Review: Fire Emblem Heroes (Mobile iOS / Android)

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Though the title says “review,” these are simply my thoughts on the game as a long-term Fire Emblem series fan. I felt some may be curious to see some thoughts on it, and of course it is a matter of opinion (which should be a given, but there has been a tendency to interpret a review as hard facts sometimes!)

I do not assign scores or anything, simply highlight some things and potentially recommend it.

Below I list quickly in bullet points some basics of the game that will help to know about when reading my thoughts on it afterward. Skip to “Thoughts” below if you already know all the basic info!

Basic Info

What is it?

Language Options?

  • Yes! Language can be changed. However, it needs to download a language pack each time you change, even if you were in that language before. This means the language data overwrites itself rather than storing itself separately. It can be a bit inconvenient, but is great for comparing two languages (such as Japanese and English).
  • Your save data remains unharmed through the process.

Graphics/Visuals

  • Sprite-based overworld icons and combat animations.
  • Full artworks of each character in at least three different poses (default, combat, wounded).
  • Guest artists drew artwork for each character, enabling a variety of artworks. Each character features voiced lines (with language localized voices too).
  • Easy to read text

Music

  • Features throwback music relevant to the game/characters the map is about. Nice sample from each game.

Story

  • Features a prologue and nine chapters, the nine chapters having five maps each (for a total of about 45-50 maps).
  • Bare-bones story, do not expect much

Gameplay

  • Requires internet connection at all times.
  • Fire Emblem mechanics simplified for mobile and a more general audience
  • Magic/Weapons combined into a single triangle of Red > Green > Blue > Red
  • There is a fourth colorless one for units not in the triangle, gaining no benefit or loss
  • Maps are on a simple grid, can never scroll maps. Meaning all maps are the same dimensions.
  • Unit movement is reduced to compensate, average units move two spaces, armored one, cavalry three, etc.
  • Free to Play system has “Stamina.” Used for challenging maps among other things. There is a maximum of 50 at the moment, with one piece of stamina restoring every five minutes
  • Features “Orbs” which are vital for summoning new characters in the gacha system, and have a few other uses too. Microtransactions rely on people buying these orbs as the orbs can do a lot.
  • Features a friend list, though little use for it at the moment.
  • Features an arena to face other player’s teams online (not in real time).
  • Features a “training tower” where you can grind maps for EXP.
  • Daily login rewards and special event maps to get more characters or items

Data Usage:

  • There are some large initial downloads, but when playing the game itself on the road or elsewhere, it takes very little data to play the maps and such (in my own experience, anyway!)
  • Note that changing language will require a 100+MB download each time.

Thoughts…

So with the above information in mind, my thoughts on the matter as a long-time fan are fairly positive. But I do have some concerns too, of course.

…On Story

I only put this brief section in here because I often proclaim that I play Fire Emblem games for their story above all else. It may be in the minority for people who play these games, but it is an important part to me.

However, I took the precaution of not expecting much of the story in this game, considering all the different characters from different “worlds” that will be meeting in one place, well it is definitely not going to be anything beyond bare boned excuses. Nor should it have to be, it is a mobile game, so I went in expecting very little.

And it paid off! So please do not expect much in this department if you are like me.

…On Free to Play/Microtransactions/Etc.

I avoided news on the game itself up to its release to go in without any prior expectations. As a result, I have a fairly positive impression, and the game is indeed better than I expected. It is quite fun for a fast experience featuring some fun characters throughout the series’ history. The stamina system allows you to play at lengthy amount of times considering it has a cap of 50.

However, as you get to higher difficulties, more stamina is required per play. This and the fact the game notes that after the release period (up to February 19th), stamina requirements for the tower will go up, as well as added on simple things like equipping skills. As of this writing, one of the key features of the game is that the stamina can last a fair amount of time as you play, but it seems it will exhaust much faster after that date.

There are items to replenish the stamina, some given as daily login bonuses. MyNintendo offers some of these items for purchase with your platinum coins, which is a nice way for the fans who have plenty expiring this month to spend them.

Another issue, and indeed what the game’s main source of income will be, is the “orbs.” True to a gacha game, these orbs are what are needed to expand your game. Be it improving your home castle, redeeming exhausted items, and, most importantly, summoning new characters.

During the release window, the game is generous in handing out orbs. From login bonuses to special maps, orbs are available. Each story map also offers an orb upon completion. But this will likely dry up soon, again, as the window starts to close. Buying a pack is rather pricey, considering to get great hero yields you need at least 20 orbs (as a group of 5 orbs is presented at a time, and chaining orbs gets you higher chances of better heroes and costs less, with a rule of 5 > 4 > 4 > 4 > 3).

