Tag Archives: Fire Emblem

Fire Emblem Heroes: Five months on

Lucius and I have joined forces to take stock of Fire Emblem Heroes, Nintendo’s smartphone game that for both of us has become an unexpected obsession. Both of us are long-time Fire Emblem fans and have written about this game before (here and here), but our detailed look back starts with the earliest announcements and days of anticipation and goes up to the present. We also look to the future, with some thoughts about where things may go from here. So strap on your armor or grab your tome or healing staff, cue the Fire Emblem theme music, and join us for a closer look at the dangerously addictive Fire Emblem Heroes.

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Announcement reactions

Professor GreilMercs: Nintendo had announced Fire Emblem on mobile devices way back in spring of 2016, leaving fans to speculate for months over what form it would take. One obvious route would have been to just create a digital version of the trading card game (which, by the way, is called Fire Emblem Cipher and is a lot of fun), but fortunately developer Intelligent Systems had much more in store. The game was finally revealed via a Nintendo Direct devoted to the series early this year, and my initial reaction was of cautious optimism. While I was super psyched to see the return of my favorite characters from the series, the small size of the maps seemed limiting. I was also disappointed in the lack of support conversations, which in the main games is where two characters interact, and it’s a mechanic that serves to really bring the characters and the world of the games to life.

Lucius P. Merriweather: Yeah, I wasn’t too sure of it at that first announcement, either. The small maps seemed like a “dumbing down” of the main game, and I was worried the whole thing might just be some throwaway gimmick with a greedy gacha money-making system tagged onto it. The lack of support conversations also seemed like a big loss; in the last couple of games, the fighting almost took a back seat to the ongoing soap opera of the characters’ lives, and those conversations have really become a mainstay of the series.

However, I was pleasantly surprised when I finally got to play the game for myself…

Release and initial reactions

PGM: I enjoyed the game on its initial release, and quickly blitzed through the story mode. The character artwork and voice acting and the touchscreen interface are all great. I pulled two quite good 5* characters (the highest ranking) who saw me through a lot of my first months with the game, as I was hoarding orbs (the currency for pulling new characters) until my favorite characters were released (basically anyone from Sacred Stones and Path of Radiance/Radiant Dawn). In terms of character selection, it’s not surprising that the vast majority of the characters are drawn from the most popular games, namely the first game in the series, Shadow Dragon (remade as Mystery of the Emblem), and Awakening and Fates, the two most recent games (barring the just-released Shadows of Valentia). Incidentally, in terms of character selection and such, Nintendo is taking the same approach with the upcoming Fire Emblem Warriors by focusing on elements from those specific three games, which is somewhat disappointing for long-time fans of the series.

LPM: I was also a little disappointed at the relative lack of characters from earlier games, but it’s understandable given the sales figures for the later entries. Awakening sold upwards of 2 million copies, so the characters will be familiar to lots of people, whereas earlier entries like Sacred Stones sold well under half that amount. Still, I was well chuffed at bagging Sacred Stones stalwart Ephraim early on – and I’m holding out for an appearance from Ewan or Syrene. But in terms of fan service, they’ve done a good job of rolling out old favourites quite regularly, and there are still hundreds of characters they could release.

PGM: Regarding the gacha mechanics, they’ve actually ended up not bothering me too much, as the game gives you a steady stream of free orbs and you can stockpile them for an event featuring a character you really want. In this case I definitely don’t feel compelled to be a completist, and through conscientious hoarding and a fair amount of good luck I’ve able to get the characters I wanted most (in particular, those of my namesake, such as Ike and Soren). The game also does a good job of getting you started with building up your roster of characters by letting you battle and earn characters for free, via “Hero Battles”, a regular rotation of low-star regular characters where you can earn two of each of 12 characters for a total of 24, and “Grand Hero Battles”, which are timed events that feature unique characters, often villains from the main games.

LPM: I’m surprised at how generous they’ve been, to be honest. I was expecting constant paywalls, with progression linked to buying orbs and characters. But there are numerous ways to earn orbs, and I’ve amassed an army of more than 100 characters without having to spend a penny. I have quite a decent crew of five-star characters, too. That said, the limited time period for which special characters are available does mean the temptation is always there to spend a little cash. I picked up cute lil’ old Bunny Ears Lucina during the spring event, and I was sorely tempted to throw some money at the game just to complete the spring set before the event ended. I mean, who could resist Xander wielding a giant carrot?

