblem Heroes, Nintendo
Credit: Nintendo /

Additionally, it costs five “orbs” to start summoning heroes. Get twenty orbs and you can get a maximum of five heroes for a diminishing cost of five orbs, four orbs, and finally three orbs.

As a player, you will need to look to maximize your orb count in order to get more heroes. You only earn one orb per map when you complete one for the first time, and aside from free giveaways from Nintendo, there’s no way to get more if you don’t pay real money. The map immediately begins to make you slow down as you get higher up.

Due to the stamina cost and slow recharge rate (five minutes per stamina count) and the overall cost of Heroes by orbs, it begins to take much more time in order to keep feeling as if you are progressing in the game.

What are you to do when you cannot partake in collecting orbs and trying to level up heroes? You can go to the Arena duels. You get three matches for free each day. These matches are supposed to be against other players, but their teams are controlled by the AI, diminishing the competitive aspects of this mode.

This leaves the player in the classic mobile game conundrum. Do I turn the game off or do I pay for the ability to continue playing? Nintendo, in true mobile style, charges for you to continue enjoying the game you are playing.

  • You can buy orbs to buy upgrades to your castle, a cosmetic function of the game where heroes stand on the home screen.
  • You can use orbs to be able to have more than the starting 200 hero capacity
  • You can use orbs to buy stamina potion which can be used to restore stamina to fight more battles to earn more orbs.
  • You can also use orbs to restore Dueling Swords used to participate in Arena battles

If you’re an avid user, you will be heavily taxed if you want to keep playing. In the end, the impetus to play the game more than casually falls apart. You get three duels a day. two special map battles. Three stamina charges for harder maps–and this all includes failures. If you lose, you get nothing: no experience, no re-dos, just time and currency wasted.

If you want to collect all of the 5-star heroes, it is absolutely going to cost you. On top of that, there are only nine worlds in story mode, so the landscapes do not change. While difficulty can jump, the battles are not nearly as tough unless you are way under leveled.

Credit: Nintendo /

Generally, I went from loving the game to dragging myself into new battles just to see if I can get any kind of 5-star hero. Despite spending over 80 orbs in the game, (beating the main story on easy, playing special maps, dueling, etc.) I never got a 5-star hero.

I could go on and on about the ways in which Fire Emblem Heroes killed its momentum for me. The reward system becomes a bit like early Destiny, except your wallet is the loot cave and the 5-star heroes are legendary engrams that hardly ever drop.

6.5. Fire Emblem Heroes is an interesting experiment for Nintendo. They are doing what investors want with their usual bit of polish. The music, the animations, and the game itself are very fun. However, this fun game is shackled inside of what quickly turns into a pay-to-play scheme. The “PvP” never felt challenging. The game itself has a fun loop that is short lived. I found myself asking why I keep coming back to a game that seems more like a chore than fun to play at the end of it. In the end, Fire Emblem Heroes is about closing portals to save the Askr Kingdom, but all I want to do is leave the portals open and escape this world.. Nintendo. . Fire Emblem Heroes

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