For those who were unfortunate and did not roll their favorite characters with the orbs they were given, they will have a hard time trying to get more to find the characters they like. As it relies quite heavily on chance, this will keep the player playing, which is indeed the point.

As a completionist myself, I was worried about how the gacha system would be when combined with one of my favorite franchises. Thankfully, so far, I have not had the urge to search beyond some favorite characters of mine. It seems that even completionist tendencies will stay their hand when faced with charges…

Regardless, that will certainly put pressure on those who intend to play this game totally free (such as myself), and become something you do for a few minutes rather than any continuous gameplay –but many expected this. It is a free to play mobile game, after all. At the very least, it will serve as a nice “gateway” and demo to the Fire Emblem series and hopefully build interest to boost sales (such as what Pokemon Go did for the Pokemon franchise).

…On Graphics

Graphics I often don’t care about –but it was refreshing to see sprites (some rather adorable) ones used again for battles. They are rather smooth, and the simple overhead character artwork makes for a nice experience.

On a side note, they sprites sort of remind me of the Theatrhythm series of games. On my wish list of crossovers, Theatrhythm and Fire Emblem was one of my preferred ones. So found these particular sprites funny for that reason.

…On things for Fire Emblem fans

So what does this game offer series fans? Well there are many characters from across the franchise featured with all-new artwork and voices. It’s a nice throwback touch when combined with the fact the maps and music are reminiscent of ones the characters are known for (throughout their respective stories). You can have fun with your favorite units.

However, as of this writing, there is a distinct lack of the Jugdral, Tellius, and Magvell representation. Ike (as well as Eirika) are shown on the image at the top of this page, so will likely come at a later date, but it is odd (considering Ike’s general popularity) that he was not included in the initial release. The lack of these games in the main story too is rather odd. Is it a sales issue? Issue with Shouzou Kaga FE games versus newer ones? (For Jugdral). It certainly isn’t a popularity issue, as pointed out with Ike above.

Those who played through the story will know that it leaves room for more maps to be added later on as part of the game’s story. There are always special maps as well, so perhaps it is to boost the game’s longevity. It remains to be seen!

I do personally like the variety in character artwork. For those who were not fond of Yusuke Kozaki’s art style, for instance, can rest assured that for every one of his artworks there are plenty of others. Likewise, some other artists may not be to some players’ tastes, but the variety means you get some “good” and some “bad,” rather than risking “all good” and “all bad.”

The same goes for character voices. In my own opinion, some of the voices do not really feel right for some characters, where as they work perfectly for others. These are all purely value judgements though and will come down to player preference.

Signature weapons, skills, and other items reappear throughout, too. From the Falchion (which retains its dragon-slaying capability) to Aether, it is a nice implementation to the mobile platform.

Sometimes context in knowing the items from the series itself can help too, such as in cases of this translation mishap that caused a great deal of confusion for those who sought a Physic staff that was described more like Fortify.

Fans were more skeptical than non-fans when it came to the above! But even non fans saw something was wrong when it didn’t work as expected.

Maps and music will be familiar to players who played the featured games. It was a nice touch that was in there purely for the fans and will likely go unnoticed by those new to the games –however, in a reverse effect, may give a new fan trying the older games a “Ohhh that’s what that map was based on!” moment, which in itself would be a fun experience.

The simplified gameplay will seem quite easy, as there are many things you no longer have to worry about (rescue, shove, pair up, etc). However, the simplicity also causes complications. “What? You can’t do that?” moments when it comes to unit capabilities, which can actually cause more issues for those assuming it will be like a main series game than not.

…On things for non-Fire Emblem fans

Being on iOS and Android, this game is widely available to people who don’t often play games, much less a (still relatively) obscure series such as this. It has generated buzz as another one of Nintendo’s ventures into mobile gaming however, which has piqued interest of fans who may be familiar with the series but have yet to play it.

Looking around, it seems that many fans and non-fans (I use this term for simplicity, do not read too deeply into it) both enjoy the game to some degree, as well as share concerns as to what will happen when the release window runs out, as I had worried about above.

The simplified gameplay and variety of characters (as well as the very summary-like story that follows a very basic outline of a Fire Emblem-esque story) should have a broad enough appeal to make it “something for everyone.”

Conclusion

As of this writing, I have finished the story in two modes (Normal/Hard), gotten quite a few characters, and tried out the different modes available.

Overall, the game was better than I expected (or feared). I knew little about it beyond the initial release info/trailer, so I got to experience everything new.

