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Import Report – ‘Heroes,’ Gacha, and Gambles



Fire Emblem: Heroes has been out for two weeks now. This week’s Import Report explores the good and the bad about it, and the capsule machine-inspired genre it comes from.

It’s been roughly two weeks since Fire Emblem: Heroes launched on iOS and Android, and with it came another new attempt at pushing the gacha genre onto a Western audience. Gacha follows a lot of the same principles as most other free-to-play mobile games by enticing the customer with short, but addictive, gameplay that is eventually stunted by some kind of wall. It could be as simple as running out of turns in a match-3 game or as elaborate as a difficult boss fight in an RPG. There have been some successful attempts at localizing gacha titles outside of Asian territories, like with Final Fantasy Brave Exvius, but the brunt of controversy surrounding these games is still mostly overseas. One gacha game in particular saw a man spend roughly 6k trying to get an unlock which in turn led to a lot of backlash and regulations being brought upon the market. Heroes takes a slightly less greedy approach to the gacha formula though, and it’s these particular choices that will help it stand out in a sea of similar-styled games.

The gacha genre of video games is one of the only ones out there defined by how it makes money rather than how it plays. Gacha is named after the word “Gashapon,” a Bandai owned trademark for capsule machines in Japan. Gacha games work similar to capsule machines in that content is locked behind randomized drops from some kind of micro-transaction machine. These types games also tend to have timed special events. Certain limited gear or characters can become easier to unlock for a short amount of time, or those same characters are only available for that short amount of time before vanishing indefinitely. It’s an easy way to get whales, the minority of players that spend more than the average of the majority, to actively invest in the game.

Gacha sounds like a bunch of crock, right? Gacha games often do a lot of things to offset their paywalls, such as being entirely free-to-play. One could realistically get through all of a gacha title without spending a single cent, but at some point or another, the player is going to hit a wall that will require time to grind up their resources. The idea is that everyone has a threshold, you just need to place it high enough where the investment of time can be rationalized with the investment of money.

Fire Emblem: Heroes isn’t the first gacha title to be released in the West, but it is a great example of some of the best and worst parts of the genre. In general, Heroes does more right than wrong. Its stages are short, level progression through the main game doesn’t feel stunted, and most of the story missions are manageable with even the weakest units when played properly. There’s also an ample amount of stages and scenarios to replay to grind out levels and resources quickly. Things like quests also facilitate continued play and give a way for the player get even more rewards that are otherwise unobtainable. It’s a healthy system, where players are given enough options in what to do that things don’t become boring unless you find the base gameplay boring from the very start.

Orbs serve as the coins for the gacha machine in Heroes, and they’re easy to obtain, at least while the game is still in a honeymoon phase of sorts. The entirety of February is filled with opportunities to gain orbs, from a daily bonus to special event maps that hand out 6 total each. This early-to-adopt inflation gives a player about 3 extra rolls in the machine, assuming you use the 20 orb max when you roll. It’s a great incentive for people who grabbed the game on launch day to keep playing, but it’s not nearly as forgiving to those who start later. There’s still plenty of opportunities to gain orbs if you’re a late adopter. You can gain 1 per-story mission when you first clear it, but those extra free rolls could be the difference between getting good party members or a bunch of weak ones.

Orbs do more than just fill in for gacha currency though, they’re also needed to get experience upgrades and even refuel other limited resources if the player is too impatient to wait. This kind of stuff is really par for the course when it comes to gacha games, as you really want to stress the inflated importance of paying to play more. Imagine you’re on a hard level, one laid out to be unfair and unforgiving to the slightest mistake. It takes a 1/5th of your limited stamina bar to play this level and you’re near zero now after binging for about an hour. Your last unit dies to theirs, and now it’s going to be a 2-hour wait for your stamina to recharge for you to try again. In the heat of the moment, you’re given the offer to trade in 1 orb to continue on the spot and have all your units come back at max health for a guaranteed victory. Logically, you should just hold off and patiently wait for your stamina to restore, but there’s always going to be more people who hit “try again” in the spur of the moment for their singular orb. These decisions stack up over time, and what started as one orb to continue quickly becomes 10 or 20, where you’re at the point of losing your free character rolls.

