Did you EVER expect to see Fire Emblem on your cell phone? When Nintendo announced that they’d be trying out cell phone games, we all expected Super Mario Run, even Pokemon GO! was a blatantly obvious decision to make, but…Fire Emblem?! Remember when these games got a limited release in North America because they weren’t expected to sell well? Not only has Fire Emblem climbed the ladder of first party Nintendo mainstays faster than any intellectual property in the past five years (there is actually data to back this up in this article), Fire Emblem Heroes is easily the best game Nintendo has made thus far for iOS and Android.
On a very basic level, you could describe Heroes as “Fire Emblem Light,” although “Diet Fire Emblem” is more fun to say. The basics of Fire Emblem are present, from the grid maps to the Rochambeau weapon combat. You use your finger to drag your units around the map, which is actually extremely intuitive even more so that the touch controls in either Fire Emblem Awakening or Fire Emblem Fates for the 3DS. The maps are set up in such a way that will require some strategic thinking in some scenarios, but overall there’s nothing really impressive or challenging about them. If I had to compare the gameplay to that of any other game in the franchise, I’d pick Awakening; your only goal is to route the enemy and you’re usually better off just trying to overpower your foes than outsmart them.
The story presented here is extremely simple when compared to normal Fire Emblem games. The Emblian Empire (bet they spent all night thinking of that one) has plans to conquer every world it can, which of course includes the worlds in which the various Fire Emblem titles take place in. Standing against them is the kingdom of Astram. Anna, who you may recognize from literally every other Fire Emblem title ever (no, seriously, she’s been in all of them), attempts to summon a great hero to fight against the Emblians, and gets…well, you. You might not be a great hero, but luckily for Anna and the kingdom of Astram, you do have the ability to summon heroes from other worlds. It’s a very simple premise, and there isn’t much to comment on, but it does what it needs in order to make sense of all the various characters from different games fighting together.
You summon these heroes by spending orbs awarded to you for clearing maps. It’s quite random who you’ll get but there are two “packs,” and of course many of the more popular characters are rarer. This is honestly one of my favorite parts of the game, and I can never wait to see what character I’m going to summon next. Unfortunately, I have yet to pull my waifu Tharja out of the void. What? No, I said my favorite. What’s a waifu? I don’t know what that is, leave me alone.
The cast consists of characters from throughout the series’ history. Unfortunately, you can only have four characters on a team at one time. However, unlike the main series, falling in battle does not mean permanent death.
Heroes really nails the presentation department. All of the familiar tunes sound magnificent and the animations and character sprites can only be summed up as adorable. The sprites actually look better than any other 2D Fire Emblem game, and the animations are smooth. The only real hiccup is the character art, which is pulled directly from the source material. It isn’t bad, of course, but it causes some inconsistencies when putting a 20-year-old character portrait up next to one from a newer game. I personally just find it endearing, though.
Fire Emblem Heroes is a mobile adaptation done right, although it does suffer from some old tropes like stamina (you can only play so many battles every two hours) and microtransactions, though the app itself is free to download and play so I won’t harp on that too badly. If this game were released for a system like the 3DS or the Switch, I would tell you that it was barebones and lackluster, but this is a mobile game. It’s watered down, but it still has enough Fire Emblem heart and soul (and fanservice) to get the point across and it’s both enjoyable to play for an hour or so to burn time, or to waste a few minutes while you’re waiting somewhere.
Fire Emblem Heroes is more than worth your time, especially for a cell phone game. Hopefully, more of Nintendo’s future mobile releases are made with this much love.