Hugh Likes Video Games – Fire Emblem Heroes

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Fire Emblem Heroes
Published by Nintendo
Played on AndroidSQ_SmartDevice_FireEmblemHeroes

The Skinny – Fire Emblem Heroes is a slimmed down but still surprisingly deep mobile version of Nintendo’s long-running tactical RPG.

Strategy RPG’s have a tendency towards being overwrought. With huge casts, complicated game systems, and drawn-out battles, they are considered investments in time and attention, and, indeed, their most ardent fans wouldn’t have it any other way. This is why I was slightly dubious when I heard Nintendo was bringing their Fire Emblem series to IOS and Android phones. But Nintendo has done an excellent job of threading the needle between shallow nostalgia bomb and dense war simulator with aplomb.

The story is pretty paper-thin, mostly just an excuse to bring the different games in the franchise together, but it does well enough. The game takes place in the kingdom of Askr, a land blessed with portals to other worlds. The player is the latest such recruit in Askr’s somewhat endless war against their neighbors, the evil empire of Embla. The royals of Askr wear white and value friendship, the Emblians all wear black and have emotional problems, etc. etc. Both sides have put heroes from these other worlds, which align with the various games in the Fire Emblem series, under contract to fight on their side, and the only way for them to be set free is to be defeated on the battlefield. The story is a bit slight, but I personally find the idea that all these characters are appearing because its in their contract a fantastic, if probably unintentional, meta-joke at the heart of the game.
The combat itself is fast-paced and shrinks down elegantly. The vast swaths of movement the regular series is known for are shrunk down to just a few spaces, and your army is reduced to teams of four, although you can fairly easily swap out teams or team members from your roster. The roster itself is a typical sort of random card pack selecting you see in many free-to-play mobile games, but ‘Heroes’ gives you plenty of currency to fill out your army without resorting to converting your real-life cash to orbs. Combat relies on the traditional Fire Emblem sword-axe-spear battle system, but new players shouldn’t have any trouble picking it up. It strips the system down to manageability, but still provides enough expanded difficulty modes, asynchronous multiplayer, and challenge modes for veteran players.
Although the story mode is paper-thin and incredibly anime, the art assets look great, and scale well. Fire Emblem Heroes might not be the next revolution in game design, but its a great way to pass the time if you’re looking for something a bit different than the run-of-the-mill puzzle game. You can find it for free in the IOS or Google Play app stores.

Hugh Likes Video Games: Monument Valley

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Monument Valley
UsTwo Games
Played on Android
Monument Valley is less of a game and more of an experience, but it is a damn good one.  A sort of meditational challenge, Monument Valley is a M C Escher-inspired visual puzzler for mobile phones.  The goal is to guide a figure through a series of ‘monuments,’ physics-defying labyrinths that rely on forced perspective.  SImilar to the classic PSP game ‘Echochrome,’ Players rotate, flip, and skew the terrain to guide the heroine to the end of each level.
While the game itself is not overly taxing, the puzzles require players to think visually and strategically, and at its best moments, feels almost meditative.  The calm atmosphere is reinforced by top-notch visual and sound design.  The princess journeys through spires, caverns, and seas with a painterly aesthetic.  One particularly clever level is designed as a puzzle box.
The style of the game helped to alleviate any sense of frustration I felt while playing.  This was a little world that I was glad to get lost in.
Although a bit on the short side, Monument Valley is a pocket-sized gem of a puzzle game, and an oasis of calm suitable for hardcore gamers, casual players, and kids.  You can find it in the IOS, Android, and Amazon app stores.

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