I had said earlier that you can get through most parts of the game with the weak units, which is true, but there’s no real way to get the strongest units outside of getting them through the gacha process. Each unit in Heroes has a star rating from 1-5, and then “5 focus” as an added 6th tier, and exclusive to the gacha machine. The more stars a unit has the better it’s base stats, skill pool, and ability to gain skill points becomes. Units can be upgraded at level 20, and with enough patience, you can turn any 2-star unit into a hefty 4-star in a few play sessions. The one thing you can’t effectively do right now is upgrade a 4-star unit to a 5-star. Each upgrade requires two separate resources of feathers and badges, and the badge required to go from 4 to 5 is not easily obtainable. This is where the grind kicks in, as suddenly you have to start doing more and more expensive side-missions in a power struggle to continually promote your units to make them stronger. Is it bad? A little, but the satisfaction of promoting a unit to 5-star ranking feels great since badges and feathers cannot be purchased or replaced by money. Players with dedication to specific characters will get way more out of grinding and playing the game than they will by lightening their bank accounts.

The ability to turn weaker units into stronger ones is one of the main things I like about Heroes. Rolling low-stat units always feels bad, but it doesn’t feel like complete garbage when you can turn them around and make them into stronger fighters with a little dedication. The maps in Heroes also lend to making its grind feel shorter. Most stages can be completed in a matter of 3-5 minutes, while it could sometimes take almost an hour in certain mainline Fire Emblem titles. The experience upgrades pay off as good investments since they too speed the process up and let you climb the training tower faster for rarer badges to make promoting units easier.

Fire Emblem: Heroes isn’t that different from your average gacha title like Granblue or Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius, but its legacy lies in its brand. Fire Emblem is a solid strategy series, and its gameplay translates well to mobile. The franchise has a huge roster of characters to choose from, which makes its biweekly roster roulette much easier to update and differentiate from week to week to keep players coming back. Heroes might not have had the same initial launch success as Super Mario Run or Miitomo, but it has the opportunity to outdo both of them. With a healthy free-to-play game structure and simple gameplay, Heroes has set itself up to be one of the better mobile games with longevity in mind.

Taylor is a writer from Atlanta, GA. His passion for games extends across genres and generations. When not playing or writing about games, he's probably reading science fiction.

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PAX Online: ‘Unpacking’ and ‘Infernax’

Our PAX Online coverage continues with a game the calm and relaxing Unpacking and the not-so calm and relaxing Infernax.



Unpacking and Infernax

Our PAX Online coverage continues with a game that takes a hated activity and somehow makes it relaxing and another game that will leave you clenching your buttocks.


Unpacking game

Platforms: PC
Release: 2021

As someone who is coming fresh off of moving just a little over a month ago, you couldn’t have blamed me for being a little skeptical going into what was dubbed a “zen puzzle” game based on the final stretch of the process. Unpacking is just that, though. It’s a calming, almost therapeutic exercise that happened to serve as a wonderful way for me to unwind at the end of a day.

Unpacking is exactly what it says on the tin. There are no scores, no timers, no leaderboards, just you, and a few boxes with various items in them that need to be placed somewhere. The demo starts with a single bedroom in 1997. There’s nothing in the game that tells you where something should go, only your own taste and intuition; a locked diary would probably go in a desk-drawer while a soccer trophy would probably be displayed on a shelf.

As I slowly unearthed items one-by-one, I gradually got a feel for what the room’s new inhabitant was most likely like. The endless supply of stuffed animals implied someone of younger age while the numerous art supplies indicated someone inclined to right brain thinking. It’s rather engaging to learn about this person’s life purely by their belongings.

Every item taken out was like a delightful surprise and would sometimes even make me feel a little sentimental such as when I took out a small device that was clearly a Tamagotchi. More importantly, Unpacking nails that sinking feeling of when you feel like you’ve used all your available space but still have boxes left. Reaching the point of just throwing stuff wherever it fits is such an immediately relatable feeling that I was almost offended. And that was only for a single bedroom!