I set up a poll on twitter to see what others thought. It is a small sample size, just 197 results over the release weekend:

45% Better than expected
5% Worse than expected
41% About what I expected
9% Didn’t play/other

Keep in mind this was tweeted to followers, of which many are already FE fans, and it is a really small sample size. But it seems the highest votes were for “better than expected,” with another significant chunk meeting expectations. A larger portion did not play it or held a different opinion than those who said it was worse than they expected.

Many assume one objective behind the game is to generate interest in the series, considering how it will be getting a new 3DS game relatively soon, as well as a Switch title sometime in the future. I mentioned earlier that it is essentially a “gateway” game with this line of reasoning.

I have read comments around the internet that mention people who have been more motivated to go back and play/complete older games they left behind, or others who want to play games they have not experienced based on this. I have not seen much the other way, but again, anecdotal is not the best way to gauge actual interest. It does give a nice place to start, though.

If the game does generate interest in the series itself, that will be a nice touch (especially to older games often overshadowed by Awakening and Fates, as evident through Illusory Revelations, Fire Emblem Warriors (featuring Chrom), and this game with the robust presence of both the recent titles (Ryoma, Camilla, Takumi, etc… to name just a few!)

A main concern I listed is how the game will become a lot more “difficult” to play (for free, anyway) after this initial grace period (until Feb. 19th) runs out. I feel the best time to try it out would be during this initial release period, which will determine if you still play it after that date, move on to a main series’ game, or perhaps give the franchise a pass entirely.

Recommendations/Points to Consider:

  • Fans will find plenty to enjoy, from throwback characters, voices, maps, and music, as well as a mobile-friendly version of the gameplay they enjoy.
  • Non-fans will have plenty to appeal to them too. Easy to understand gameplay and a lot to do.
  • Collectors may be in a bit of trouble as gacha games target them for extortion specifically…
  • May be better to try/play it while it’s easier to play before February 19th

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That does it for this review. I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts on the game, and of course I would love to hear your thoughts to below : )

I highly recommend checking SourceGaming’s review, as they presented it from the views of one fan and one non-fan, which gives great perspective! It’s a nice approach to reviews in general, I’d say.

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Review: Legends of Localization Book 2 – EarthBound

Today I decided to take a break from Fire Emblem translations to write a brief review for a book by Legends of Localization author and creator Clyde Mandelin.

He has written two books thus far, focusing on the localization of the Legend of Zelda (NES) and EarthBound (SNES). I cover Book 2 here, and may cover Book 1 at a later date.

Visit the legendary website here, and follow him on twitter here!

(All pictures used throughout the article are from the Fangamer store page for the book!)


Review: Legends of Localization Book 2: Earthbound

Author: Clyde Mandelin
Released: November 2016
Price: (As of this writing) 36 USD
Description (from website):

Hardcover, 432 full-color pages, full of info for Nintendo fans, retro gamers, and aspiring translators / localizers!

Quick Background of Author:

Clyde Mandelin has been a professional translator for 15+ years now, and maintains a popular website Legends of Localization that takes a look at video game localization by comparing Japanese and English games side by side. He is a major EarthBound fan, and the passion certainly shows throughout the book. He has written a book on The Legend of Zelda last year (2015), though it was not as in-depth.

Brief Summary of Content:

The book starts with an introduction and look at what localization is, exactly. He defines it in his own terms and gives the different stages of the process names and descriptions. It sets the stage for the core section of the book and is referred to often. It does not run on too long for those not interested, but still provides enough for those who are.

The core of the book contains a very in-depth look at the way EarthBound (MOTHER 2 in Japan)’s localization was handled. Clyde points out differences with side-by-side screenshots and text, akin to the format he uses on his website articles. He goes through the game in chronological order, too, from start to finish, quite possibly making it the most detailed look at EarthBound’s localization (or any game localization, really) in print.

There are many other things included beyond the core text comparisons. There are Japanese cultural tidbits and other forms of trivia sprinkled throughout the book that informs the reader of various contexts and obscure references that would be necessary to know in order to fully understand what is being conveyed and better appreciate the localization process. It goes beyond simply how something was translated, but why it may have been so.

The book has plenty of primary sources, such as quotes from series creator Shigesato Itoi and a foreword by Localization Director Marcus Lindblom himself. It is a work that is visibly the product of thorough research and work.

Intended Audience Satisfaction:

As the website states, the book is directed toward “Nintendo fans, retro gamers, and aspiring translator/localizers.”

At first glance, it may seem to be a book that only EarthBound fans would appreciate or understand. As a personal example, I am not really that big of a fan of the game itself. And yet, I was able to thoroughly enjoy this book –even more than I thought I would. That is why the objective above lists “Nintendo fans” and not EarthBound fans specifically. All sorts of people can enjoy the book!

