The other day I was in Target with my dad buying Christmas lights as we started prepping for the holiday season. At 21 I’d gotten used to gambit of “What do you want for Christmas?” over the years my selection grew more mature and sophisticated (I think I actually wrote Roche Brother’s gift cards so I could get groceries), but I don’t feel that way this year. This year, I’m hopped on the band wagon and told my dad I liked the Nintendo Switch and thought it was a really cool system– he scoffed at me and brushed it off, saying he preferred the PS4 to, “just another Mario system.”
While he’s not wrong about that, I felt hurt that he brushed it off so callously. Not a sort of, that’s nice or you can buy that with your own money, but an answer filled with… almost disgust. I know it’s silly to get all worked up about something so trivial, but when I backed up my case, saying a ton of my friends play the Switch, he again just gave me rude remarks.
I’ve played bits and pieces of the Switch library thanks to some friends:
Mario Odyssey is incredibly fun and the worlds are gorgeous. The base game isn’t too long, but with 999 moons to collect, you’ll be busy for a while.
Snipperclips is silly and cute. That’s really all I’ve got. As the younger sibling, my childhood was filled with backseat-gaming and begging for co-op modes. Snipperclips delivers in a cute little package.
Stardew Valley is on the Switch. Let me say that again Stardew Valley is on the Switch. It’s similar to Harvest Moon apparently (I never played Harvest Moon), but I’ll take people’s word for it. Anyways… farming? Mining? Romancing? Building friendship? Betraying your loved ones for corporate greed? Any of that sound interesting?? Get it!
Just Dance 2017 made me want to get up and move for the first time in years. It’s not a secret, I’m a little tubby, but the only exercise I ever really enjoyed was dancing, problem is, it’s incredibly hard to get over that anxiety hurdle and actually do it. Now you’re saying there’s a game that only gently judges you AND has choreography already made? Sign me up!
And finally, Zelda.
I don’t like Zelda. We didn’t really click much when I was growing up.
As stated above, my dad really isn’t fond of Nintendo so while everyone else grew up on the Gamecube and Wii, I had the Playstation 1/2/3 and Xbox (360)… I should confess I did own a Wii and a Wii U, but had no one to really play with.
So I never really had a chance to play Zelda. It was always daunting and massive and I frustrating. I attempted Ocarina of Time and after sinking 10 hours into the game (9.5 of which were accompanied with a walkthrough), I gave up.
I did enjoy A Link Between Worlds, but from what I gather, it’s hard to dislike that game. Now, back to Zelda.
Breath of the Wild is a fantastic game. It’s still hard and frustrating and massive (oh boy is it massive), but if you’re stuck you’re not locked into a certain area. I personally struggled with the Zora guardian so just said fuck it and went to the Rivali. Now I can make air shafts under where I stand and it’s pretty incredible.
I would love to have a Switch if only for Zelda. I only got my one guardian freed, but my experiences up until that point solidified it as one of my games of the year.
Without getting too in-depth about that, because maybe you’ll hear from me again on the subject (MAYBE), I leave you all with this. As someone who doesn’t own a Switch… it’s worth it. It made me like games I didn’t before, gave me an opportunity to play cooperatively, and made me want to get up and move. And let’s not forget that Pokemon will be phased out of 3DS in the next generation, finding its new home on the Switch. Fire Emblem game coming soon? Access to more triple A titles and (N)indies galore.
If you can, buy a Switch. Take it from someone who doesn’t have one.
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is one of many things to me. Animal Crossing has always been a healthy channel for my anxiety. Up until now, I’ve found that toting a 3DS everywhere is a bit unwieldy, and you get some looks when you’re not in a group of people who already know what the thing is. Phones are inconspicuous. People expect you to have games on your phone. And this is one that’s really worthwhile.
But this isn’t a post about how Animal Crossing helped my anxiety; it’s an opinion on just how right Nintendo got it.
Animal Crossing has always been about the small community you keep in your town. It’s been, for the most part, stationery. You’ve been tethered to a console, handheld or otherwise, and villagers have had a schedule. They sleep at a certain time dependent on their type, and they’ll interact with shops and other buildings in town. You’ve got a certain amount of time to catch certain types of fish and bugs. Stores have hours they’re open.
Pocket Camp has taken the Animal Crossing formula and condensed it. It gives you a small RV camper, expandable up to two rooms. It gives you a campsite to invite villagers to as you choose, and presents different areas potential villagers move in and out of every three hours. Instead of giving you an arbitrary friendship goal of “make friends with this villager and talk to them every day if you want them to stay in your town”, you do favors for them and up your friendship level.
There are some quirks with the system. Animal Crossing has never been a progression-based game. It’s laid-back, casual, and the only real obligation is paying off your initial home loan. However, for most people, there’s something about Animal Crossing that makes you want to keep playing. In part, it’s that casual atmosphere of living in a neat, quiet town and being able to fish all day. Another large component that Nintendo expanded on in New Leaf and Happy Home Designer is that you can style your home any way you want, given the furniture options of the game.
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp offers much of the same core components, though. For as long as I’ve been playing, people have been asking for more control over who’s in your town and where they live: your campsite is open on an invite-only basis. You can increase your friendship level with whichever villagers you want and ignore ones you’re only using for resources without fear of them moving away. Your camper is a niche decorative space, and your campsite is a bigger, open room.
