Games

'Fire Emblem Heroes' Is a Bad Crossover

Fire Emblem Heroes desperately and shamelessly wants to monetize our love for these characters, yet it has no idea why we came to love them in the first place.


Fire Emblem Heroes

Platforms: iOS, Android
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: 2017-02-02

I’m a relatively new fan of the Fire Emblem series. Like a lot of people, I came to the series through the 3DS game Fire Emblem: Awakening. Also like a lot of people, I was interested in the mobile game, Fire Emblem Heroes. Now that Heroes is finally out, it can be compared and judged against the rest of the series, and unfortunately for fellow fans of Awakening, the mobile game ignores what made the 3DS game so special.

In addition to being a great tactical game, Awakening was a great relationship game. Characters who fought side-by-side became friends, then boyfriend/girlfriend, until they were eventually married. A couple in love got a stat boost, so it made tactical sense to send them into battle together, adding a layer of romantic drama to the war drama. And if tactical considerations forced one of the pair to fight alongside someone else, well, that’s just more fun relationship drama.

(This is where I again specify that I haven’t played any previous Fire Emblem games, so I don’t know if this whole relationship system was unique to Awakening or if it started in a previous game. I’m just attributing it to Awakening since that’s the one I played.)

Heroes loses all of that character development, while also playing on our established love for these characters. It assumes we'll want to play with our favorite soldiers so badly that we’ll invest real money into the slot machine system that gives us our heroes. But while it tries to monetize our nostalgia, it does nothing to add to our nostalgia. In fact, it does the opposite; it purposefully reduces each character down to his/her stats.

The story is built around the idea of crossovers, but it never actually takes advantage of said crossovers. It goes: The Kingdom of Askran is at war with their former allies, the Emblian Empire. Askran has the power to open portals to other worlds, and Emblian can close those portals. In the past they had used these joint powers to… keep the peace or something, I forget. The important point here is that Emblian stopped closing the portals, and instead went through them, recruiting the heroes on the other side to populate their army. Thus, the story missions involve us hopping through these portals, into various game worlds, to fight the characters we know and love.

Unfortunately, all of those characters are bland and predictable and repetitive. Every Story Chapter goes through the same plot: You go into a world, meet a hero who talks a big game, you beat him/her, and then they’re suddenly and conveniently free from the mind control of the main bad guy and apologize to you. Then you move on to other worlds to repeat this little plot, or sometimes you return to previous worlds to repeat this little plot, but you’re always repeating this same little plot.

You spend the whole game crossing over into other game worlds, yet no character stays around long enough to make that crossover meaningful. Every appearance is just a cameo. These characters that were so well-defined in their respective games are, in this game, utterly devoid of any unique personality. They don’t offer to help you in this grand war of worlds; they don’t even seem all that interested in it. They’re not curious about their situation, or angry at their enslavement, or saddened by their actions. They’re not actually characters, they’re more like talking action figures.

Which makes sense, seeing as the gameplay treats these characters as action figures to be collected from a toy machine. You earn “orbs” from the Story missions, which you can spend to summon a random hero. Didn’t get the hero you want? Try again! Did you get a low-level version of your favorite hero? Try again for a better version! This emphasis on stats and rarity levels impacts how we view our soldiers.

For example, I loved Virion and Sully from Awakening, they became a power-couple in my game, able to kill any enemy with their teamwork. In Heroes, I quickly won a four-star Virion, who naturally went on to become the centerpiece of my strongest team. Soon after, I won a three-star Sully. Her stats weren’t bad, but they also weren’t great. They weren’t enough to earn her a place beside her one-time husband, so now she sits on the sidelines. When a character is reduced to her stats, her actual character ceases to matter. And so it goes with every hero.

Fire Emblem: Heroes acts as if it’s a love letter to the Fire Emblem franchise, but in reality it’s just a generic tactics game hiding beneath a Fire Emblem skin.

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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