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PGM: Haha. Yeah, the special event characters are definitely tempting, but I’ve been doing a pretty good job of not getting too distracted by them. Although that sort of went out the window with the current summer swimsuit event, haha. 😉

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PGM: As for the gameplay itself, it’s actually less dumbed down than I expected, as there’s a lot more emphasis on characters’ skills than in the main games and everything is quite well balanced in terms of characters’ stats, their weapons and movement abilities, and their assist, special, and passive skills. I wasn’t sure how my interest in the game would progress, although the developers did promise regular updates to include new characters and modes.

LPM: Yes, what really pleased me the most is that although the game is much simpler and quicker than the main games in the series, there’s still a lot of strategy – and at advanced levels there’s all the skill setting and stat watching you’d expect of a full-fat FE title.

New modes and features

PGM: During those first months my interest in the game continued pretty steadily, which was somewhat surprising. The almost daily release of new missions to tackle, the majority of which offer worthwhile rewards, is compelling and super addictive. The limited-time Grand Hero Battles include the game’s most challenging maps that generally require repeated attempts and have a puzzle-like element. They’ve continued to fine tune the Arena mode (which pits your team of 4 against another player’s, although theirs is controlled by the CPU) and roll out new story chapters, variations (such as maps that require you to survive for a certain number of turns or have tiles that boost your defense), and modes (such as the Voting Gauntlet, which has you choosing amongst eight specific characters and fighting on his/her team).

LPM: I love the Voting Gauntlet. I’m currently championing Elise in a war of the lady healers. Seeing the ridiculous number of points each team accrues is a reminder of just how many bloody people play this game, and it helps you to feel part of a larger community.

The Grand Hero Battles are fantastic, too. The harder ones are almost impossible to beat sometimes, and it can take days or even weeks for me to work out a strategy to beat them. High-class stuff.

PGM: One of the biggest changes was the introduction of Skill Inheritance, which was added only a month and a half after the game was released. Skill Inheritance allows you to sacrifice a hero in order to pass her/his abilities (e.g. weapon, assists, specials, or passive skills) onto another hero. At the time it seemed way too early to add this feature in, as it seemed like it would destroy the game’s balance and wipe out all the things that made the heroes unique as all characters would all converge to the same combination of skills. But in practice this hasn’t quite happened. The core gacha mechanic ensures that your roster of characters will be different from others’, and so your pool of skills to inherit from will be quite different. Skill Inheritance does a good job of both letting you customise a character that you really like to fit your play style, and letting you make good use of characters that you don’t really like or have multiple copies of.

The other big change was added only recently, which was a new event mode called Tempest Trials that ran for the past couple of weeks. This mode actually makes the game feel like a proper Fire Emblem game, in that you have to tackle a certain number of maps in a row (seven being the maximum). You’re also limited to a certain number of attempts (in the form of four-person teams you can use). The rewards were high, and the challenge was worthwhile. The mode forces you to focus on a range of characters rather than just using the same four over and over again. The only downside was that the mode required you to play it over and over again during the event period without any breaks in order to get the best rewards, which ended up being super repetitive and a real slog. Still, this mode adds great depth to the already engaging game, and all of these additions have done an amazing job of keeping me hooked on the game way past the point I had expected to be.

Enjoyment turning into obsession

LPM: I think the moment I realised FE Heroes was becoming an obsession was when I missed my bus because I was just too engrossed in the game. I growled in frustration as I looked up to see my bus sailing past – but I was also secretly relieved because it gave me more time to play Heroes while I waited for the next one.

My daily routine now includes opening the game just after 8am to see what missions and goodies are on offer. And every ‘screen break’ now features a quick session of FE Heroes – which does slightly negate the point of a screen break, I suppose.

PGM: My interest in the game has gone through several slight dips and peaks. I hoarded characters until I reached the limit you can have (200, although you can pay orbs to up that number), and then I got into merging characters (combining two of the same type of characters to raise their stats) and inheriting skills. Planning out characters to use and what skills to inherit is exactly the type of Fire Emblem geekery that I obsess over, and I’ve spent hours looking up characters’ stats. I have a huge file on my computer where I record the stats of the characters I have amongst other geeky info, and I’ve pretty much memorized the various tier lists for the game that I’ve been consulting daily religiously.

I’ve been amazed at the number of hours I’ve put into this game. The other day I somehow got sucked into playing the game for 6 hours. A couple of those hours were finishing up the special marathon Tempest Trials mode in the morning, a couple more hours on grinding characters for skills in the afternoon, and then a couple of hours at night trying (and failing) repeatedly to beat the “Infernal” mode of a Grand Hero Battle map. There were a couple of days last month where I was caught up on all the missions and I was, frankly, relieved that I didn’t have to play the game. Right now I’d probably have to play about an hour a day to keep up with the missions, which is a little higher than would be ideal, but is still doable.