Issues With Progression
Despite the fact that Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is, without a doubt, the best mobile game I’ve played, it has some issues. Especially as you get into higher levels, progression slows down dramatically and it gets harder to level up amenities, Pocket Camp’s equivalent of public works projects. All of these builds require resources and time. The simple resources like wood, steel, and cotton aren’t an issue. They’re much easier to come by than essence, which you need 20-30 of to build one amenity. You get a fair amount by completing the stretch goals listed in the game, but after that you get them in quantities of 1-3 from villagers occasionally, after you’ve befriended them to a certain level or when you level that friendship up. Sometimes they’re available as daily rewards, but as a quantity of one.
I’m not saying that anything really needs to be done about this, it’s not a huge issue. It’s more of an inconvenience than anything. However, it’s probably a good idea to balance it out before rolling out another essence type, as shown by a recent datamine.
Another issue is that despite being able to have whatever villagers you want in your campsite, it takes a while to get them all there. Each one needs a specific set of furniture to be built, and some of the build requirements for furniture are a bit absurd. Again, an inconvenience.
Overall, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is incredibly solid. It’s a nice holdout to fill that awkward wait between New Leaf and Animal Crossing for the Switch. On top of releasing the game and keeping true to the Animal Crossing spirit, Nintendo seems to be planning consistent updates with new villagers, new furniture, and new things to do in general. It’s sure to have a longer life for more players than other forays into mobile gaming for Nintendo, or so I hope.
It’s been just over six months since the Nintendo Switch released, and a couple of days after Nintendo’s most recent Direct featuring the latest flagship console and its games. Yet, even after several Directs featuring the console and its games, it feels like it’s falling flat.
Since the announcement of the Switch, there have been 16 other Directs as of this writing. Granted, some focused entirely on 3DS releases. Still, that number dwarfs Microsoft and Sony’s press conferences featuring games for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Nintendo prefers the Direct format to the traditional press conference that Sony and Microsoft usually hold at E3 and other large events. Not only does it break up information into manageable bites, but it allows consumers to see what updates they have more often than they would otherwise.
And yet, despite the sheer minutes that Nintendo has packed into teasing games for the Switch, it feels lackluster. There’s no appeal to get a Nintendo Switch. There’s no fear of missing out on games that they’ve promised. This is, of course, leaving out hypothetical games. Of course Nintendo will use its larger franchises to push console sales in the middle of its cycle. Sure, games we’re waiting for will be announced, likely with special edition consoles and collector goodies. But what about now?
It’s been six months.
Six months out from the console’s release, there is no compelling reason to buy a Nintendo Switch. That’s just the issue. There are no compelling games. No one actually wants to play games made in RPG Maker on Nintendo’s latest flagship console. In fact, I would argue that even larger titles, like Wolfenstein: The New Colossus and DOOM, launching on the Switch in 2018 and during the winter, respectively, aren’t compelling enough.
Why? Well, the Nintendo Switch is a gaming tablet with something resembling a full controller. If you’re in it for the pure graphics processing power, any gaming computer built recently will run DOOM. The same goes for Wolfenstein. Sure, the Switch will be able to run them, but it’s like comparing the 3DS’s graphics quality to an Ouya. Which, you know, died. A very long time ago. Sure, the Switch is HD, but it doesn’t hold up to something that graphically intensive games were already built for. Breath of the Wild, a game specifically designed for the Switch’s hardware, gets framey at times.
It’s not going to be relevant.
Why play Wolfenstein when it launches in October when you can wait until it launches on the Switch, months later? Oh, and DOOM? If you haven’t gotten around to it, the Switch release probably won’t push you over that edge. Don’t mention Skyrim, that’s going to be running on DSLRs in three years.
Nintendo’s three hard-hitting releases from Wednesday’s Direct were all misses. By the time they release, they’re not going to be relevant. DOOM and Skyrim have already been glossed over after their Game of the Year spotlight, and Wolfenstein is due for it after this year.
This isn’t to say that all games are destined to fade into obscurity. It’s just that generally, games lose their relevancy. And trying to revive games that aren’t relevant, while it’s a noble effort, doesn’t always help them.
Above: An interactive Google Trends chart depicting search activity for “doom 2016” and its falloff after December 31, 2016.
Promising, but not Delivering
In the case of DOOM, specifically, Nintendo promised robust multiplayer between Switch consoles. I find the claim empty. The Switch has issues with Internet connectivity, is limited in the types of networks it can connect to, the security protocols it can process, and it still uses friend codes.
I might be overextending here, but multiplayer isn’t anything Nintendo should be promising unless it’s local and accessible. They simply don’t have the hardware to back it up.
Further, Nintendo doesn’t have the games to back it up. The games planned for the Switch from launch up until 2018 seem to pale in comparison to things that Sony had lined up, or at least teased in the PlayStation 4’s infancy. Even if Sony didn’t entirely deliver, at least the games were new.
Read the Room
Um, Nintendo? It’s me. You were my introduction to console gaming. And that’s great! However, I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of emotional labor lately. I remember a lot of the good times we had, you being a presence that watched over me as I walked through the electronics section of Target. You indirectly got me into coding and tinkering with computers, so that’s great. But now? I feel like you’ve changed. I feel like you haven’t paid attention to my desires. And while I want us to stay together, I just don’t see this working out.
