PaigeFTW: How Nintendo Finally Got Me

I managed to resist Pokemon Go. I never even touched Super Mario Run. But they say third time’s the charm, and at last, Nintendo has ensnared me in its mobile grip: Fire Emblem Heroes is my new addiction. Combining all the hallmarks of the “gacha” mobile genre with the classic formula of turn-based strategy goodness was too much for me to resist.

A shaky framework of a story serves as an excuse for multiple Fire Emblem titles to crossover in a brand-new land, where legendary heroes are summoned to do battle against a dangerous enemy, yadda, yadda, whatever. The notoriously complex maps have been shrunk to fit comfortably on a smartphone screen, but the simpler format is not without its strategic requirements: players are allowed only four characters per battle, each with unique strengths and skills that must be cultivated. The touch controls are simple, intuitive and good.

The addictive part comes in the free-to-play stalwarts of random loot draws (in this case, an assortment of characters ranging from the original hero-king Marth to the new faces of Fire Emblem Fates, though characters from Sacred Stones and Path of Radiance, among many other titles, are notably missing), limited, time-replenishing stamina and a PVP mode.

Clearing levels nets you one orb (usually), and you need 20 orbs to draw five new heroes in hopes of getting a character you already know and love. You can see how this quickly becomes a problem. I’ve managed to pull a five-star Takumi but very little else of note thus far.

But Nintendo’s success here is in not disregarding what made the core series so great. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, the classic formula was streamlined, yet preserved. It’s still the grid-happy game we all know and love. It’s still Fire Emblem. While this may cost the game the explosive (and short-lived) mainstream popularity of its Nintendo cousins, I think we will see a smaller, more dedicated core of fans.

I’m definitely among them … as my constant, furtive playing at work proves.