‘Heroes’ brings classic ‘Fire Emblem’ experience with a dash of tedium

By Zachary Landau | Asst. A&E Editor

If nothing else, “Fire Emblem: Heroes” is an interesting barometer for Nintendo’s mobile efforts. It is the first in the company’s line-up of mobile games to most accurately replicate the source game’s, well, gameplay. “Super Mario Run” is an auto-runner as opposed to a platformer, and “Pokémon GO” is a flaming pile of trash compared to the series’ JRPG roots. “Heroes” retains its series’ strategy-RPG formula but narrows its scope to be more phone-friendly.

With “Animal Crossing” looking to follow in “Heroes” footsteps later this year by bringing its series’ traditional gameplay to a new platform, it would be interesting to examine how well the latter manages to effectively accomplish that goal.

It would be, but “Heroes” is not a particularly interesting game. As it stands, it is a rather unremarkable distraction that fails to excite.

A primer: “Fire Emblem: Heroes” features the same strategy-RPG of past games in the series, but condenses it down to a micro level. Battles take place on a single screen, and your squadrons are composed of characters from past games (as opposed to the huge casts typically found in each new entry).

As someone who has never played a “Fire Emblem” game, I was excited to try “Heroes” to see if I would click with the series. Being free-to-play, the game is a good way for those leery of the genre to try a bit out before dropping $40 on a full game.

However, I have the suspicion that more than just the extra trappings were stripped away to make “Fire Emblem” playable on mobile.

The story seems to be the most obvious victim here, as it more-or-less amounts to the same excuse to get players to fight different characters from the series. It is all rather contrived, and none of the characters are particularly interesting enough to care about.

Even more egregious than the non-existent story is how convoluted it is. I cannot remember the name of the enemy faction, the kingdom I am supposed to be protecting, or most of the characters’ names; it is just this miasma of vaguely-medieval-sounding names, ridiculously-complex armor and contrived allegiances. It is all really forgettable as a result.

This would not be so bad if the gameplay had just a bit more depth. By all accounts, “Heroes” is certainly playable. I have yet to encounter a game-breaking bug, and the core gameplay is serviceable enough. However, there are a ton of nitpicks that amount to a huge nitpick here.

For one, the difficulty curve is all kinds of messed up. One of the first passive buffs you can purchase is an experience-point multiplier, and with that equipped the game may as well let you fast-forward five chapters because it becomes ridiculously easy. I did not start losing skirmishes until the 4-hour mark, at which point the game started throwing me into scenarios in which I literally could not win with the squad I had.

Which leads me to the characters. Your troops are distributed in a raffle-style system akin to other mobile games like “Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius.” Pay up five orbs (which are distributed with a fair amount of regularity), and you get a character. Sounds simple, but this is where the whole game falls apart for me.

First, this system is dirty in how it entices players with series’ icons (like Marth and Roy), but does not guarantee them. Second, it is a type of gambling. It may not be legally gambling (as of now), but it is gambling, and considering you can fork over real-world money to buy parts of a chance (not even a whole chance) to get these characters is just disgusting. It would not be so bad if there was an option to grab the characters you want for a little more (maybe 10 orbs or something), but as it is, you are better off not bothering as the default characters available are good enough to get through most of the game unbothered.

And that really sums up “Fire Emblem: Heroes:” your time is better spent elsewhere. A pedestrian game, “Heroes” does little to impress and is mostly just a continuous drag. It’s ultimately forgettable, and even as I write this, “Heroes” slowly fades from my mind’s eye.