Nintendo’s full-on endeavors into mobile apps are relatively recent, a trend spearheaded by social network-inspired Miitomo and subsequently fleshed out by the likes of Super Mario Run and Fire Emblem Heroes. While the former offered up a substantial but finite slice of one-handed Mario platforming, four months later Nintendo is still pouring an impressive amount of effort and resources into its free to play Fire Emblem title.
Like Pokémon Go, the app has sustained popularity in part via seasonal events, the latest of which is called Ylissean Summer and features an impressive selection of high-quality, new and not before see character art created specifically for the Heroes event. While some may still lament Nintendo’s move to a business model it abhorred mere years ago, I’ll be the first to admit that character art of this quality being contracted, paid for, and churned out under the banner of a mobile app of all things is, by my estimation, equal parts uncommon and impressive. Most full-on console games are lucky to get art of this quality, nevermind the quantity Heroes has seen since its release.
“I’ve discovered a means of weaponizing seashells, milord.”
While the leaked images certainly err on the fanservice side of the spectrum, it doesn’t change the fact that their detail rivals that of the high-quality prints found in Fire Emblem Awakening’s official art book, or the miniaturized Fates version of the same packed-in alongside that game’s elusive special edition. You can check out the full compilation of Ylissean Summer images on Imgur.
Interestingly, this isn’t the first time Heroes has fallen victim to such data mining. In fact, the app’s Christmas event from 2016 met an almost identical fate, resulting in reindeer-clad Tharja and more appearing across the web well in advance of the associated Christmas application update.
Such repetition does beg the question of whether or not Nintendo is simply letting this happen intentionally, and it’s fine by me if they are; I’m no avid Heroes devotee myself, so online galleries are the best chance I have at a close look at the game’s ever-evolving style. Regardless, even the recent Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia fell victim to ROM dumps and leakage of critical story details ahead of release, something I can’t imagine Nintendo overtly wants even if the occasional character art isn’t really such a big deal.
Soon to be battle-tested in Heroes, I fully expect Octopi to appear in the next main game.
Heroes’ continued prominence is just a small part of a larger play for the Fire Emblem series, a previously niche franchise now determined, it seems, to join the ranks among Nintendo’s most popular. Among other tells, most obvious is its emulation of the strategies used by Nintendo and Game Freak’s overwhelmingly popular Pokémon titles.
This began when Fates decided to offer not one, not two, but three different versions, while with Echoes the series has dived headfirst into bona fide remakes of former titles now ancient in their original form. Paired with Fire Emblem’s newfound ability to tap into the Tumblr generation’s obsessions without fanart and “waifus,” and you’ve got a perfect formula for rabid popularity.
Next on the docket for Fire Emblem is the upcoming Warriors, arriving on Switch in the Fall of this year and sampled firsthand by GameRevolution at E3 2017 recently. Given that it took The Legend of Zelda decades to partake in the Warriors treatment, Nintendo’s haste with Fire Emblem further demonstrates its designs on growing the franchise. Meanwhile, Intelligent Systems is hard at work on the next mainline entry in the series (and the first headed to Switch), which is likely to appear sometime during 2018.