Or, that’s what I would write in my breakup letter to Nintendo. Frankly, the Switch is a lukewarm sell. I only feel like I’m missing out because I feel like one of the only people I know who doesn’t have one. Not because of any exclusive games, but just because they’re everywhere. To the advertising team’s credit, they did a great job.
But, as I likened in a tweet, Nintendo is just pedaling snake oil at this point. There’s no real reason for the Switch. It’s fancy and new, sure. HD Rumble is at least interesting. It’s cool to have one. But the fact of the matter is, it has no games that I want, far less exclusives that sell the console. The target audience Nintendo looks like they’re going for is satisfied, but just because it’s a new Nintendo thing.
Fancy technical details (on a gaming tablet with controllers) aren’t a hard sell. Stacking a six-month-old console’s release calendar with 25 RPGs and 49 platformers (okay, yikes) isn’t a hard sell. Giving the indie market more of an ability to be seen and to publish games? That’s cool, but again, not a hard sell. I’d argue that it’s unique to the Switch, but Microsoft did it with Xbox last year. Steam, though not the best example, has been doing it since 2012. Nintendo isn’t ahead of the curve here.
Missing the Mark
On top of graphical concerns, Internet connectivity issues, and not having a compelling games library, the Switch has had plenty of screen time to get it right. Nintendo has had plenty of opportunities to convince people to get on board with this thing. And every time, they’ve fallen short.
Well, what do you want to see?”
I don’t know.
If you asked me right before E3, I wouldn’t hesitate to say Animal Crossing. I know it’s going to happen, eventually. Today would actually be perfect since it’s the franchise’s 15th anniversary. But as much as it would sell me on a Switch, I know Nintendo is biding their time. It’s too large of a market to ignore with the success of New Leaf. Ask me now and I’d say that I want to see acknowledgement of any other Nintendo IP than Mario, Zelda, and Kirby.
The Nintendo Switch is a perfect chance to rein in the GameCube audience that grew up and can afford things for themselves now (mostly). It’s the perfect opportunity to revive old franchises like Golden Sun and, yes, Mother, by reinventing them the way they did The Legend of Zelda.
What bothers me the most about the Switch’s first six months is that not only did Nintendo take a piece of criticism about the Wii U too far by oversaturating their console with, essentially, shovelware, but the air about the Switch’s release feels cold. It doesn’t feel like Nintendo really cares. It feels like they’re trying to throw anything at the wall to see what sticks. Maybe some things are sticking, and I can’t see that. The Nintendo Switch’s launch feels improper, unplanned, and most of all, patronizing.
Yes, you’ll buy this because you’re a Nintendo fan, aren’t you? If you have the Nintendo Switch, you’ll be a good Nintendo fan. Everyone loves Nintendo fans, and everyone loves Nintendo. Don’t you?
The third Nintendo World Championship (held originally in 1990 and again in 2015) will be held October 7 in the Manhattan Center’s Grand Ballroom, New York, USA. Qualifying tournaments at select Best Buy stores across the country (New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Dallas, Seattle, and Miami) will begin later this month (August 19). At the tournaments, attendees can also play demos for Mario Odyssey and Metroid: Samus Returns. Details and store addresses can be found on the official website.
This year, Nintendo has added a 12 and under division that hasn’t previously been present. The other age division is simply 13+. At the qualifying tournament, the website says that competitors will be playing Mario Kart 7 for the 3DS to compete for their spots in the competition.Whether or not there will be prizes of any kind has not yet been specified.
The Nintendo World Championship is perhaps most well-known from its legacy of the legendary golden Nintendo World Championship cartridges, which are often called not just the rarest NES game, but arguably the rarest video game of all time. For collectors, a golden 1990 Nintendo World Championship cartridge is a holy grail that commands 10s of thousands of dollars when they go on the market (which, as you can imagine, is almost never).
New 3DS Production Shuts Down Worldwide, says Nintendo
In several reports, Nintendo announced that it would be discontinuing production on its New 3DS console. Rumors first emerged from Nintendo Japan, then from Nintendo Europe. They were confirmed earlier today, as Nintendo confirmed that it would be ceasing production worldwide. To be clear: this is for the smaller New 3DS, not the New 3DS XL.
This is likely to allot resources to the production for Nintendo’s other big sellers: namely, the Switch. In addition, this cease in production could mean that Nintendo is fully ready to move forward on producing its New 2DS XL console, out July 28th in North America.
We have seen Nintendo lack in production and shipping for several of their hallmark products in the past. It started with the special edition Majora’s Mask New 3DS XL in early 2015 and continued through to the NES Mini just last year. Nintendo’s limited quantities not only made products hard to find, but made it easier for scalpers to thrive. At their peak, scalpers charging double the retail price not only disheartened fans but made limited quantities even more scarce.
This move to cut production on a product that may not be selling well should prove useful for Nintendo. This shift in production should allow them to provide more quantity to retailers.
Following Nintendo’s Splatoon 2 Direct yesterday, we were introduced to the new duo that hosts Splatfests, Marina and Pearl.
The successors to Callie and Marie form the duo band Off the Hook. In addition, Nintendo announced that the first Splatfest for Splatoon 2 would be July 15th. Released as a free demo the week before Splatoon 2 comes out, Nintendo is giving those with a Switch to try the game before its official release.
Pearl, the inkling of the dynamic duo, is rooting for cake, and Marina, an octoling, sides with ice cream. This is the first we’ve seen of octolings in Inkopolis. Further, it raises the question: are there more octolings afoot in Inkopolis? Only time will tell.