Unpacking game

The demo’s second stage was a little more involved with a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen in the year of 2004. The hilarious moments of finding a boot in your kitchenware box or a bra with your toiletries also felt like a call-out to my own hodge-podge packing methods. It’s something I can’t help but let out an exasperated chuckle at.

It was also neat to see how this person has grown since their earlier abode. Much fewer stuffed animals but more art supplies and a brand new computer imply this character is maybe entering the working adult world. I’ve never actually seen this character, but I can’t help but feel a connection to them already, and that was only after two moves. The full game will have eight total moves to follow them through and I am genuinely curious to see how our nameless and faceless protagonist grows throughout them.

Now if only unpacking in real life could be this soothing.



Platforms: PC
Release: TBA

Some players may recognize Berzerk Studio for their excellent 2018 bullet-hell, rhythm game Just Shapes & Beats. Coming hot of the heels of that hit they immediately pivoted in the new direction with Infernax, a delightfully edgy 8-bit adventure platformer that takes cues from old-school Castlevania titles.

Our hero returns to his land after a successful crusade only to find it overrun by horrible monstrosities in every which direction. With nothing but mace in hand, he sets out on a quest anew to rid the land of the undead filth. Immediately apparent upon starting is just how tightly the game controls; anyone fond of earlier NES titles will feel right at home with Infernax. I quickly got a handle on my exact attack reach down to the pixel and began mowing down the zombies in front of me. It emphasized how much joy a game is possible of eliciting from simply a jump and attack button.

Getting to that proficiency is important too because the game doesn’t waste any time in taking off the training wheels! Even the base enemies shaved off half my HP if I got careless and that difficulty ramped up at a rapid rate as new enemy types were introduced at a decent clip such as flying evil eyes and jumping rodents. Not only do these foes burst into tasty experience points and gold to be spent on upgrades, but also into extremely satisfying fountains of blood.

Infernax isn’t particularly shy about turning up the gore factor, but it’s still impressive by just how creative they get with it using simple pixel art. Nowhere is this more apparent than when you are killed. Every single enemy type has a unique kill animation when they deal the final blow to our hero. From the chump ass pillbugs to the big bad bosses, all of them mutilate you in a different way and it’s honestly morbidly mesmerizing to witness. It made me want to suicide against every enemy I came across just so I could see what creative way they took my life.


Depending on your playstyle you might not want to do this, though, as Infernax features two different ways to respawn when you die. Hardcore respawn sends you all the way back to your last save point, just like in those classic NES titles. Casual respawn lets you restart right where you left off with no loss in progress, but choosing to do so locks you out from Hardcore the rest of the game. It’s a sort of mark of shame that I was glad to wear during the demo after I came up against the final boss and promptly got my ass handed to me. It sounds a little cheeky on paper but is actually very consistent with the game’s overtly edgy tone.

Infernax feels like a game that was lost to time during the NES era and is just now being rediscovered. Those looking for for a game that harkens back to the simplicity of the olden days need not look any further.

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Indie Games Spotlight – Going Full Circle

We’re featuring five exciting indie games in our latest spotlight, including the internship roguelike Going Under and the cozy puzzles of Lonesome Village.



Journey of the Broken Circle

Indie Games Spotlight is Goomba Stomp’s biweekly column where we highlight some of the most exciting new and upcoming independent games. Summer may have come to a close, but that hasn’t stopped big announcements from rolling in. With events like PAX Online and the recent PlayStation 5 Showcase flooding the web with announcements, trailers, and gameplay footage, there’s been a constant deluge of news to keep up with. With so much coming on the horizon, we’re spotlighting five exciting indies that you’ll be able to play sooner rather than later. Whether you’re in the mood for a brutally addictive action game or a cozy adventure and social sim, there’s bound to be a game that speaks to you in this spotlight.

