Available On: iOS, Android

Nintendo continues its first tentative steps into mobile gaming. Fire Emblem Heroes harnesses the fun tactical combat of the RPG series, providing lots of free content and a satisfying Catch ‘Em All layer to its large cast of characters.

Tiny Tactics

fire emblem heroesIf you’re unfamiliar with the Fire Emblem series, it’s all about tactical combat. Your collection of anime heroes and soldiers move around on a grid-like map to battle opponents. In Fire Emblem Heroes, each character’s weapon and class has all been rolled into their skills. You can earn skill points through leveling up or merging duplicate heroes. Skills include weapon attacks, support skills, and passive abilities.

Fighting styles and weapon types have been broken up into four different colors: green, red, blue, and colorless. Each color includes multiple weapon styles and operate in a rock-paper-scissors triangle (with colorless being an outlier). Fielding a balanced team of ranged and melee in multiple colors is critical to success on the battlefield.

Maps in Fire Emblem are often large, lengthy battles with over a dozen people on both sides. Fire Emblem Heroes doesn’t try to emulate that. Instead it scales everything to fit on a single phone screen, with four heroes. It works surprisingly well without feeling too dumbed down for Fire Emblem veterans.

In addition to a lengthy Story Campaign there are also daily Special Maps that reward new heroes, a Training Tower to level up heroes, and Arena Duels to battle other players’ armies (controlled by an AI). With a finite amount of Stamina and Dueling Swords it’s most effective to play a little each day, though you can earn replenishing items in-game as well.

Holding Out for a Hero

Fire Emblem Heroes is a free-to-download title. It operates on a timed Stamina system, which means you can only fight so many battles before you need to wait to refill (or use stamina potions). However the main source of real-money purchases are through orbs and hero summoning.

Orbs are what are used to summon new heroes to you army. The catch is that it’s mostly random on which heroes you get. At launch you can choose between two categories: Legendary Heroes and Deep Devotion. Five orbs appear in random colors. If you’re seeking a certain hero you can select their color, but it’s still random on which hero you’ll get. You get a slight orb discount if you choose multiple orbs in a single batch.

Heroes come in a one to five star rating, with five star heroes commanding the best stats and abilities. With enough hard work and time you can level up a one star hero all the way to five, but drawing a five star hero from an orb is a huge, gratifying boost to your power.

Given the large cast of warriors across generations of Fire Emblem games, I found this approach fun and rewarding. I was delighted to get favorites from past titles (Camilla!) while intrigued to learn about heroes from games that never came to the U.S.

Fire Emblem heroes sakuraI felt I earned enough orbs through in-game rewards that I could summon heroes quite frequently without ever feeling the pull to spend money – so far.

The Rating

Fire Emblem Heroes has been rated 12+ on iOS for Mild Fantasy Violence and Mild Sexual Content and Nudity. Characters attack each other with weapons and appear hurt (but never bloody) during their brief close-ups. Defeated enemies simply disappear. Many female (and a few male) characters are drawn and voiced very suggestively.

The Takeaway

Fire Emblem Heroes is a fun title with impressive production values. For Fire Emblem fans it has all the great sound effects, music, and basic combat design that makes the series so much fun. The collect ’em all aspect to hero gathering is addictive and enjoyable. Intelligent Systems did an amazing job distilling the essence of the beloved series into a mobile title that’s preferably played in short bursts.

This article was written by

Eric has been writing for over nine years with bylines at Dicebreaker, Pixelkin, Polygon, PC Gamer, Tabletop Gaming magazine, and more covering movies, TV shows, video games, tabletop games, and tech. He reviews and live streams D&D adventures every week on his YouTube channel. He also makes a mean tuna quesadilla.