As some of you may have heard, the highly anticipated fan game Mother 4 has just announced that they’ve decided to rebrand the game. This was done mostly due to the controversial take downs of AM2R and Pokemon Uranium by Nintendo last year. As a fellow Nintendo fan game, Mother 4 had plenty of reason to believe that it not only could, but likely would also be taken down by Nintendo.
“But it’s a free game! They’re not making any profit! So it should be fine, right?” Some of you may be thinking. As others may recall though, so were both AM2R and Pokemon Uranium. A common misconception about copyright and IP law is that to take legal action, the infringer (in this case, the fan games) has to be making a profit before the IP holder can take legal action–that’s not true at all. In what Josh Walters (attorney, law professor, advisor and chief of DeviantArt) calls “The Law of the Playground” in a panel he hosted on copyright laws in fandom at San Diego Comic Con 2012, there’s a slight difference in actual law and what’s written on paper. To paraphrase what he says, written law dictates that an IP holder can sue for anything as minor as fan art, regardless of its quality or whether or not it made profit, if they want to. However, the “law of the playground” dictates that, essentially, (and again: I’m paraphrasing so as to not quote an hour long lecture) if you do that then you’re going look like a petty jerk and likely suffer a barrage of bad press. Therefore, in cases like fan art, most IP holders go beyond not caring (from a legal standpoint) about whether or not you do it, but some even encourage it (after all, why wouldn’t they? Free advertising).
There is only, however, a certain degree to which the general public and companies tend to consider these minor infringements “acceptable.” Fan art? Acceptable–nay, often encouraged. Ripping movies from online and selling them for cheap? Not acceptable–might even get you in some degree of legal trouble depending on the extent to which you did it. Generally, the perception seems to be based on how much effort in the infringement that the infringer placed. Ripping a DVD or Blu-Ray? No effort or artistic value whatsoever. Making a fan game? Years worth of effort and lots of artistic value. I can’t confirm this, but I’d place a large bet that the the amount of income (if any) the infringement makes would also tip the scale in how acceptable it would generally be considered as well.
So how does this all tie into Mother 4? Because Nintendo is well-known to fiercely protect their IPs. And why wouldn’t they? They run a much higher risk than any other major game company for becoming a generic trademark. A generic trademark is when your brand name becomes so synonymous with the product that the name of the brand is usually used in place of the name of the product–for example, saying Q-tip for cotton swab, Aspirin for pain reliever, Yo-Yo for spinning toy, and even App Store for mobile gaming market. When your brand becomes a generic trademark, it essentially enters the public domain–therefore making it exceedingly difficult to take legal action if someone uses your brand name in a way you don’t want them to.
Being the owner of some of gaming’s largest and most recognizable IPs, it should be no wonder why Nintendo might be scared of becoming a generic IP. They had a particularly bad scare in the 90’s, when they almost did become a generic trademark synonymous for video game console. They’ve become noticeably more fierce about defending their IPs since then–from taking down fan games (which, as I already explained, are considered copyright infringement in a court of law) to suing Pokemon themed parties. They have to be fierce about it–otherwise, as the most recognizable brand in video gaming, they and some of their IPs might come close to being generic IPs again. In return for their fierce defending of their IPs, they’ve had a lot of bad press about it, and certainly lost the faith and respect of several of their fans–especially those who loved some of their games so much that they wanted to express that love in the medium of another game, who will likely never think of Nintendo in the same way the once did again.
Some of you may be wondering if Mother 4 would still be affected by this because it does, after all, still have an original setting, original characters, etc. Point blank, yes, it is. They’re still using the Mother IP in the title, they revealed that they were putting Mr. Saturn in the game, and likely many more such concepts original to Mother. An IP doesn’t necessarily have to be the brand itself–it can also be identifiable hallmarks of the brand that make it itself. This can be anything from an aesthetic, concepts/characters/places existing in works of fiction, or even materials used in production. For example, Tiffany Blue. Yes, the color. It’s arguably the biggest hallmark of the Tiffany brand, and therefore, even using that blue is considered copyright infringement if you’re using it in a way when it can be confused with their brand. In other words, if you want to paint your house Tiffany Blue, that’s fine. If you want to sell your product in a Tiffany Blue box, then there might be a problem. If your product is jewelry, then you have a lawsuit on your hands if Tiffany Co. ever finds out. In this scenario, Nintendo is Tiffany Co. and Mother 4 is the artist packaging their jewelry in a Tiffany Blue box.
Luckily, judging by the trailers and the information we’ve been given about the game up until now, this won’t have an astronomical affect on the game. To quote the OP of the AMA, “This is still the story of Travis and his friends fighting the mysterious Modern Men. Leo still lights his smokes with paranormal fire.” In other words, although there will certainly be noticeable changes, the game is still itself. It will have a different name, but it’s still the same story. Whether or not this will affect gameplay is yet to be said, as far as I can see.
