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Fire Emblem Heroes: The Jump Off

/ Feb 9th, 2017 No Comments

Fire Emblem Heroes

Nintendo has made a head-first dive into mobile gaming as a way to introduce its characters to a new audience. Success has varied widely among the efforts, from the wildly successful Pokémon Go to the confusing Super Mario Run and the well-intentioned Miitomo. Its latest attempt to crossover into mobile gaming is Fire Emblem Heroes.

Unlike the prior mobile titles, Fire Emblem Heroes actually may convince new players to seek out the core series on 3DS or the upcoming Nintendo Switch.

Fire Emblem Heroes’ biggest strength is its gameplay, specifically how it transitions its brand of deep strategy role-playing to a mobile setting. The gameplay becomes a perfectly simplified expression of the core Fire Emblem mechanics, and it is an excellent way for new players to get into the series.

Bite Sized

The most radical change to the core mechanics is the size of the map. Fire Emblem Heroes takes mobile screen orientation into account by shrinking down typically large, complex maps. In the mobile game, maps are smaller and vertical, allowing for accessible touch commands. One drawback of this is the reduction in the number of soldiers on both sides to four (sometimes more for your opponent, depending on map size).

Fire Emblem Heroes

Fire Emblem Heroes’ biggest change is map size.

While it makes skirmishes feel less like commanding an army (and by extension less daunting), it does make each move you make more meaningful. When you only have four party members, you weigh each move carefully because one misjudgment could lead to the loss of a team member. Sacrifices become more calculated and attacks more measured because it’s easy for a match to go south quickly.

Valar Morghulis, but Not Really

Deaths are less punishing in Heroes. Unlike the main Fire Emblem series, there is no permadeath. This is largely due to the game’s free-to-play nature — imagine how pissed you’d be if your five-star Lucinda got killed after spending money for orbs to get her in a lucky draw? Additionally, it makes the game more accessible, which is why it was also an option in recent 3DS entries.

Even though heroes don’t die permanently after falling in battle, there are consequences for dying. Any soldier that falls before completing a battle will not gain any experience earned during the fight. This may not be as crushing as losing a hero, but it does impact gameplay.

Fire Emblem Heroes

Fire Emblem Heroes allows you to command a large number of familiar faces, but luckily you won’t lose any heroes permanently if they fall in battle.

Another of the game’s free-to-play designs is the stamina system. Any map you choose to play costs a set amount of stamina. The stamina recharges with time, reducing your ability to play if you do not spend precious items or money.

When a hero dies, you lose out on experience, resulting in both additional grinding to level up and waiting for your stamina to regenerate. Death becomes less a story device and more a time sink, which is more aggravating.

Elegant Strategy

Despite some changes made for the platform, Fire Emblem Heroes retains the series’ core mechanics. The rock-paper-scissor advantages and weaknesses remain intact. For those unfamiliar, in Fire Emblem, swords beat axes that in turn crush lances and lances demolish swords.

This principle means choosing the makeup of your team is highly important. If you don’t have the right team, the enemy can defeat you easily. It isn’t just the battlefield where strategy is important, it leads all the decisions you make in the game from planning to execution.

Fire Emblem Heroes

Special moves are still in the game, but they charge up during battles. They can be unleashed in the same fashion as a normal attack or a counter attack for added damage.

When actually playing maps in the game, the gameplay feels familiar. The grid movement is still there — you can check movement range by selecting a unit, and units attack or buff adjacent units by moving near them. The only difference is all of these movements are done by simply dragging your finger across the screen.

Even though this removes some of the more complex actions common to the main series, it makes the game easier to play and speeds up each matches considerably. All of the minor changes to the Fire Emblem formula are perfect for beginners, but challenging enough for veteran fans.


The only drawback to Fire Emblem Heroes’ setup of assembling renowned Fire Emblem characters to fight as one army is that newcomers are unfamiliar with the heroes. Unlike Final Fantasy, which has similar games in Final Fantasy Record Keeper and Final Fantasy Brave Exvius, Fire Emblem has a much smaller stable of recognizable heroes.

While Marth, Roy, Lucina and Robin’s inclusion in Super Smash Bros. has helped beef up their profile, most people couldn’t tell you who any of the other characters are in the game. This can make it hard for newbies to connect with it.

Fire Emblem Heroes

Prince Alfonse is new to Fire Emblem Heroes, but needs the help of you and other famous Fire Emblem heroes to stop the Emblian Empire.

To help remedy unfamiliarity, the game gives a hand description and game appearance of each character you obtain. By simply going to your team roster and clicking on a hero’s name, you’ll discover a short snippet of information. Sadly, it is a bit convoluted. A better remedy would be to have a handy encyclopedia in the settings that easily collates the data on the heroes you’ve summoned.

Another way the game combats unfamiliarity is in its story mode. Heroes isn’t solely about trying to put together a team full of Roys. There are a few new characters and a story explaining why heroes from various Fire Emblem kingdoms are coming together.

You are the summoner out to help the Kingdom of Askr stop the Emblian Empire from taking over different Fire Emblem kingdoms. To do this, you summon heroes with a special weapon from these kingdoms. As you go through each kingdom, you get a little backstory and insight into the events of the past. If there is one huge positive to the story, it is that it acts as a truncated Fire Emblem history lesson.

It’s Free, yo!

Fire Emblem Heroes is a fantastic free-to-play game without the gross freemium hooks common in the model. Not only does it do free-to-play right, it transitions its own tried-and-true gameplay seamlessly to mobile devices and makes it accessible.

If you haven’t played a Fire Emblem game yet but have been wanting to, this is the perfect opportunity to do so. Chances are, if you give Fire Emblem Heroes a spin, you’ll be a fan in no time.


Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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