Free-to-play doesn’t always spell doom.
Free-to-play. How does that make you feel? Right off the bat, the term “free-to-play” has a sort of ominous ring to it, or at least to the majority of the core gaming populace. After the release of Miitomo, Nintendo is looking to release more mobile titles for iPhone and Android, but the sound of this worries some fans. Specifically, Nintendo has chosen Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing to be the first major series headed to smartphones. Many were expecting Nintendo to bring their flagship Super Mario series to mobile devices before anything, but I’m glad they didn’t; they couldn’t have made a better choice by choosing Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing.
The announcement of Nintendo’s upcoming mobile games came out of the blue and with scarce details. Fortunately, President of Nintendo, Tatsumi Kimishima, did clear the air a little in a Q&A with investors after a recent briefing on their 2015 fiscal year financial report. For the Fire Emblem mobile game, Kimishima revealed that the developers are planning to make it more accessible than the mainline titles without compromising the engaging strategy RPG elements. Unfortunately, he didn’t give any details on what the Animal Crossing mobile game would play like, but it could always play out akin to its mainline counterparts, and that would be just perfect.
Sure, everyone thinks that putting a Super Mario game would just be the app that practically prints money for Nintendo, but smartphones use touch screens, and, for the most part, Mario games are far from optimized to be fully operated on a touch screen. Super Mario games are just those types of games that truly do and always will require buttons. Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing, on the other hand, are perfect for touchscreens.
Every Fire Emblem game since Shadow Dragon has been on a handheld with touchscreen functionality that actually fits wonderfully with the tactical strategy role-playing gameplay. Tapping or dragging along the battlefield to map out your units’ next moves feels very intuitive, and there’s no reason why it wouldn’t feel just as great on a smartphone.
Animal Crossing has also had its own flings with touchscreens. The series has dropped the feature that allows players to move their villager about by dragging along the screen, but it still worked perfectly fine in the City Folk and Wild World entries on the Wii and DS, respectively. As such, a smartphone’s touch screen should work great, if the mobile version adopts this element of the games. Just as well, recently, the Happy Home Designer entry in the series used the touchscreen to let players efficiently and comfortably design homes by simply dragging furniture to your liking.
Controls aside, the core gameplay of Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing are two of Nintendo’s intellectual properties that have the strongest potential in the mobile game market. If you look at 90% of the games on the iPhone or Android app stores, you’ll find that they’re all designed with sporadic bouts of playtime in mind. Fire Emblem, in particular, is already in this format with players taking on a single mission at a time, seizing whatever castle or annihilating whichever enemy to conclude the level and go back to the map, a gameplay format that is, by now, synonymous with the mobile game market.
The Animal Crossing games are a little trickier, though. Since the series essentially drops you in a town of your own to explore and wander about, a mobile game wouldn’t easily be able to restrict players from playing too long, which is likely why Kimishima explained that there would be a different approach to the Animal Crossing mobile game:
We want to offer a connection between the smart device application and the world of Animal Crossing on dedicated video game systems. This will make it even more fun to play in both ways, while offering a new style of play for smart devices.
It likely wouldn’t be just another Animal Crossing game, or else there would be no incentive to actually play the mainline games. Still, games like Happy Home Designer show that different perspectives on the franchise can work very well, even when they’re much more focused, albeit without the freedom of exploring your own town.
Animal Crossing games may not employ the same sort of incremental gameplay of the Fire Emblem series, but they are games that you can pick up whenever you want, sell a few fruits, and then go about your day until you realize, “Oh, dammit, Patches the Bear wanted me to visit his house an hour ago,” and then you go back to your virtual town to look for Patches and apologize.
Of course, one can’t entirely expect for the mobile versions of Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing to be the cornucopias of content that consist of the mainline games on Nintendo’s hardware. Despite the compromises that will likely have to be made to translate these games into the world of free-to-play mobile games, we are eager to see what Nintendo ultimately comes up with. It would be a downright shame to see the names of these fantastic franchises sullied by the likes of some mediocre mobile games.
Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing deserve the best for all the hours, days, and perhaps even months of fun that they have provided to so many people around the world. Luckily, they’re the perfect choices for Nintendo’s first major forays into making games for smartphones, and, as such, we may comfortably expect greatness.
What do you think about the upcoming Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing mobile games? Feel free to sound off in the comments below!