If they were to say that this game was inspired by Mother and drop some subtle references here and there, then legally speaking, that’s fine. Case in point: Undertale, which does this many times. Therefore, if Mother 4 took this approach by removing all the explicit uses of Mother/Earthbound IPs, they’d be in the clear, and unable to be touched by Nintendo. On the other hand, by keeping its name and the Mr. Saturns (among other characters/concepts original to Mother) they would put themselves at a likely risk of being taken down by Nintendo. As not only a huge fan of the Mother series, but a big fan of the work that the Mother 4 team has been showing in their game, I’d really hate to see this happen. Therefore, their protecting themselves from copyright infringement by rebranding and joining the ranks of games like Undertale and LISA as Mother-inspired games, they’re making a good decision not only for themselves, but for their fans who will want to play the game and see to it that it’s preserved. Nobody, least of all them, wants to see years worth of effort go to waste. That’s why rebranding is the best thing Mother 4 could’ve done for themselves and their fans right now. I, for one, am no less excited for this game than before.
“[Making mobile games] is absolutely not under consideration. If we did this, Nintendo would cease to be Nintendo.” –Satoru Iwata, 2011
This time 5 years ago, Nintendo was vehement in its stance of never wanting to make a mobile game. Today, however, is a different story: Nintendo has released Miitomo, Super Mario Run, and now Fire Emblem Heroes. Released earlier this month, Fire Emblem Heroes made more than $2.9 million within 24 hours of its release–giving it the third highest gross revenue for a mobile game on release (only behind Pokemon Go and Super Mario Run). With an average of ~$50,000 in daily income and ~8,000 daily installments, Fire Emblem Heroes seems to be doing pretty well for itself a month later, making more in a day than most mobile games make in a year. As incredible as these numbers must sound, however, they don’t necessarily speak on behalf of the quality of the game. Let us not forget, for instance, that despite being the best selling mobile game of all-time (currently), Pokemon Go is still constantly accused of being a buggy mess–and although it’s constantly being patched, new glitches always seem to come up in place of the ones that were just fixed. I’m not saying that these glitches make the app bad by default, just that–despite its overwhelming revenue–it’s far from perfect. Fire Emblem Heroes, of course, is the same way.
Let me start this review off by saying that I really enjoy this game: In the past few weeks I’ve been a Fire Emblem fiend. Nintendo really seems to try to be pushing making 2017 the year of Fire Emblem and they’re already off to a wonderful start through this game. Fire Emblem Heroes takes the bare bones mechanics of a typical Fire Emblem game and combines them with a heap of sweet, sweet fan service. Not the trashy kind of fan service we’re all used to in anime games, but fan service in showing us older characters that many of us haven’t seen in years–for some of us (especially considering that 6 Fire Emblem games were never officially released in English) at all.
“Fire Emblem Heroes takes the bare bones mechanics of a typical Fire Emblem game and combines them with a heap of sweet, sweet fan service.”
But nostalgia and love of a given character shouldn’t blind anyone from the faults in this game, of which there are plenty. Whether or not they’re so bad that they weigh the game down I’ll address shortly, but what I would like to make clear beforehand is that although this game is definitely designed so that non-fans of the Fire Emblem franchise can play it, too, it’s definitely pandered heavily toward fans of Fire Emblem. Although this isn’t necessarily a problem, it is something worth keeping in mind for now.
If you’ve ever played any Fire Emblem game then you know how to play Fire Emblem Heroes. And if you haven’t played a Fire Emblem game, then it’s a fairly simple–with a few in-depth aspects (though they’re hardly present in Heroes)–strategy RPG: Making teams, moving them across various fields, and using strategy to kill the enemy. Fire Emblem’s simple gameplay transfers very well on mobile: It’s easy to learn, hard to fully master.
Gameplay is where Heroes, like the rest of the Fire Emblem franchise, shines. The game offers many modes of combat (EX: Story mode, training, arena, etc.) to give the player a well-rounded experience and has a good variety of difficulty settings for all, giving players of all skill levels a way to have fun. Combined with the team building aspect, this can make for some quick, fun battles–which is perfect for the mobile platform.
The gameplay is very simple and straightforward–which for a mobile game, is ideal. Strategize, move your character(s), attack. Even though fans of Fire Emblem can jump into this game easily, it’s still designed so that non-fans–even of the strategy RPG genre–can still grasp it quickly and easily. Although it’s definitely a watered down version of the Fire Emblem gameplay (as it lacks classing up, a variety of attacks, etc.) it’s watered down in a way that’s ideal for a quick, yet enjoyable game: Something heavily emphasized in mobile games, making for an addictive experience.
Sound and Visuals
For a mobile game, Fire Emblem Heroes looks and sounds pretty sleek overall. It has an all-star voice acting cast (all of whom do an excellent job–despite the large cast, there’s not a bad actor in the group), a traditional “Fire Emblem-y” soundtrack, and the visuals are all solid. The only thing off putting about either of these things is the differing styles of art. Most of the characters are done in the very modern anime style seen in Awakening and Fates have, or something similar to it. Yet a lot of these styles have small nuances that make them look incredibly different when characters are put next to each other. More over, characters with radically different art styles like Arthur and Gunter look horrendously out of place. Although this alternate artwork isn’t bad (in fact, they’re all very well drawn) and, as an artist, I can sympathize that asking one single artist do do illustrations for the entire roster is a very tall order, I wish that they at least would’ve kept it more cohesive and avoided making some characters look like they’re in the wrong game entirely. Without knowing anything about the game, would you believe that these are all characters as the way they appear in the same game?