Moving Up Professionally in Going Under

Work is its own payment in Going Under. In this action game from developer Aggro Crab, you’re put in the shoes of an unpaid intern who must explore the endless ruins of failed tech startups while fighting off the monsters that spawn within them. It’s hard work to do without a single paycheck—but hey, at least you’re gaining valuable experience!

As a former unpaid intern myself, the writing in Going Under certainly resonates with me and it’s sure to strike a chord with anyone who’s ever felt underappreciated or overworked. Its vibrant and colorful 3D graphics, as well as its satirical story, only make it all the more enticing. It really should offer a great working experience when it hits all consoles and PC via Steam on September 24.

Animated GIF

Fill in the Gaps in Journey of the Broken Circle

Something’s missing in Journey of the Broken Circle. Like its name would suggest, this puzzle platformer follows a Pacman-like circle with a hole to fill. It wanders through a world that is whimsical and existential at once, searching for a companion to fill its gaps. As the circle rolls through ethereal environments, it encounters different shapes to use that allow for new gameplay mechanics.

Journey of the Broken Circle might be about an abstract shape, but in its quest to become whole, it strives to capture the human experience. It promises to be an intimate experience that clocks in at about five hours to complete. If you’re interested in getting this ball rolling, it’s already available now on Switch and Steam.

Prepare to Get GORSD

There’s a delicate balance between unsettling the player without being outright scary. GORSD treads the line here as a one-hit-kill shooter that stars humans encased in the skins of octopuses, dragons with human faces, and nightmarish environments. Something feels off about GORSD, but that’s exactly what makes it so interesting.

Brought to life with detailed pixel art, GORSD supports up to four players who can face off in chaotic matches in varied arenas. It also features a full-fledged single-player campaign with a vast overworld with dozens of unique stages. Its concept is inspired by its developers’ native Southeast Asian cultures, making for a unique gameplay and aesthetic experience. If you’re ready to dive in and see it for yourself, it’s available now on all consoles and PC via Steam.

Get Ready For a Foregone Conclusion

Saying Foregone is a 2D Dark Souls would be cliché, but accurate nonetheless. It’s a hardcore action game where you’ll fight against insurmountable odds to prevent monsters from overrunning the world. It has a brutally addictive gameplay loop—its difficulty may be excruciating, but because it offers a wide assortment of abilities to leverage, it’s immensely euphoric once you overcome the challenges before you.

This beautiful 3D/pixelated hybrid action game has been available on PC in early access since February, but at long last, it’s seeing its full console release in October. It’s been a promising title ever since its pre-release days, and now that it’s finally seeing its complete iteration, there’s never been a better time to dive in and give it a shot. It’s hitting all platforms on October 5, so there’s not long to wait!

Finding Good Company in a Lonesome Village

Mix Zelda with Animal Crossing and you might get something like Lonesome Village. This newly-revealed puzzle adventure game features Zelda-like adventure in a hand-drawn world populated by animal characters. Players control a wandering coyote who stumbles upon a strange village and decides to investigate its mysterious happenings by interacting with villagers, solving puzzles, and exploring its dungeons.

It’s more than a simple adventure game. In addition to puzzle-solving, you’ll interact with Lonesome Village’s eclectic cast of characters to forge relationships and unravel brooding mysteries. It’s showing plenty of potential with its cozy gameplay loop, and if you want to give it a shot, check out its official demo from its Kickstarter page! It’s already been fully funded in less than 24 hours, but if you want to help the developers out even further, consider contributing to their campaign.

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PAX Online: ‘Inkulinati’ and ‘Pumpkin Jack’

The PAX Online celebrations continue with the strategy game, Inkulinati, and spooky Halloween themed Pumpkin Jack.



Inkulinati and Pumpkin Jack

The PAX Online celebrations continue with a strategy game whose tales are writ in ink and a game sure to put you in an early Halloween mood.



Platforms: Switch and Steam
Release: 2021

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Competitive strategy games stress me out. Chess? Stresses me out. Checkers? Stresses me out. Star Craft? Stresses me out. Managing that stress as a form of stimulation is what makes the best strategy games shine, though, and Inkulinati is so far demonstrating all the facets of such a game.

