I’ve begun to think of Fire Emblem Heroes like an interesting sort of social experiment, for a variety of reasons.
From what my friends who live on Reddit tell me, there’s quite a strong creative fanbase built up for the game there. People gather en masse to build character sets up in weird, interesting ways that most might not think of outside the game’s meta.
There are discussions about who’s going to be added whenever new summoning focuses approach, and reactions to those characters when they show up and inevitably get placed on tier lists.
Artwork abounds of characters who not only just appear in skimpy or cute outfits (because let’s be honest it’s a game with an anime aesthetic, so there’s plenty of it), but of characters who have gained relevance solely because they matter in Heroes. Like Reinhardt, who appeared in a currently Japanese-only Fire Emblem game but is now unforgettable as a destroyer of everything in the mobile title.
Probably the most interesting thing about the fanbase for heroes is seeing them deal with the interactions between characters from different games coming together. Never is this more apparent than during Voting Gauntlets, when artwork starts popping up of front-running units beating the crap out of each other. People pick sides and root vehemently for their favorites, only to cry out in disappointment as Intelligent System’s ‘inability to math’ screws them over.
Editor’s Note: For those who don’t know, there’s a meme among members of the Fire Emblem Heroes community making fun of the fact that the point calculations in Voting Gauntlets are screwy, making it so the two sides can be labeled as having the “same score” when the numbers above clearly show that one side is a few million points ahead.
It’s never not hilarious.
I don’t think of Fire Emblem Heroes as a social experiment because of the community, however. I think of it as one because I’ve never seen a game that’s taken such an interesting shift in story development over such a long period of time.
When this game came out in February, it started with a rather simple story through ten sets of missions. You, as a summoner of characters from all over the spectrum of Fire Emblem games, traveled with the Order of Heroes to stop an opposing summoner from destroying the homeland of your friends. That was about it, a fairly thin layer of skin over a random number generating summon mechanic clearly designed to make you want to spend money.
But now, about 11 months later, we’ve arrived at the release of Book II, and things are dramatically different.
Most of the extra story chapters and paralogue missions in Book I expanded upon the original premise of the game by taking you to different Fire Emblem worlds to find more heroes that you can throw your orbs against the wall to summon. However, under the surface, there was more being developed, slowly but surely.
Princess Veronica, the leader of the opposing nation, developed a partnership with a mysterious character named Loki who disguised their appearance but hoped to bring their king to Askr to fight the good fight. Prince Bruno, Veronica’s brother, is revealed to be the old ally of the Order of Heroes that provides much of the motivation for Prince Alfonse and Princess Sharena. But these developments with the villains are slow to arrive, and give the game a chance to develop its characters over a long period as players become accustomed to them.
Then, Book II takes the story through a rapid paradigm shift.
The new part of the story begins with a cinematic that introduces the overall theme of this leg. New characters, allied with Veronica and clearly fire-themed, take on the Order of Heroes allied with a new character who controls ice. There’s some impressive displays of power, but otherwise it doesn’t tell you a lot.
It also turns out to just be a teaser of sorts, looking at future events as Fire Emblem likes to do. The actual story of Book II begins well before what they show you.
When you arrive at… I’m not even sure I can write the name of this land, so I’ll just say the ice kingdom… When you arrive at the ice kingdom, Alfonse and Sharena remark on the cooling magma that covers the once beautiful farmland they used to visit as children.
The first chapter of Book II pretty much goes on without any other story until the fifth map, when you first run into Princess Fjorm and King Surtr.
The two are dueling, though the fight is clearly lopsided in favor of the king. He leaves after defeating Fjorm, but leaves his assistant Loki in charge of taking care of your team.
Defeating Loki leads to her retreat, and allows you to bring Fjorm to safety, where she joins your team to help fight against the evil monarch.
Once she’s on your side, you take on chapter 2, where you and your allies chase after Surtr.
It’s mostly a story-less approach (though it introduces a few interesting things that I’ll go into in a bit), besides the beginning and the ending maps.