Story and Writing
Although I’ve not played the entire Fire Emblem series, I’ve still yet to play a Fire Emblem game with a notably interesting story–and Heroes is no exception. But due to the generally casual nature of mobile games (like Heroes) a super in-depth story isn’t necessary. The game gives you incentive to beat enemies and summon heroes and that’s it–but under these circumstances, that’s all it needs to do. Although it would’ve been nice to see something more clever than, “WOW we’re traveling across the different universes WOW look at all these characters from different worlds” (read: Kingdom Hearts) it gets the job done in this case. It’s not clever, but it doesn’t need to be clever. And given how needlessly complex the stories have been in some Fire Emblem games, having one that’s simply unoriginal is better than having one that’s trying too hard. On the story vs gameplay spectrum, Fire Emblem has always more heavily gravitated toward focusing on gameplay. Therefore–especially in a more casual setting like a mobile game–a clever or interesting story, while always a good touch, isn’t necessary. Fire Emblem Heroes neither falls nor succeeds in this department.
This is, without a doubt, where Heroes fails the most. Microtransactions are what keeps the mobile gaming market afloat: As such, as a game developer, it’s important that you make your audience want to buy them. Ideally, the microtransactions help the fun value of the game, but aren’t a necessity. When you emphasize the microtransactions too much, they make the game feel like a pay-to-win game, which your playerbase will catch on to fast and likely pander it for that reason as they grow increasingly sick of it. On the other hand, if you don’t emphasize them enough then nobody will buy them and your game won’t make a profit. It’s a very fine line. Sadly, however, Fire Emblem Heroes seems to lean heavily toward the free-to-play, pay-to-win model.
Scenario: You’re playing the story mode on Heroes. You’re horribly stuck, but you notice that one of your units of a different weapon class is doing much better than your other units in this map. You decide that you’ll add another 1 or 2 of that class to your team to help you win the chapter–but you notice that you don’t seem to have any other units of that class. So you decide to do a full summon (which is 20 orbs) with hopes that you’ll get a unit of that kind. But unfortunately, RNGesus didn’t smile on you today, and you don’t get one.
Since you’re stuck in the story mode and unable to progress, if you don’t have any more paralogues left or the occasional quest that offers an orb, then sadly, you’re screwed unless you’re patient enough to horde your sign in bonus of 2 orbs each day for 10 days and hope that next time you’ll get one. But odds are you’re not. So you decide to buy orbs. Knowing that a full summon costs 20 orbs, to pay for a full summon would cost you $13 each time. Or if you know that you’re going to want to do a few of them, the “best” deal you can get them at (in terms of cost per orb) is 140 orbs for $75. The catch is that you have to spend $75–something very few people would be willing or able to do. But even if you are willing and able to do that, there’s still no guarantee you’ll get what you need since the summons are all RNG-based. Most famously, there was a player who dumped $1000 into the game and still wasn’t able to summon Hector.
Bottom line: Orbs are imperative to the game, and obtaining them can be a slow process. You can easily go days–maybe even a week–without being able to summon anything, which could drastically affect the rate at which you play then game. Worse than the rate at which you get orbs, however, is the rate at which you get feathers: 20,000 of which are required to rank a hero up. At the most, you can get feathers in the arena–usually 1,000. More typical than that, however, are interactions with characters that usually get you about 5. Not 50, not 500, 5. I shouldn’t even have to explain how ridiculous that is. Surprisingly, there’s no way to purchase feathers. What you can purchase, however, is stamina potions which you’ll desperately need if you want to be able to grind for feathers long enough to get 20,000.
The stamina in and of itself is also a major exchange rate issue, as there’s no way to upgrade it and many parts of the game require upwards of 10 stamina to even attempt once–keep in mind that the stamina is capped at 50, and currently there’s no way to upgrade that. With the wait time to restore stamina being as long as it is if you want to restore a significant amount, it makes grinding for anything a major hassle.
It’s not surprising that the exchange rates in this game are so awful as I’m sure it’s done in part to make up for Super Mario Run. Unfortunately for Nintendo though, like they did in Super Mario Run, they’re making it incredibly obvious that they still don’t know how to price things fairly in a mobile game–both microtransactions and in-game-currency transactions.
With the in-game power these major factors, they slow the game down exponentially, making the game much more frustrating than it needs to be. Unless you get really lucky, this game makes it really difficult to be good at it as you progress–making purchases feel necessary. In other words, the free-to-play, pay-to-win model. The solution to this problem is simple: Either reduce the number orbs necessary for a summon, the number of feathers necessary for an upgrade, and the cost for stamina, or simply lower the prices of orbs, increase the number of feathers you win in arena/by talking with characters, and make it so that players can upgrade their stamina.
For years now Fire Emblem fans have wanted a crossover game to see their favorite characters fight alongside each other and create their dream teams: And, albeit watered down, this game delivers. You can play with a team of characters all from different Fire Emblem games if you want to. The Fantasy Fire Emblem team possibilities are insane. As the roster is now, there are representatives from every Fire Emblem game except for Path of Radiance, Radiant Down, Gaiden (soon to be known as Shadows of Valentia), and Thracia 776. Although that may seem like a lot of games–and certainly the surprising absence of Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn is felt–when you remember that’s only 4/14 games suddenly that doesn’t seem so bad, right?
