Fire Emblem Heroes released today, February 2nd, on iOS and Android platforms. It is the first time the Fire Emblem series has left Nintendo hardware. As with all of Nintendo's mobile endeavors, this was a pretty risky move. Putting a complex strategy JRPG known for its difficulty and depth on a platform dominated by casual games doesn't sound like it would work, but it works so very well.
Fire Emblem Heroes features an all new story that does something fans have been craving: it connects the universes. That's right, you can assemble a team comprised of all your favorite characters from across every single game in Fire Emblem's 27-year history. But you're not the only one trying to build your perfect dream team. The Emblian empire, led by the morose princess Veronica, has developed a method of traveling between the Fire Emblem universes. They hunger for the ability to conquer any and every world they encounter, as well as to enslave those worlds' greatest warriors.
That's where you come in. The game begins with Commander Anna of the Askr Empire summoning you. You quickly learn that you have the ability to summon heroes from across the Fire Emblem universe. You will use this ability to recruit heroes to fight alongside the Askr Empire, a noble force fighting the Emblian Empire in order to keep the universe free from immoral control. The rest of the story is pretty simple. You hop from universe to universe, fighting, and by doing so, freeing the warriors of that world.
The story's not deep, intense, and emotionally charged like the stories you'd find in other Fire Emblem games, but it gets the job done. You won't become very attached to the characters or anything, but the story is engaging. While I do wish we got something with a bit more substance to it, sometimes a simple "Good Versus Evil" story is all you really need. It's very small, but I do really appreciate the way they handled cutscenes. While holding a screen sideways does make things more cinematic, holding your phone vertically is infinitely more comfortable. I'm glad the whole game can be played vertically, even while watching the cutscenes.
One of my favorite parts of Fire Emblem Heroes is absolutely the sound design. I usually just listen to my Spotify playlist instead of whatever music is in a mobile game, but this game is a huge exception. You're constantly being serenaded with beautiful orchestral tracks that fit the mood of the game (you can find an example of the music above). Another positive aspect of the sound is how accurate it is to the other games. You'll hear all of the same sound effects and transitions you know and love. The game is even extensively voice acted, something incredibly rare to find in free mobile games. A lot of the voice actors are the same ones that starred in the original games featuring their characters!
As always, the anime-like character drawings that show up during dialogue and certain combat moves are amazing. Nintendo has compiled these from several different artists (who are even credited in-game!) to create a wide array of beautiful representations of beloved characters. The environments look great, and really fit in with this style. I also really like the UI. It's very slick, and everything is colorful is glowing. It maintains the vibrant feel of a Nintendo game menu, while also feeling like a smooth, modern application. There is one thing I'm not too sure about with the graphics, though. It's the battle sprites, which are what you see most often during the game. They're not terrible, and they are really cute, but they don't really fit in with the rest of the game's visuals in my opinion.
The best part of most Nintendo games is the gameplay, and Fire Emblem Heroes is no different. I complained about the story being a little shallow earlier, but once you start playing, your mind will likely push the story to the side anyways. That's due to the incredibly addictive and engaging gameplay. I'm genuinely shocked that they managed to make this game feel so much like an actual Fire Emblem game while also making it feel natural on a phone. We learned with the Nintendo DS that Fire Emblem and touchscreens are a match made in heaven, but Heroes really makes that fact apparent.
If you've played a Fire Emblem game before, you'll know exactly how to play Heroes. The Pokemon-esque weapon triangle, and works just as well as ever. The grid-based movement feels incredibly natural as you glide your finger across the screen. Through the game's very explanatory tutorial, I'm sure newcomers would latch on just as easy, too.
There's something I'm sure a lot of people are worried about: microtransactions. A mere utterance of the word seems to make most gamers shudder. Personally, I'm okay with them as long as they aren't required to fully enjoy the game. Thankfully, I can confidently say they are not necessary at all in Fire Emblem Heroes. The prices on them are pretty steep, but I haven't bought any, and I haven't felt like I'm missing out at all. Theoretically, if you played nonstop for a long time, you'd probably run out of stamina, but with the amount of stamina you have, and how quickly it refills, I don't see that happening very often.
Overall, I can wholeheartedly say that I love this game. It's definitely one of the best mobile games I've played, if not the very best. That's a pretty bold statement too, with other wonderful mobile games such as Deus Ex Go and Monument Valley making phones quickly become a viable gaming device. I eagerly await returning to Fire Emblem Heroes to collect orbs and recruit heroes for hours on end.
- Story: 8/10
- Music/Sound Design: 10/10
- Graphics/Art: 8.5/10
- Gameplay: 10/10
- OVERALL: 9.1/10