The first brings you face-to-face with Veronica, now open about her allegiance with the fire kingdom.
She sends new Heroes at you over the next few battles to slow your progress, but eventually you reach the fifth map and encounter the king himself.
His fight is a timed survival, as special magic makes the armored king invincible. You have to survive six turns against Surtr and his main allies, who all get a proper first introduction here.
If anything, this fight is arguably the representation of the opening cinematic in-game… Though it’s much less exciting than the specially created video, of course.
When you survive long enough, the Order determines that they cannot win and retreat.
Oh also, there’s a prophesy. Because of course there’s a prophesy. Can’t have a big dramatic story without it, apparently.
Minor clichéd gripes aside, that wraps up where Book II ends… For now.
To be completely honest, like I’d mentioned toward the beginning of this, I’m very impressed at how things have developed, and glad I’ve stuck around long enough to see it happen.
Over 11 months, the entirety of the game we’ve seen up to the release of Book II felt like the end-all-be-all of Fire Emblem Heroes. It was a simple game with a simple premise that delighted players by finding a basic way to throw a ton of Fire Emblem characters together.
But now, that entire 11 month developing story just feels like it was a prologue. Expositional, introducing us to the main characters and what they can do and how they interact with one another to build up to the actual chief conflict of the game: This war of fire and ice that everyone gets dragged into.
It’s kind of incredible really, thinking that all of this was likely planned in some capacity from the beginning. Granted, thinking back to a game like Fire Emblem Awakening where halfway through the story you jump ahead a few years and suddenly have a whole new story that’s the true meat of the game, it’s the kind of developmental ‘pulling the wool over one’s eyes’ that the series does frequently.
But Fire Emblem Awakening was one contained product, a single game cartridge with just about all of its main content available at launch.
For Fire Emblem Heroes, developers had to make sure players stuck with their game for almost a year to get the big reveal and find out that everything they’ve seen is just build-up. That’s a crazy feat, but one that really seems to have paid off in the long run.
Though this post was mostly intended to elaborate on why I felt the Book II story is more impressive than others might give it credit for, I did also want to touch on some of the new, interesting thing they added throughout the maps as well.
In chapter 1, there are a two new generic units that fill different archetypes from Fire Emblem games which haven’t gotten any villainous love up to this point.
Manaketes and Wyvern riders are staples of the series all the way back to the original Fire Emblem game with characters like Tiki and Minerva. The fact that they didn’t show up in the enemy armies up to this point was a little odd, though I suppose it becomes a nice and convenient excuse to say that they were added in as units from the fire kingdom who didn’t exist in Emblia.
I can respect that. Waiting long enough that you get a convenient out. Much better than just adding them in randomly a few months later like they were forgotten originally.
However, the generic units really aren’t the highlight of the new units added in. Rather, it’s the heroes that Veronica brings along, teasing the next summoning focus:
Children of characters from Fire Emblem Fates are next on the docket, which is something we knew about from previous calendar updates, but never knew exactly who would be showing up until now.
I’ll keep my thoughts abridged for now, since I’ll probably be more over-the-top and wordy later once the main banner is released… But let’s just say there’s a certain Nohrian girl I’ve got my eyes on.
Even if the way they split the heroes into two banners bugs me.
But again, I’ll save that discussion for next time.
For me, this was part two of my discussion of the Version 2.0.0 update. However, I tried to set it up so you could read them in any order you want, so if you haven’t seen the first part going over mechanical and aesthetic changes, you can look here.
Hopefully you all enjoyed me blathering on for almost 3,000 words on a mobile game once again. There’s going to be more later this week, like I said, but for now I’m going to be taking another break to work on all of my final projects and exam study guides. Gotta love this time of year.
What do you think of the Book II story? Are you as enamored with the idea of the long-term story telling as I am? Or is it just basic enough to keep you invested in the game a bit longer? Let me know in the comments below!