New Release Review: Fire Emblem Heroes (Mobile 2017)

I never thought the first review I did of a new game would be a freemium game for my phone. My addiction to Fire Emblem Heroes was almost instantaneous. 

Playable on both Android (what I’m using) and iOS, Fire Emblem Heroes was released worldwide on February 2nd, 2017. It’s a much smaller scale game than any of in the series, meant to be played in short bursts considering the nature of mobile gaming. But standalone it’s so much different than any other FE game, and in the most positive way.

If you’ve never played a Fire Emblem game, it’s a turn-based strategy RPG, where you take control of your characters one turn, then the enemy gets their turn and so on. Most games in the series aren’t really related to each other (with a few exceptions), so you can really pick up any of them and play them in any order you choose. This game is all about fan service, as you can “summon” heroes from most of the series to join your team. Pick your favourite 4 for each map or choose who you think will help you win, it’s all up to you.

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Every map is 6 by 8 squares, but the different terrain makes each battle unique.

The thing this game nails right is getting rid of the luck aspect of combat. You won’t be missing attacks, or getting hit unexpectedly for triple damage like the other FE games. Almost all of the information you need is right there in every battle, and if you take the time to analyze your opponent it becomes an intense thinking game of strategy and skill. You can use overpowered units to take away the challenge, but that will only get you so far as the late game enemies will not only have strategy but powerful units as well.

But the main attraction of this game is “summoning” new characters to your team. While this is entirely luck based, the thrill of seeing what characters you get makes the process so much fun. The characters you summon will be either 3, 4 or 5 stars, which dictates how powerful they start and how powerful they can become. Obviously it is extremely rare to get a 5-star hero, but the 3 and 4 stars have their worth as well.

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I got extremely lucky and my first summon was this 5-star Roy!

However here’s how they get you to spend money. You require orbs (the currency of the game) to summon new characters to your team. While they can be earned through play, quests and daily logins, you can also opt to spend your real money on them as well. I haven’t hit a point where this is necessary, but I have a feeling once the launch period ends it will be considerably tougher to get them without paying.

Being a freemium game, there is a system in place that can limit your game time if you don’t want to pay money. You have a “stamina” bar that maxes at 50 points, and every time you play a map it will cost you an amount depending on the difficulty of the map you’ve chosen. When it reaches 0, you can use a stamina potion if you have one, or an orb if you don’t. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait quite a bit as 1 stamina point regenerates every 5 minutes. Honestly, at launch with all the bonuses I’ve never really had an issue with this and was able to play for quite a long time each day.

Speaking of limiting game time, I’ve found this game is very generous on my battery. I played on both a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and a Samsung Galaxy Tab E and I was able to play for at least 2-3 hours before my battery got low. This game also requires an internet connection at all times, so be wary of your data when you’re traveling (although besides the initial updates it doesn’t really use much). Stick to Wi-Fi where and when you can.

I can definitely see where this game will begin to get grind heavy. While initially at launch there are numerous bonuses to help you get through the game, if you want to upgrade your characters it requires an insane amount of items. With enough grinding, you can get any character to 5 stars or again dump some money into the game to speed along the process.

The music and voice acting is pretty top notch. The music features various remixes of past FE installments while having some pretty decent original songs, including a fantastic rendition of the “Fire Emblem Theme”. The voice acting, for what is there is pretty good too. It’s also really cool to see characters from old games that never featured voice acting now speak for the first time. For the most part, they fit pretty well.

There is a multiplayer component to the game, but it’s a bit lacking. You can send your best team of 4 into “the arena” to fight against other teams from around the world, but it will only be computerized versions of their team. I hope they implement a future update to allow for live competitive battles.

There is also a friend list feature, but it doesn’t seem to do much at the moment. You can view your friend’s featured heroes and the game will send them to your castle each day so you can get some random items. They have to have plans for this in the future, because I’m not seeing the point now.

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Getting the new characters to 5 stars is gonna be a stupid amount of work.

I’m shocked at the sheer amount of content in this game, and the fact that you can access a lot of it with having to pay anything. While not terribly long, the game’s main story features 50 chapters that I blazed right through, with options to play through them again at 2 harder difficulties. I also sunk hours into the training tower (at launch stamina cost was cut in half).

If you’re looking to get into the Fire Emblem series, this is a fun and simple way in. It may play different than other games in the series, but it has familiar mechanics and will introduce you to a lot of the characters found in the other games. On it’s own, it holds up very well and is easy to pick up and play but becomes challenging as you progress. Hopefully with future updates, the life of this game continues for a long time. I can’t see myself putting it down any time soon.

