For years, Nintendo kept smartphones at a distance. Historically, the company has generally been a slow adopter of new platforms and has — for better or worse — preferred working on its own consoles and hardware.

Considering this aversion to bold maneuvers, Nintendo’s 2015 announcement that it’d finally make the leap to mobile game development was a surprise. Nintendo characters like Mario and Zelda had always been siloed away on Nintendo hardware, so how would they look or run on your Android phone or iPhone?

Fire Emblem Heroes, the latest free mobile game from Nintendo, slots into an effective niche against the company’s other releases. While the Fire Emblem series doesn’t necessarily have the same name recognition as Mario or Pokémon, Heroes adeptly navigates a difficult balance between casual accessibility and replayable depth.

IMG_0010 'Fire Emblem Heroes' heavily features combat elements. Photo: Company

The game revolves around turn-based combat with role-playing game elements. In each match, you take four hero characters into combat and have to defeat enemies by moving throughout various grid-based maps.

In-game combat is anchored around the Weapon Triangle, a rock-papers-scissors mechanic that shows how effective or weak certain weapon types are versus each other. Each hero character you can bring into combat has a certain weapon type, so you’ll need to tailor your roster for each match to increase your chances of winning. The Weapon Triangle is a straightforward element, but it adds a lot of depth to Fire Emblem Heroes ’ gameplay — you can’t have just any high-powered character in combat, you’ll need to have the right one.

The terrain of each map also plays a similar role with match-by-match strategy. Maps have a variety of environmental and structural elements like rivers, mountains or breakable walls. Certain hero characters have ranged attacks that can work around these elements, while others need be moved directly in front of enemies and the variety of designs in each level helps to keep the game from feeling overly repetitive.

IMG_0009 Maps in 'Fire Emblem Heroes' feature a variety of environmental hazards. Photo: Nintendo

The game’s single player mode has similar replayability, though some elements are more mobile-game like than others. A large part of the game revolves around collecting and leveling up your characters. Hero collection is done through summons, which are random draws that use orbs.

Orbs are Fire Emblem Heroes in-game currency, which can be earned through single-player quests or by using real money via microtransactions. While the game is easier to progress through with in-game purchases, you can still run through the game fine without them.

Fire Emblem ’s Stamina mechanic is one of the less appealing parts of the game. In the game, you have 50 Stamina points and every mission costs a certain amount of Stamina. While you can replenish Stamina with in-game items, the mechanic feels like an arbitrary constraint that keeps players from being able to easily play for extended sessions.

The game’s single-player mode, which revolves around going from world to world to fight against enemies, is similarly mixed. The nine-chapter mode is lightweight in substance, but enjoyable enough as a way to earn orbs and level up your hero characters. As with Nintendo’s other mobile games, Fire Emblem Heroes also requires a constant Internet connection.

Fire Emblem Heroes ultimately works as well as it does as a mobile title thanks to how well it juggles replayability with casual-friendly design. While the game’s mechanics are straightforward, its focus on depth through combat and character collection elevates Fire Emblem Heroes and makes the title worth downloading.