LPM: I was worried the game might get too repetitive at first. Certainly, grinding characters through the Training Tower can get a little dull sometimes. But the sheer variety of missions and battle types they’ve added to the game has put all thoughts of repetition out of my mind. There’s an embarrassment of options here.

The future?

PGM: Developer Intelligent Systems has perfectly paced the game’s rollout of new features, and definitely kept me hooked even though I haven’t had to spend a dime. I find it hard to imagine how they can continue to keep adding new features and modes, but just as it is the game should be able to continue to keep my attention for a good while (although I’m still waiting for some of my other favorite characters to be added, whine, whine). Right now with the existing roster of characters each character has a fairly unique combination of movement type, weapon type, and spread of stats (although there are too many sword users, which is inevitable as nearly all the main characters from the main games are sword users). A lot of the newer characters have been given new unique skills that have still managed to keep things pretty balanced, but it’s hard to imagine how that can continue for another 100+ new characters.

LPM: It’s been fascinating to see how the game has evolved and has continued to keep evolving. At first, characters like Hector and Takumi seemed far too overpowered, but nowadays it’s a struggle to get far with them, as more and more options and heroes have been introduced. Keeping on top of the meta game is a full time job, and it’s only going to get more complex and involved as more characters get introduced.

PGM: Intelligent Systems is one of my favorite developers, and contrary to my initial expectations the game is actually so much fun and addictive that I’ve added it to my list of Favorite Games of All Time. I’m skeptical that the game can continue to keep my attention for another year, but I’m also looking forward to seeing what Intelligent Systems has up their sleeves.

LPM: Me too. Oh my god, summer swimsuit Tiki has some sort of melon hammer! Right, time to farm some orbs…

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All of the amiibo announced at E3 2017

Well, Nintendo certainly went all out on the amiibo announcements at this year’s E3. Here’s a look at what delightful plastic figures we can expect over the next few months, starting off with the ones that everyone’s getting most excited about…

Metroid amiibo

Oh yeah, now we’re talking. Nintendo announced two amiibos to tie in with the release of the Metroid II remake, Metroid: Samus Returns. But the thing that’s got everyone excited is that the Metroid is SQUISHY. Yes, it doesn’t take much to get amiibo fans all hot under the collar. Both are due on 15 September 2017.

Fire Emblem amiibo

Next! Chrom and Tiki are on their way to accompany the release of Fire Emblem Warriors:

Chrom’s odd asymmetrical trouser look seems to be really prominent here – he’s a queer fish when it comes to sartorial matters. He’s gone for an odd choice of pose, too – I’m fairly sure that’s not the right way to hold a sword. For Tiki, they seem to have gone with her original look from Mystery of the Emblem rather than the updated style in Awakening and Heroes – all very 80s anime. At first I wasn’t sure about it, but the look is gradually growing on me.

For the base, they’re gone for the same style as the recently released Alm and Celica, and no doubt we’ll be seeing a whole host of other Fire Emblem amiibo in due course. Can’t wait! Neither of these has a release date, but we can expect them at the same time Fire Emblem Warriors is released in the autumn.

Zelda amiibo

I have to say, the detail on these ones is stunning. These four new Zelda amiibo – the Goron champion Daruk, the Rito champion Revali, the Zora champion Mipha and the Gerudo champion Urbosa – are being released to tie in with the second DLC pack for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. All look pretty amazing, and no doubt will be extremely hard to get hold of – especially considering that the original Breath of the Wild amiibo have sold out pretty much everywhere (I’m still trying to get hold of ‘trouser Zelda’ for a reasonable price – scalpers are charging upwards of £30-50 online).

A few people have already commented on Urbosa’s awkwardly placed support strut – it’s certainly the most X-rated amiibo we’ve seen so far. There’s no official release date for these yet, but expect them in around December, when the DLC drops.

Mario wedding amiibo

These three are to tie in with Super Mario Odyssey, in which Bowser becomes a pimp in New Donk City. Probably.

Considering what a bonkers game Odyssey is turning out to be, it’s somewhat fitting that we have some suitably weird amiibo to accompany it, with two rival grooms competing for the affection of a somewhat worried looking bride. I probably won’t get these ones myself – collecting the Fire Emblem and Zelda amiibos is enough of a strain on my wallet as it is – but I’m very glad they exist. All are due out on 27 October 2017.