The only notable problem to be seen in the characters present is the heavy focus in characters from Shadow Dragon & The Blade of Light, Awakening, and Fates. Although these are without a doubt the biggest 3 games it still feels cheap that they make up the overwhelming majority of the roster. To be more precise, they account for 72/108 playable characters in the game–that’s about 2/3 of the roster all from the same 3 games, leaving the other 7 games to divide that last third. Fates boasts the highest number of characters from it with 30 whereas the game outside of “The Big 3” with the most characters from it is Binding Blade with 19. The game with the fewest characters from it (without having none) is currently tied between Sacred Stones and Genealogy of the Holy War, which each have 2 . A big part of the fun of this game is seeing characters from the games you’ve beaten fight again–much moreso for the fans of the older games that haven’t had much love or attention. Although it’s understandable why there would be a focus in the newer Fire Emblem games, it still feels cheap that they account for a majority so overwhelming that it’s 2/3 of the roster.
Arguably a bigger problem than the heavy saturation of the roster is the absence of characters from Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn–particularly Ike who not only won the popularity poll held before this game by a landslide victory, but appeared twice in the top 5 due to being in both Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn. In total, Ike had 51,555 votes–almost double the next most popular male character (Roy, 28,982) and a few more thousand than the most popular female vote (Lyn, 49,917) making him the most requested character for Heroes. There were 3 other Radiant Dawn/Path of Radiance characters who appeared in the poll results (Micaiah, Mia, and Nephenee). Although Nintendo is almost certainly holding them for an event–probably for whenever the game starts to lose speed and the daily users starts its inevitable plunge–they chose a very unfortunate group to hold. By holding the most requested character, Nintendo has effectively angered several fans and made them feel like their votes in the poll never mattered, which is awful PR.
Despite the roster’s shortcomings, it’s still very satisfying seeing them acknowledge some of the older games and characters that otherwise never got much attention. Many fans can finally build the dream teams from across franchises that they’ve always wanted to–that is, if their teams were almost exclusively characters from Shadow Dragon & The Blade of Light, Awakening, and Fates (which in light of their overwhelming popularity, isn’t a difficult request). Hopefully Nintendo and Intelligent Systems will continue, like in the most recent event (Family Ties) to release characters from older games to break up the heavy saturation in the current roster.
Where this Game Succeeds
Heroes’ strengths lie mostly in gameplay and fan service: This game is fun to play, point blank. If you enjoy strategy RPGs, regardless of whether or not you’re a Fire Emblem fan, you’ll enjoy Heroes. The gameplay is simple enough without feeling too easy, and yet still offers a good transition into difficulty as you progress–to the point where many chapters are notably difficult regardless of the difficulty setting you’re on. Even if you just want to jump into a higher difficulty the game will allow you to do that as well, no problem. Heroes accounts for players of all skill levels.
If you’re a fan of Fire Emblem–even if you’ve only played one title–it’s really satisfying when you get a character that you know of or want. This is even more true for fans of the older games who can finally see some of their favorite characters get some attention, love, and new art. It’s also a great gateway into getting newer Fire Emblem fans into older games in the series–something Nintendo will probably be emphasizing more when they add characters from the second Fire Emblem game to it since it’s being remade in May as Fire Emblem: Shadows of Valentia, but is being overshadowed by the fact that currently more than half the roster is from Awakening or Fates.
If you don’t care about the exchange rates–if you’re just playing this game to battle and get a team that you’re satisfied with early on–then this game is fantastic. The Fire Emblem battle system translates very well on mobile. Sure enough, this does feel like a Fire Emblem game. Although this is clearly catered toward people who are already fans of Fire Emblem, the slightly watered-down version of the Fire Emblem gameplay would also make for a good way of introducing potential new fans into the franchise–although I could imagine them also finding it frustrating not knowing who any of the characters are, that also might help them make a decision in which main series Fire Emblem series they’d want to start with if they like the gameplay enough to want to try the fleshed out version of it.
Where this Game Fails
When Super Mario Run hit the mobile market, the main object of criticism with it was its exchange rates: That game itself was fine, but that it was the nuances of being a mobile game that hurt it, most notably its exchange rates which ultimately hurt it not just critically, but financially as well. Unfortunately, these problems were even more apparent in Fire Emblem Heroes. Like most mobile games, this game is designed to encourage purchases, but it crosses the line from the purchases helping to the purchases being necessary in many aspects. It becomes free to play, pay to win unless you have really good RNG luck. Although it’s definitely possible to play this game without making a purchase, it’s also significantly more difficult–and therefore, significantly more frustrating. This problem could easily be remedied by either bringing down the prices of the microtransactions or bringing down the cost of feathers/orbs/stamina potions necessary to do things, but until those are done this remains a glaring problem.
Aside from the exchange rates, this game is horribly disorganized. UIs are unwieldy, notifications that the player has already read will always come up on startup, and explanations are either too lengthy or simply not present. From a technical standpoint, this game is a mess relying heavily on the Fire Emblem logo to look cleaner.
All in all, this feels like a demo for the Fire Emblem franchise. Although it’s not the complete experience and certainly lacking in some areas, it does give you a basic idea of what the franchise is in a nutshell. You can tell it’s not done, but the potential is plain to see. It’s just a matter of seeing whether or not Nintendo or Intelligent Systems will fully realize that potential. As the game is now, it’s decent–but it has the potential to be great, and with very little effort on Nintendo or Intelligent System’s part.
“[Heroes] feels like a demo for the Fire Emblem franchise. Although it’s not the complete experience and certainly lacking in some areas, it does give you a basic idea of what the franchise is in a nutshell.”