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Retro Review: Super Mario Advance (GBA 2001)

I wanted my first review on here to be something in the realm that I was familiar with, but something that was new to me as well. Super Mario Advance is a remake of the NES game Super Mario Bros. 2, released back in 1988. However it uses the graphical style found in a different remake, Super Mario All-Stars for the SNES which came out in 1993. I feel compelled to point this out right away, so that I can draw comparisons to them so you can know where my opinion lies with this version of the game. Also this review will contain spoilers of the “story” of the game, but I mean it’s Mario nothing new here.

At first glance I knew there was gonna be changes from the get go, the title screen had a new opening that didn’t depict Mario’s adventure being a dream, like the original game had. Perhaps this was a reboot of the story to fit in with the modern day Mario universe? Regardless, a cool thing about this version of the game and the other “Advance” remakes (which I have played) is that not only does it come with a redone Mario game, but a redone version of the Mario Bros. Arcade game, which I’ll speak about later.

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Exploiting glitches on my first playthrough.

Some other neat changes right from the start was at the character select screen, which shows each of the character’s strengths and weaknesses. It doesn’t list that Princess Peach can hover through the air though, I guess you’re just supposed to know that or read the instruction manual. Also a really cool addition is that after you select a character, it shows all the stages in a storybook-like chapter screen, which is a neat homage to Doki Doki Panic (a Japanese exclusive NES game that would be re-skinned into Super Mario Bros. 2 and released to North America, but I’m not here to talk about that).

So how does the game play? Did it live up to my expectations of how Mario 2 should play? While there are lots of little changes to “modernize” the game, and make it play more like a traditional Mario game, it’s still just Mario 2 with a fresh coat of paint. It was a cool experience however, as there were new collectables to find that I never had to find before, making me explore areas I wouldn’t normally go to. I found the game was over generous with the amount of healing items it gave you, which you would think would make the game easier but like most Mario games your biggest enemy is falling into pits.

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Well it was still a dream after all!

I was pretty happy that they introduced a new boss into the game, considering in the original you do fight 2 of the bosses twice. But at the same time, you still fight 1 of the bosses twice and there’s no reason they couldn’t come up with a second unique boss fight. A lot of the new power ups are cool as well, but as the game isn’t really changed for them to work they feel out of place. They made a bunch of the objects and enemies bigger, and when you throw them they don’t do much else than having a bigger hit box.

While I did mention it was cool that they added new collectables, one of my biggest complaints was collecting the new “Ace Coins”, as collecting them just rewarded you with extra lives. Upon finishing the game you get the “Yoshi Challenge”, in which you have to search each level for 2 Yoshi eggs that sometimes are pretty deviously hidden (that I ended up using a guide towards the end). So to fully 100% the game, you have to play through it twice. I did this in one night, which may have soured my opinion of these bonuses and I wouldn’t recommend anyone do it all in one shot (or at all, because spoilers you get nothing for it).

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Totally worth the second playthrough…

So is this version the definitive one I’ll return to when I want to play Mario 2 again? Besides having a level select when you beat the game, probably not. All the extra stuff is just kinda there and takes away from the original challenge of the game. I’d highly recommend the Super Mario All-Stars port for the SNES (it’s also on the Wii too). I did have fun with this however, and it feels good to get another game crossed off my backlog of games I either haven’t finished or worse yet haven’t even played (check out this link if you want to see that).

So how does the remade version of Mario Bros. Arcade stack up to the original? Well, to begin with I had already played this remake as it is included in the other 3 Mario Advance games (which this can link to for up to 4 player multiplayer). I have to say, it is FANTASTIC. It is a port done right, that modernizes the controls while keeping the same difficulty of the original.

The multiplayer from what I can recall is really fun too. While I didn’t play it for this review, I have in the past and the fact that you can play with up to 3 other friends (in Versus mode) without them needed to own the game is a huge plus. I just wish the re-releases of these games on the Wii U’s Virtual Console had multiplayer support, which I’m sure wouldn’t be easy to implement but I can dream.

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By phase 64, it still didn’t feel repetitive to me!

Super Mario Advance is available on the Wii U Virtual Console, as I mentioned previously. I would recommend getting this over getting the original NES version via the same service as the graphical and music upgrades are much nicer than the original. Plus the fact you can play through the Mario Bros. Arcade is a nice bonus considering how well done it is. But the definitive version of Mario 2 is still the All-Stars version, which nowadays can be purchased for about $20 USD for the Nintendo Wii.

Super Mario Bros. 2 is one of the classics that if you haven’t played it, you should. With all the ways you can own it, there’s not much excuse considering you won’t have to break the bank to play it. I’m happy I got to experience it in a way that I never had before, and I hope that with this review you give the game a go whether you’ve play it or not.