Arts & CultureVideo Games

Review: ‘Fire Emblem Heroes’ captures the basic charm of the series in an accessible new form

Dramatic storylines and turn-based-combat are what the “Fire Emblem” universe is all about. With over 15 games released over the last three decades, there are certainly plenty of tales to tell within the expansive saga. The latest installment might be the perfect place to start for newbies to the series, since it brings heroes from all the games together in a light, smartphone-sized adventure.

Fire Emblem Heroes is a free-to-play turn-based strategy game available on the iTunes App Store and Google Play. It features elements of the popular “gacha” genre, a business model commonly used in Japan that involves collecting randomly obtained in-game characters with varying rarities and quality levels. You can get multiple copies of the same character, but a five-star version would have better stats than its 4-star counterpart.

The game features characters from across the entirety of the “Fire Emblem” series with new heroes being added on a regular basis and some that are exclusive to the newest game itself. You play as a Summoner from another Earth who has the power to call heroes from any of the “Fire Emblem” worlds. Together with the Order of Heroes, you must stop the misguided Emblian Empire from abusing the same power. 

While the story is serviceable, it feels bare bones when compared to the strong character-driven narratives that the franchise is known for. Still, it’s fun to see old friends or new faces presented in a clean, modern art style that still captures the original theme of characters that were drawn as far back as the early ‘90s. Combat is where the game truly excels, having boiled down the core Fire Emblem gameplay to a mechanically simple, but tactically complex form.

Marth, from the original ‘Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light’ game published in 1990, redesigned for his latest appearance. (Courtesy of Nintendo)

The combat is focused around the classic “Fire Emblem” formula of weapons-based rock-paper-scissors. Red sword beats green axe, green axe beats blue spear and blue spear beats red sword. There is also a colorless weapon type of archers, ninjas and healers that are exempt from the triangle as well as a set of magic tomes with corresponding magic types of each color. Characters wielding these weapons attack from a range and cannot counter-attack or be counter-attacked. Each character also has one of five additional unit types (armored, infantry, cavalry, flying and dragon) that have varying movements and different strengths and weaknesses to one another and the aforementioned weapon types.

The tactical battle screen from Fire Emblem Heroes. (Courtesy of Nintendo)

The square grid-based maps and unique movements of each character make the game feel like an advanced version of chess. For example, a heavy red sword wielding armor unit can only move one space, but is immune to arrow damage and hits infantry units like a truck, only to be blown away by a blue magic wielder.

As a free-to-play game, “Fire Emblem Heroes” has a premium element in the form of purchasable “summon stones” which can be used to obtain new heroes, upgrade your castle to increase experience or add more room for heroes.

Summon stones can be earned by progressing in the game’s campaign mode or by completing special quests that change on a daily, monthly or even yearly basis. These quests also reward various currencies needed to upgrade units to higher star levels and usually have a color that corresponds to a character’s weapon type. These upgrades serve as a way to invest time to get better heroes, instead of leaving it up to chance to try and get the best version. Keep in mind that you’ll need to get a hero to level 20 before upgrading and after they reach a new star level they’ll also be reset to level 1.

If you like the core gameplay of the “Fire Emblem” series or are just a fan of turn based strategy games, “Fire Emblem Heroes” is one of the best available for mobile devices. The core gameplay is a blast and the story will either drown you in nostalgia for the previous games in the series or might just pique your interest for the classic franchise.

You can check it out for free on the Itunes App Store or Google Play.

Watch the trailer below:



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Mathew Brock

Mathew Brock