Fire Emblem Heroes review
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Fire Emblem Heroes review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on February 9th, 2017
Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: BITE-SIZED BATTLES
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Nintendo's latest is a mix between a gacha-style strategy game and Fire Emblem, with more emphasis on the former than the latter.

Developer: Nintendo Co., Ltd.

Price: Free
Version: 1.0.0
App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2

Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

Let's get one thing out of the way upfront: Before Fire Emblem Heroes, I had never played a Fire Emblem game. I understand that they've been popular strategy titles with a heavy emphasis on character development, but I have otherwise only maintained awareness of the series due to Marth's presence in Super Smash Bros. Melee. That said, I am very familiar with gacha-style games like Monster Strike, which all have a general design mold that Nintendo has shoved Fire Emblem into to make Heroes. From this perspective, I can see why Fire Emblem diehards might scoff at Heroes despite the fact that it's a competently made and pretty fair gacha-style game that is brimming with personality.

Build your army

In any gacha-style game, the core draw is in building and upgrading a team of heroes. In Monster Strike, this involves pulling random monsters out of a capsule machine and in Heroes, this means summoning random fighters from the Fire Emblem cast to build a team of four to face off in turn-based strategy combat.

If the idea of earning (or paying for) orbs to unlock random sets of new Fire Emblem heroes for your team does not sound like your kind of thing, I'm not sure Heroes is the game for you. Although it does offer lightly strategic combat and some fan service, Heroes doesn't seem to offer your typical Fire Emblem experience.

Small skirmishing

Once you have built a team in Fire Emblem Heroes, you can put them to the test in a variety of different ways. The first and most straightforward way is in the game's Story Mode, which offers a linear set of increasingly difficult levels while providing occasional (but forgettable) bits of narrative along the way.

Beyond Story Mode, there are also Arena Duels, Special Maps, and a Training Tower, all of which serve their own rewards, but ultimately all boil down to some form of Heroes's turn-based combat.

This combat presents a single-screen grid-map for you to face off against another team of four heroes. Each hero in Heroes falls into a certain category, which determines both their style of attack as well as their effectiveness against heroes of other categories. It's a simple rock-paper-scissors-like system with a few extra bits added in to keep the action feeling strategic but also light.

That Nintendo charm

There isn't really anything in Heroes that feels new. The characters all seem to be from past Fire Emblem titles, the gameplay is like a light version of Warbits, and it's gacha mechanics are just like Monster Strike's.

Despite this, Heroes manages to be compelling because of how well put together it is. Dragging and dropping heroes across the map feels really nice, the combat feels really dynamic thanks to the production value put behind the battle animations, and the personalities of the cast manage to shine through, even though the game doesn't use them to tell a particularly great story. These things make it easy to overlook how upgrade mechanics are hardly explained and the annoying (but oddly generous) stamina meter that prevents you from playing too much of the game at once without paying.

The bottom line

Despite never having played a Fire Emblem game, I feel confident in saying that Heroes isn't a proper entry in the series. Trying to look at Heroes that way kind of misses the point though. Fire Emblem Heroes is a gacha-style game first and foremost, and a pretty well-made one at that. It also just so happens to be made by Nintendo and features characters and some gameplay elements from the Fire Emblem series, which largely make the game more enjoyable than it might otherwise be.

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