After a little work with my phone and some mandatory downloads it was finally time: I was playing Fire Emblem Heroes! Accessing the game via the Japanese Google Play store allowed me to get my hands on it just a little bit earlier and to start checking out what this lite version of Nintendo’s strategy series has to offer. After a brief tutorial I started checking through menus and learned some interesting bits of info that are sure to help any enterprising summoner.

First and foremost, don’t summon right away. By playing ahead a little, linking your My Nintendo account and checking your in-game mail, you can get a handful more orbs. With how the game is designed, it’s cheaper to summon characters five at a time. While the first summon is always five orbs, the next three in sequence will then be four each, and the fifth will be three. This takes the total cost of summoning them from a theoretical 25 to 20. It also guarantees you a four star (that is, more powerful) or higher hero.

So in simplest terms, if you’ve just gotta gamble characters to try for someone you really want, head in with at least 20 orbs stockpiled. This total can be reached before taking on the first map thanks to a launch promo and the ability to link your My Nintendo account so just take a little time to prep and then go for it.

That said, you have no control over what kinds of heroes you can potentially summon. While there’s an available list of heroes and heroines, the five chances you get during a summon are random. For example, Robin from Fire Emblem Awakening is classified as a “blue” character. If your summon array doesn’t have any blue stones in it, then you won’t be able to get Robin. You can’t see the five stones until you’ve paid your first five orbs, so that shall be your first test of luck.

It also pays to be attentive to the ongoing Focuses, which help increase the odds of certain heroes being unlocked via orb summoning. If you really want Roy, then you’ll have better chances with the “Focus: Deep Devotion” selection. Even still, there’s no guarantee you’ll get one of these characters, though according to the game the longer you go without a high level summon the higher the chance grows. It could take a while, but every step is toward greatness. Still, getting exactly who you’re after is the trickiest part. It can happen though, trust me.

The gameplay itself is similar enough to Fire Emblem’s core, though one key difference stood out – characters wielding magic cannot attack other characters while in adjacent squares. That’s to say, they behave as archers do in terms of who they can attack. The same goes for knife and shuriken wielders, so plan accordingly when moving your characters. If story chapters strike you as a little easy, rest assured you can unlock Hard and even Lunatic versions of the maps once a chapter is completed.

After progressing far enough you’ll unlock an arena for online PVP against random opponents. A little further still and you can access maps designed for gathering experience and “special battles” for recruiting a predetermined character. You level up in all of these modes, so they’re a great way to grind your freshly recruited heroes and gather certain resources. Among them are crystals and shards, which are basically EXP you decide to distribute outside of battle to characters matching the gem’s color. Remember Robin being a “blue” character? That means if you want to use these you’ll need blue gems. Which ones are available change each day, giving players a good deal of time to gather them up when needed and available.

The arena can be tricky if you aren’t planning on investing in more heroes other than what you gather naturally, but there’s an undeniable thrill involved. By getting sequential wins you get bonus score, which will be tallied at the end of a “season” and determine your ranking for the next season. Just don’t be surprised if an opponent’s units are at a higher level or ranking than you’d expect, but never give up and use the map to your advantage.

I’m really enjoying what I’m seeing from Fire Emblem Heroes, though that comes from loving the series already and having an idea of what to expect from a mobile title like this. Keep your expectations in check: this isn’t meant to be a full fledged installment in the series. With just my handful of hours in at this point all I can say is it’s a cute, enjoyable mobile game with a level of presentation and care that I come to expect and admire from Nintendo.

These are just some quick, early tips for those starting the game and potentially unfamiliar with it or mobile games like it. There’ll be more detailed coverage in the near future for all things Fire Emblem Heroes, launching today for iOS and Android devices.

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Written by Ricky Berg

When he isn’t writing for Nintendo Wire, Ricky’s anticipating the next Kirby, Fire Emblem, or if the stars ever align, Mother 3 to be released. Till then he’ll have the warm comfort of Super Smash Bros. to keep him going.

Ricky Berg