More Mario amiibo

Along with the fancy wedding amiibos, these two rather more pedestrian amiibos were announced for the Super Mario range: Goomba and Koopa Troopa. Nothing too exciting to see here, but a couple to keep an eye out for if you’re planning to complete the Super Mario set. Personally, I’ve avoided the Mario set, as they all look rather plain compared to the fantastic detail on the Fire Emblem characters and Smash Bros. characters like Shulk and Ganondorf.

Although of course I had to make an exception for Toad. I mean, who doesn’t love Toad?

Bye for now!

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From The Armchair: Fire Emblem FTW

What ho, chums!

First of all, a big thanks to everyone who has contacted me about writing for A Most Agreeable Pastime, it’s great to hear from you. Sorry for my lack of replies so far – I’ve been hugely busy over the past couple of weeks, but I will get back you all eventually. There are exciting times ahead in The Manor, watch this space!

Last week I wrote about The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, as The Year of Zelda got off to a cracking start. I actually finished that game quite a few weeks ago, and I fully intended to slide straight into Oracle of Ages – but Fire Emblem leapt into my face like a barking Chiahuahua with ADHD and insisted that I play with it.

It all started with Fire Emblem Heroes, that gacha-style mobile game that, to all intents and purposes, is a sort of ‘Fire Emblem Lite’ with added gambling. I was sceptical of its tiny maps and lack of permadeath at first, but it soon had its quasi-medieval tendrils hooked into me. In fact, I’ve been playing it every single day, often multiple times – the tiny maps and constantly refreshing quests are perfect for quick five-minute breaks during the working day. I’ve been tending to my ‘A’ team of Lucina, Ephraim, Camilla and Setsuma like a digital shepherd with an overly fond and possibly questionable appreciation of his flock.

And as sure as soft drugs lead to hard drugs and The Beatles led to dance music (FACT: without ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ there would be no Chemical Brothers), my time with FEH spurred me into buying Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright, and now I can’t put the damn thing down.

I’m still not sure whether it’s better or worse than Fire Emblem: Awakening, but I’m certain that it’s damn good fun. The story is compelling, the little support vignettes between the characters are almost always endearing, and the swoopy 3D of the battles genuinely made me gasp the first time I saw it. I also liked the fact that they’ve done away with weapon durability – swords, axes and lances are now effectively unbreakable – but I miss moving characters over the map world, as it’s hard to get the same sense of progression.

Anyway, I’m almost done with Birthright now, but I’ve already downloaded its companion game, Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest, and I’m keen to see the conflict from the other side. Not only that, you wouldn’t believe the number of hours I’ve been putting into Xenoblade Chronicles X… but more on that another time.

All in all, it means that The Year of Zelda has been put on hold briefly – at least until I can liberate the residents of Nohr/Hoshido and New Los Angeles, that is.

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From The Armchair: Old Man Lucius

ArmchairWhat ho, chums!

Friends, I’m growing old. As I near the end of my fourth decade on this planet, my listening predilections are veering from rock and roll towards radio plays, and my shoes are getting comfier and less fashionable with every passing year. I’m wholeheartedly embracing it – bring on the grey hairs, I say. I now actively look forward to receiving new socks and slippers for Christmas.

One change I’ve noticed is that my choice of games is getting more sedate as my body withers into middle-aged podginess. My extended time with No Man’s Sky has been so relaxing because that game is essentially an enormous galactic toolshed, and I’ve been pottering around it happily while avoiding doing the dishes. One of my biggest regrets so far in life is that I don’t own a shed of my own, but thankfully gaming can fill the void with virtual sheds like this one, in which I can make useless things and let my mind wander freely.

No Man's Sky is essentially a space shed.

No Man’s Sky is essentially a space shed.

I’ve also been playing a lot of Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones on the Wii U, a Virtual Console version of the old Game Boy Advance game. (God knows why they didn’t release this portable game on the 3DS as well, Nintendo works in mysterious ways sometimes.) I think turn-based strategy games are probably my all-time favourite game genre, simply because they give me the space to sit and ruminate on what I want to do next. It’s truly relaxing, and these days that’s what I really play games for – to take a break, and lose myself in another realm. Or shed.

Which brings me to Bayonetta 2. I finally finished the game this week, and I think it’s brilliant – right up there with the first one, and between them they represent the absolute pinnacle of the hack ‘n’ slash genre. Superbly crafted, ambitious in scope, incomparable in depth and simply gorgeous to look at. But quite often I found I was simply too exhausted to play it.

