Nintendo's Fire Emblem Heroes launched back on February 2nd. It's the latest in the Fire Emblem franchise and the first Mobile title in the series. More recent Fire Emblem games have released the characters from previous games as DLC add-ons. Heroes basically takes that idea of summoning heroes from the past and runs with it. Half of my response to this game boils down to the absolutely clumsiness of the battle mechanics, the rest of me thinks its a decently solid mobile game.
Fan reaction seems to be overwhelmingly positive. The twitter prize campaign Nintendo released a week after the launch was tripled within hours of the tweet going live:
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) February 7, 2017
Heroes, like most mobile JRPG titles, has a turn-based battle system. It's a popular system among Japanese titles so seeing it here is not a surprise. I guess what shocks me the most about it is how damn clumsy it is. You've got blocks you have to move characters around on, like places on a chess board.
Your 2D character sprites are static, attacking triggers an attack animation sequence to pop up that looks awesome and is rendered in regular old computer graphics with some nice static art overlaid on top of it. Its not like mobile title's can't have fluid battle systems, so the inclusion of those sequences here is rather annoying. Basically, it looks like we should have had those animation sequences for the entire battle instead of moving back to the blocks. The break in gameplay is not ideal, but, it could be worse.
If Heroes stuck to one system, I'd probably be less annoyed about it, even though I'm not a fan of the chess-board style.
Outside of that mechanic, the game follows the basic JRPG rules. You are a hero summoned by a legendary bow and the Order of Heroes needs you to save their world from an evil empire. You are the only character in the game capable of summoning other heroes to help you, because of course you are. The story is basic but engaging and overall the game feels very fun to play. It's a great mobile game in so much as it treats itself like a handheld Nintendo game.
It's got a basic red-green-blue system for game balance. Blue is strong against red, red against green, green against blue.
Fire Emblem Heroes plays like something you'd expect to play on a 3DS. Except its on your phone. And it does have a sort of "time out" mechanic to it like Candy Crush where you can either pay to keep playing or put your phone down for a few hours and play for free.
Heroes also has special event campaigns and login bonuses, the sort of MMO features that have become common amongst RPG mobile games. Pretty standard events, the rewards system doesn't make things too easy or too difficult. Overall, Fire Emblem Heroes is a well-balanced game.
Sure, there are some things the game doesn't tell you how to do, and there are some random cheats players found within hours, but that isn't exactly game-breaking. Nor is it new. In fact, most of these problems feel like things we used to see a whole lot more of back in Nintendo's heyday. The original Super Smash Bros didn't tell you that you had to beat the game in certain ways to unlock new characters, you just figured that out. Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow had their glitches and cheats – anyone remember Missing No.?
Honestly, I think this is where Nintendo should be now. We'll see what changes come with the launch of the Switch in March, but, I think moving to developing several mobile titles a year is a good place for them to be.
In a lot of ways, Heroes strikes me as Nintendo's answer to Final Fantasy Brave Exvius, and succeeds at being more fun than the mobile Final Fantasy – because it doesn't try to be what it isn't. Fire Emblem Heroes is a game designed for Fire Emblem fans, designed to cash in on the nostalgia factor. Brave Exvius tries to be a full fledged Final Fantasy while still allowing you to summon the characters from previous FF titles – and Ariana Grande during that bizarre event campaign.
Sure, the blind-item system can be frustrating but that's all part of the fun. And it's not like you need to worry about tracking an elaborate story so its an easy game to pick up on your lunch break and then forget about for a few hours.