The titular Inkulinati are masters of a craft that brings their inked creatures to life on parchment, including a caricature of themselves. The two Inkulinati do written battle with each other until only one is left standing. The battles are carried out in a charming medieval art style that looks like it was taken straight out of a manuscript you’d find carefully stored in a library. These aren’t the masterpieces of Da Vinci or Van Gogh, but the kinds of scribbles you’d find the layman making on the edges of pages either out of boredom or mischievousness. The playful art makes for a playful tone and jolly times.

The core thrust of the gameplay is that each Inkulinati utilizes ink points to conjure units, or “creatures”, onto the parchment in a turn-based manner and sends them into the fray. There were a fair amount of creatures available in the demo — ranging from a simple swordsdog with well-rounded stats to a donkey capable of stunning foes with its trusty butt trumpet. Many many more creature types are promised in the full game, but I found even with the limited selection of the demo the gameplay was still able to be showcased well.

Your primary Inkulinati also has some tricks up its depending on the type you’ve chosen to take into battle. Instant damage to or healing a unit were the two shown off in the demo, as well as being able to shove units. Shoving is particularly useful as you can push enemies into the hellfires that encroach the battlefield as the battle wages on, instantly defeating them.

Doing battle with an opponent it all well and good, but what’s the point if it’s not immortalized for generations to experience down the line? Inkulimati understands this need and will record every single action of the battlefield in written word. It’s infinitely charming, and the amount of variations in how to say what amounts to just “X unit attacked Y enemy” is astonishing. How can you not chuckle at, “Powerful Morpheus killed the enemy and may those who failed to witness this live in constant pain and regret”?

Pumpkin Jack

Pumpkin Jack

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Steam
Release: Q4 2020

Halloween may be a little over a month away but that didn’t stop the 3D action platformer Pumpkin Jack getting me in the spookyween mood. The human realm is suffering from the Devil’s curse and have elected the aid of a wizarding champion to save them from it. Not to be outdone, the Devil also chooses his own champion to stop the wizard, choosing the despicable spirit Jack. With the tasty reward of being able to pass on from hell, Jack dons his pumpkin head and a wooden & straw body on his quest to keep the world ruined. The premise sounds slightly grim but make no mistake that this is a goofy game through and through, a fact only emphasized by a brilliant opening narration dripping with sarcasm and morbid glee.

The demo took us through Pumpkin Jack‘s first stage, a dilapidated farmland full of ambient lanterns abandoned storehouses. The visuals are compliments by a wonderfully corny soundtrack full of all the tubas, xylophones, and ghost whistles one would expect a title that is eternally in the Halloween mood.

We got the basics of traversal, like dodge rolling and double jumps, before coming upon a terrified murder of crows. Turns out their favorite field has been occupied by a dastardly living scarecrow and they want Jack to take care of it. One crow joins Jack on his quest, taking the form of a projectile attack that he can sic on enemies. Jack also obtains a shovel he can use to whack on the animated skeletons with a simple three-hit combo. There’s nothing particularly standout about the combat, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be this early on. More weapons such as a rifle and scythe are promised in the full game and should go a way towards developing the combat along with more enemy variety.

Pumpkin Jack

Collectible crow skulls also dot the map and seem to be cleverly hidden as even when I felt like I was carefully searching the whole stage I had only found 12 out of 20 by the end. Their purpose is unknown in the demo, so here’s hopping they amount to something making me want to find those last eight in the full version.

After accidentally lighting a barn ablaze and escaping in a dramatic sequence we came across the scarecrow in question. Defeating it was a rather simple affair that was just a matter of shooting it out of the air with the crow then wailing on it with Jack’s shovel. We were awarded a new glaive-type weapon as a reward but unable to give it a whirl in the demo, unfortunately. All-in-all, Pumpkin Jack shows promise as a follow-up to action 3D platformers of yore like Jak & Daxter, so here’s hoping to a solid haunting when it releases later this year.

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