Clyde’s approach is not simply an “inside joke” to fans of the game, but has very broad appeal. He provides all relevant contexts to explain a joke or a section, as well as giving background to a character or event in the game when necessary. Though some plot details are inevitably spoiled, there is not much shown between events or story sections if there was no relevant localization difference to showcase –meaning that those who have not played the game (and may intend to play it now) will still be able to enjoy the experience and seeing all the intricacies that come with it.

In fact, he even says to try and play the game alongside the book so you can experience and discover things for yourself as you play (I did not do this as I was so interested that I had to keep reading!)

His style of writing is also on the easier side of understanding. He breaks down more complex ideas and presents them in simpler ways, and always has a friendly, humorous tone to his words (as well as plenty of silly descriptions for his pictures that are bound to bring a smile while also being food for thought!)

Fans of course would already be familiar with all the characters and events –and thus be able to enjoy this book even more than the layman may. Clyde himself mentions discovering new things during the writing of his book, so there are likely plenty of new things for fans to discover too. In the end, everyone gets something out of it.

Personal Opinion / Final Words:

The book is much longer and more in-depth than Book 1 (Legend of Zelda). This is partially due to EarthBound having so much more going on in it, yes, but more importantly Clyde’s sheer passion that shines through. He loves to talk about EarthBound and all the intricacies that went into the localization of the game.

What I personally enjoyed (as an aspiring professional translator/localizer myself) was his introduction to localization. Clyde offers a look at the process straight from a professional localizer who has personal experience (and is able to talk about it, which is quite rare in itself) with the game.

It was nice seeing so many terms and concepts that we often talk about laid out in a nice descriptive list. Despite the web offering information at our fingertips, the process of localization is still a rather big mystery beyond some articles that can be vague about the process. Clyde briefly talks about his own beginnings on writing comparisons and how people (and professionals) can grow and change over the years, which I resonated with too. I would gladly pay full price for this valuable insight and information alone!

As a non-fan of the series, too, it is important to note that I was able to enjoy this book as an analysis of a game’s localization rather than simply an analysis of the game itself. I was able to enjoy and appreciate just how much work the localizers had to go through to make it come to life to a western audience.

In comparison, I was able to enjoy Book 1 as both a Zelda fan and aspiring localizer as it was already. As such, I first thought I would not find much for me in this book, but wished to support the author so bought it out of passing interest.

And I am glad I did! Because there was just so much more offered beyond what the book title may suggest.

I look forward to whatever book comes next!

Thank you Clyde, keep up the good work!

Recommendation:

Highly recommended for those interested in further reading about game development, especially translation/localization. Fans and non-fans of EarthBound will be able to find plenty of things to satisfy them as well as learn plenty about localization in general. Video game fans looking to expand their general knowledge may be satisfied too, (though perhaps not at full price.) Those who do not care much for game development, RPGs, or trivia regarding such are likely to be disappointed.


My reviews are often more stream of consciousness (which is why you may see some ideas repeat in different sections) and address a few points (intended audience, etc) and simply are to start or aid discussions (or just give my opinion on something). I don’t really offer any “scoring” system and simply recommend it to certain types of people.

Review: Fire Emblem Fates

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I decided to write a review of Fire Emblem Fates today, a little ahead of the game’s release in the West. It is mostly written as a review to other FE fans (so gameplay is a given and only differences/new things are mentioned), but I do try to write it somewhat in a broader way for those who may be interested in the game but have not played any of the others.

I divided it into several sections, as the games do differ in their gameplay and story. So, I cover the three paths in addition to the general game. Note that this is actually based on Fire Emblem if (as it’s known in Japan), so I do not discuss localization differences. That will be at a different date later on after I play the Western release.

I do discuss story, but have managed to keep it spoiler-free (and with some references to what is already shown in promotional media, but not too much).

For reference, I am a long time FE fan (since FE7), I played this game back in June/July, and wrote several in-depth summaries of each path and some of the DLC, a chapter guide, a menu translation guide, and finally, a character guide.

A final reminder that some things in reviews are inevitably going to be value-judgements. Story, especially, for instance, is really a “matter of taste.” I would hope this is common knowledge, but apparently is forgotten by others sometimes…so please, when reading about story flaws and upsides, remember that it is just the humble opinion of one writer and maybe a few other fans. It may give brief guidelines on what to expect of the story, but the final opinion should always be formed by you after playing it.

As you can imagine, the process of writing this review took a lot of time (and passion!), so if you are feeling generous, then…Please donate! It helps fund future projects!

I hope you find this rather long-winded review useful in some way.

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