Let me preface by saying that Fire Emblem Heroes is a mobile game that is dear to me as a longtime fan of the series. Though gacha is inherently predatory in its reliance on FOMO to nab sales, I like to think for a game that falls under the very same banner of Fate/Grand Order or Granblue Fantasy, the game’s rates are generous enough to offset the bitter first impression. At a 3% starting rate for a banner 5-Star (with a pity system that progressively raises with each common unit pull) and a massively large pool five years into the game’s lifespan, players are bound to pull something useful on their first venture with the game. This, coupled with the gorgeous art on newer units and satisfying gameplay (What if my chess pawns could kill each other?) makes for a game that has sustained possibly well beyond what Nintendo had originally envisioned.
Though orbs, the in game “gem” equivalent, were never terribly affordable (it could be a 1-to-1 conversion from USD at most, and five orbs are needed for a single pull), the game began with two notable differences from the competition at launch; for one, while there are no multi pulls sequestered to a single button, players have the option to summon up to five times in a given round, with each successive summon having a discount provided that they’re in the same circle (i.e. 5 orbs for a single pull, or 20 for 5 pulls). Second, the pulls themselves are color-coded. For example, selecting a blue orb could get you either a lance or blue ranged weapon while colorless is either a healing unit or bow (with some rare exceptions like colorless tome or beast units). It’s also worth noting that the exact color of these pulls is completely random, so you might just get a full ring of useless colorless healers and be forced to pull anyway. Strike one for Heroes.
As the game went on, banners with higher rates were introduced. The first was the “Hero Fest”, a limited-time banner featuring characters that defined the games’ Meta at a startlingly high base rate of 5%. With Azura (the game’s best refresher unit at the time and Fire Emblem Fates darling), Takumi (a terror in certain game modes due to his innate skill that allowed him to counterattack regardless of range), and Hector (with this being his first time as a focus unit for the game, Hector defined the Meta being a high defense armor unit, an easy follow-up condition on his weapon, and being able to counterattack like Takumi) in tow, Hero Fest was a resounding success that gave the game a huge boon in it’s twilight period.
Now that the stage was set for banners that had differing base rates from the norm, come Book II the game introduced yet a new money nabbing concept, the Legendary Hero banner. With a rate so high it would knock the wind out of you (8%!!) and stocked with so many useful units that could even sate the average Nintendo fan (an impossible task), this was THE banner to pull on. But once the Legendary Hero banner featuring Fjorm (the game’s newest OC) actually dropped, the disappointment came rolling in. Many dropped hundreds of orbs for a pittance, some already believing the rate up to be a blatant lie. In truth, the 8% rate was spread across a massive twelve character banner, and the stretch was beginning to show it’s seams. The high percent sounds incredible in practice, but when you have three units to a color type, that rate is cut into a third as well. What now becomes a 2.6% rate for the character you actually want to pull, coupled with the game’s slim pool at the time, meant disaster for anyone expecting Christmas morning and got President’s Day morning instead. Strike two for Heroes.
The years went on, and though the game experienced the occasional uproar as all fanbases do (Bridal Sanaki, summonable Surtr, Hot Springs banner, oh my!) there was never any serious events that turned away the most volatile of gaming enthusiasts, the Fire Emblem fanbase, from the game. Until early 2020, when the most dangerous thing in the world happened. Deadly hyper pandemic aside, my anime chess game is adding a subscription service! If Gacha is a low tier swear on a gamer’s pallet, the “battle pass” so to speak is the F-word. This represented a major shift in the game’s subreddit, Twitter and uhh, Google Plus communities? Would this be the crit that strikes down the game? Were Intelligent Systems (lovingly referred to as I$ by fans) and Nintendo flying too close to the sun, implying an imminent closure of the game?
The new FEH Pass was $9.49 a month, and came with the usual goodies monthly services tend to include such as new costumes, orbs, and other consumables to give the mighty subscribers a leg up over the filthy non-paying masses. What was unusual though was the introduction of certain quality of life changes locked to this pass as well. Easy turn rewinds, selecting multiple units as your husband and wives instead of just the one, and automatically grinding out game modes littered the service.
The most egregious though in my opinion was a change that was added a year after the pass was introduced, the privilege of sparking on certain rerun banners. See, in addition to the pity system set in place all those years ago, Heroes introduced a system that was familiar with longtime gacha players in the later years. Known as sparking, summons now had a counter on the banner that, once 40 pulls were achieved, would give you the desired unit outright instead of relying on pity. This was a welcome addition by fans of the game, like an old friend joining your new friend group. But now with FEH Pass locking sparking rates only for subscribers on rerun banners, it was as if that same friend suddenly took up vaping and did it constantly, blowing smoke in your face in doing so. Never have I seen a game’s premium service lock so many useful features and even necessary ones behind a paywall like this. Strike 10000 for Heroes.
All this being said though, I still love the game at heart. Though now I tend to ignore the meta and paragraphs upon paragraphs of text per weapon and skill, It’s still a fun game to pop into, summon like the little gacha weasel I am, tap on Hector to hear his voice lines, and watch the game bug out. Nowadays, I find my AOE spam +10 Resplendant Sonya solving Abyssal Legendary Hero battles to be the most fun I can have in the game. Don’t even talk to me about Aether Raids or Yuris. Back in my day we only had Area and we liked it! -Victiny
If you liked my ramblings on Nintendo mobile games of all things, Story Arc writer Luna did a similarly insane piece ranking Tetris Pieces. Tetris is sorta like Fire Emblem, check it out!