As they enter the mobile arena, Nintendo’s made it very clear that they still don’t know 100% what they’re doing. And although they are getting some things exactly right, they (unsurprisingly) seem to fail when it comes to handling the hallmarks of making a mobile game work like exchange rates, not relying too heavily on fan service, and organization. Yet by the same token, what they have done in Fire Emblem Heroes they’ve done well: They’ve chosen an ideal IP to bring to mobile (as it was already very portable), they’ve made it so that it’s not necessary to be a Fire Emblem fan to enjoy this game (even if it’s exponentially better if you are), and they’ve made a very easy-to-digest version of the Fire Emblem gameplay without making it too difficult. In fact, they’ve added difficulty settings to it to cater to players of all skill levels, making the game feel neither too easy, nor too challenging (unless of course it’s a matter of needing different units on your team, which I already addressed, falls into them needing to improve their exchange rates and therefore, making it less of a hassle to summon new heroes).
Fire Emblem Heroes is an enjoyable game, and as a fan of the Fire Emblem franchise (most notably some of the older games) I really like seeing a crossover game like this with several of Fire Emblem’s most well loved characters. (But of course, if it were up to me, Owain, Inigo, Lute, Lucius, and Artur would be in this game, too, but that’s neither here nor there.) On top of that, it has a very addictive quality to it thanks to the gameplay. Although a very watered down Fire Emblem game, it still feels very much like a Fire Emblem game, albeit riddled with exchange rate holes. If not for the exchange rates, this game could be wonderful. They are, however, so imperative that they weigh the game down with it.
This game has the potential to be wonderful, but until Nintendo or Intelligent Systems fixes it, it’s simply okay.
On our very conveniently timed podcast this week, we at least mentioned the upcoming Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem games. Nintendo had teased them a while back, between the releases of Miitomo and Pokemon Go. Miitomo was fun for a while and Pokemon Go was something we discussed in-depth. I’d gone so far as to claim that AR is a more viable interest than VR. And now, I want to elaborate on that. At least, I want to elaborate on Animal Crossing Mobile.
Pokemon Sun and Moon have been doing a lot of interesting things with the series. Hyper Training, the potential replacement of gym leaders, and, most importantly, the Alola forms of specific Pokemon. So far, we have 5 confirmed Alola Pokemon: Alola Vulpix, Ninetales, Sandshrew, Sandslash, and Exeggutor. Obviously, these aren’t the only ones that are going to be in the game, and I thought it would be a cool idea to share potential new Alola forms for older Pokemon. I personally feel like doing this kind of thing to older Pokemon is a really cool idea, and breathes a lot of new life into the game by adding a certain level of realism. My big rule here is that I’m not just going to pick Pokemon I want to see re-typed. I’m choosing Pokemon that I feel would fit into the ecosystem Alola has going for it and how their new forms would fit into the area.
Golem has always been a weird Pokemon for me. I’ve always wanted to like it, but felt no reason to. If we were to make its design a bit better and slap a fire typing onto it, I feel like I’d like it a lot more. Alola Golem (and by association, Geodude and Graveler) could be living around the tip of a volcano on the island, and being by the lava all this time has caused them to develop a fire typing to withstand the heat better. For aesthetics, I feel like it’d be a really simple change. Take all the grooves between rocks on Golem and fill them with flowing lava, and then make the rocks acting as his main body take on a darker color, closer to something like coal. The Alola Golem would basically have its stats flipped. Make it a special attacker, with high special defense as well. Regular Golem already gets access to Flamethrower and Fire Blast, so maybe Alola Golem can hold onto those moves and also learn Power Gem to seal the deal. It could get something like Flame Body as its ability or keep Sturdy, both work.
A lot of you may be thinking “but Dan, Bellossom is already doing a hula dance and has flowers in its hair, it’s already Hawaiian enough!” and you’d be right. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a regular Bellossom has already shown up in some sort of Sun and Moon trailer or image. But that won’t stop me from decking this thing out with even more flowers, changing its color scheme to make it brighter, and giving it a fairy typing which is honestly should have anyway. Way I see it, the Bellossom could be a more friendly Pokemon of the region, consistently interacting with humans, and as such, have been closer to the culture of Alola than in other regions. Because they’re more interactive with humans, they live closer to civilization, making them adapt to the life there as opposed to the wild. If Bellossom were to get a fairy typing, its decent defensive stats would actually be a lot more useful in battle, too.
Let me tell you, I love Mamoswine. I love its bulk, I love its typing, and I love its design. But wouldn’t it be super cool to see it as a fire-type? Alola has icy mountains, so you could still have the ice-type ones alongside the fire types. Mamoswine that went into the icy areas stayed as the ice/ground-types we know, but the ones that chose to stay in the more tropical parts of the area eventually developed into normal/fire-types. In order to survive the warmer climate, their thick coat of fur got thinner and thinner, and being in such high temperatures also gave them an affinity for the hot rather than the cold. The blue patch around their eyes is red now, too. In terms of new stats, Mamoswine’s defenses would be lower, but a little more evenly split, and its speed would be higher, as it doesn’t need to traverse mountainous landscapes anymore. Attack stat stays the same, too. For an ability, it could have Flash Fire or Defiant.
Adding any of these Pokemon, or any new Alola Pokemon, really, would be awesome.