Bayonetta 2: exhausting.

Bayonetta 2: exhausting.

I’d often fire up the Wii U and thrash through a level or two, only to turn it off about an hour  and play something a bit less taxing on the old thumbs and fingers. Bayonetta 2 is a game that demands lightning reflexes and constant attention, and my ageing brain is far too addled with years of coffee and biscuit abuse to take that kind of strain for long. An hour is about the limit before my failing cortex demands a game that has in-built coffee breaks – i.e. turn-based strategy.

I’m already glancing through my game collection and mentally discarding titles that look like they might be a bit too much like hard work. Crysis 2 seems like it might require too much running around. Child of Eden is basically a headache inducer. Zone of the Enders needs to just slow down and smell the roses once in a while.

Phew, all this typing is hard work. I think I’ll just close my eyes for a few minutes…

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Roy has arrived!

My Roy amiibo finally arrived this morning – and only three days late. Ooooh, GAME UK whyIoughta… [shakes fist]. To be fair, they sent it out on Thursday morning, so it’s probably more Royal Mail to blame. But everyone loves to take a pop at GAME sometimes, don’t they? *mumble mumble preowned prices mumble mumble extortionate mumble mumble*

Roy amiibo in box

Anyway, as ever I’m impressed by the level of detail on the amiibo figurines, they really are great little things. Roy’s mega flares are the standout this time around – just look at those glorious bad boys.

roy amiibo

Yes sirree, my Fire Emblem amiibo set is shaping up nicely – just Corrin to go!

fire emblem amiibo collection

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It’s nearly Roy day

Things have been quiet on the amiibo front of late. The last one I bought was R.O.B. back in November, although before that there was a relative flood of them through my front door in summer.

roy-amiibo

And now another one is due to arrive. Tomorrow, Roy will join my other four Fire Emblem amiibo – and eventually Corrin from Fire Emblem Fates will complete the set, whenever she goes on sale. I’m a Fire Emblem fan, in case you can’t tell.

The irony of all this is that even though all of these amiibos come from the Super Smash Bros. Collection, I’ve barely played the actual game they’re meant to work with: I sunk a few hours into Super Smash Bros. for Wii U back when I bought it in December 2014, but I don’t think I’ve played it since then. Except, that is, when I took it to a stag do last year and pretty much everyone hated it, labelling it “too confusing”. They’ve got a point.

Pretty much the same thing happened with Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii – I played and enjoyed it for a few hours, but then never went back. I guess fighting games just don’t really hold the appeal for me that they once did.

Tiny plastic figurines, on the other hand, have me enthralled.

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My Fire Emblem amiibo set is complete

IMG_2607Good news everyone! With the arrival of Robin and Lucina, my set of Fire Emblem amiibos is complete! At least until they decide to release any more Fire Emblem-themed amiibos, that is.

Lucina, of course, is one of the main characters in the recent Fire Emblem: Awakening for the 3DS, whereas Robin is the player’s character in that very same game – and until Super Smash Brothers for Wii U came out, I had no idea he/she had a name (you usually give the character a moniker at the start of the game). The amiibo is of the male version of the character – although Ms D thought he was a woman. I suppose he is a bit androgynous…

IMG_2610As with the other Fire Emblem amiibos, I’m impressed with the level of detail on these figures – they really look great. Even Ms D admitted that they look pretty cool, even though she’s slightly concerned that tiny plastic toys are taking over the living room. She asked me how many more are arriving.

“Just one,” I replied, “It’s Yarn Yoshi, but that one’s made out of wool, so it looks really cool… Oh, and Ganondorf as well.”

Cue raised eyebrow.

“Well, he needs to keep Link company…”

IMG_2611Anyway, back to Lucina. I was surprised to see her sporting this rather comprehensive support structure, although her legs are pretty spindly, so it’s understandable. To be honest though, the support is fairly unobtrusive – unlike Link’s massive yellow pole. The less said about that, the better. Although actually I barely notice it any more – like a carpet stain that you get so used to that you’re surprised when guests point it out.

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But I digress. The main thing is that Marth, Ike, Robin and Lucina are together at last, and looking rather lovely on my mantelpiece. I’m looking forward to nabbing Codename STEAM when it’s finally released over here and zapping these characters into the game. But to be honest, that’s just a bonus feature – I mostly bought this lot just to look great on the shelf. And I’m fairly sure that’s what most amiibo collectors will say, too.

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