A couple of weeks back the latest entry/one of the oldest entries of the Nintendo IP Fire Emblem released. It was a game that may have been overlooked by some due to it being a remake of the classic game Fire Emblem Gaiden. We think you might want to re examine that choice if you enjoy strategic combat games.
Fire Emblem Echoes Is a remake of the old classic Fire Emblem Gaiden. We want to clarify, we do mean REMAKE. From the ground up this title has been resurrected and brought into the modern gaming era (albeit with a few issues, but more on that later,) and has been totally re built except for the basic plot of the game. The game now features 3D graphics along with the usual strategic unit placement style battle. This iteration of the game however, now features some specific dungeons that you must explore in order to reach some of your objectives. These dungeons feature various enemies who are running around and will attack you on sight so it’s best to try to get the jump on them by attacking them first, (yes, you can do that!) These dungeons also are the key to unlocking some powerful equipment for your allies that will DRASTICALLY help you in combat. (That Brave Sword will win wars.) The re make also features support conversations between characters, albeit, not in the same style as Awakening and Fates. This game’s support conversations occur on the battlefield and do not feature any sort of romance system in game. This doesn’t mean that there is a lack of quality in the conversations though. With the addition of a FANTASTIC amount of voice acting, the support conversations between characters are very interesting and help to flesh out each characters personality even more and definitely lead you into having your favorites from our groups of heroes. In addition, we see what may be the inclusion of Nintendo’s first outwardly gay character in any of its IPs. All of these serve to make the game feel fresh and new despite it being a remake of an old game.
Plot wise the game contains a pretty well laid out and interesting tale. Shadows of Valentia follows the adventures of a young man named Alm and a girl with a mysterious past named Celica. The two adventure across Valentia in order to save their homeland Zofia and run into all sorts of interesting characters along the way who aid or oppose them in their quest. The plot features several interesting developments along the way that give the tale more depth to it and the game gives you the option of whether or not to recruit certain allies to your cause along the way. The choice to recruit or not recruit doesn’t cause any major alteration to the story but you will miss out on some interesting story developments if you should choose not to recruit certain allies or avoid specific paths along your journey. Should you choose to develop the relationships between your allies, you will find that pretty much all of them are well developed characters and they all have their own unique personalities that endear you to them. The quality voice acting complements this incredibly as well and really helps to further endear you to the characters and bring out each of their unique personalities. While I personally never had the opportunity to play the original entry into the series, I rather enjoyed the story of Alm and Celica’s adventure and didn’t feel as if there were any dull moments in the adventure. The tale paces well and does well for casual gamers in that it gives players some distinct moments in the game where the story transitions between segments, allowing for times to pause and take a break before diving into the next part of the quest.
Graphics wise, the game is a bit lacking. I fully understand the power limitations that come with using a 3DS but there are some moments that some of the graphical work just seems spotty. These moments mostly come from cut-scenes that were chosen to be done in 3D but honestly, I would have rather them been done as anime cut-scenes. Every other anime cut-scene in the game is beautiful and features some fantastic artwork that really accents the drama of the moment but the 3D ones pull you out of the moment and distract you with the bland facial expression upon the various characters faces. This does not hold true for the combat scenes however, as those flow beautifully well given the power specs of the 3DS and do a good job of holding you in the action of the story as well as further immerse you in the battle at hand. Other than the lack of power for the 3D scenes in the game, the art is fantastic and manages to maintain a sense of this being a remake of an older game while at the same time feeling having a newer quality to it that accents all the right parts of the medieval setting of the game.
Gameplay wise the game is challenging yet fun. This is not a hack and slash combat style game. IT REQUIRES SERIOUS STRATEGIZING ON EVERY MAP! You will miserably fail should you try to just run through and brute force your way through the game and in the case of Shadows of Valentia, it is an incredibly good thing. You absolutely will have to strategize each set of actions each turn and come up with a cohesive plan for victory if you want to succeed in Alm and Celica’s quest, (Much like you would if you were actually in their shoes!) This comes out of the sheer challenge in how the game sets up each map differently and then further challenges you by bringing out various enemy units that will quickly destroy you should you try to just bulldoze your way through enemies. Each your units will feature various strengths and weaknesses depending on the class and the enemy AI seemed to know full well how to crush your weak spots should you have left any exposed. These weakness and strengths can be enhanced and better defended by the class advancement system in game (WHICH WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE,) but even still, one must be attentive to what is going on in combat lest the enemy sneak up on you and crush your most powerful unit in one fell swoop. (This happened to me … too often …) Each ally can be further strengthened by giving them various equipment that increases some of their stats and allows them to learn various “Arts” that they can use in combat but even these have their limits in how much they help your allies and some equipment even come with drawbacks for some of the powerspikes they provide. For example, you can equip an Archer with an Iron Bow to allow them to learn new techniques and increase their damage and accuracy in combat but if you give them a Steel Bow, the next step up in bows, it further increases damage but decreases the accuracy of your Archer by a small amount. Other weapons may provide strength boosts but at the cost of lowering some of your defenses. (Not the Brave Sword though. EQUIP THE BRAVE SWORD.) There is also a crucial in game mechanic that will allow you to go back and reverse some of your decisions that you may have regretted or retry an unlucky roll of fortune on a critical strike or a missed attack but even with this mechanic in game you still can face defeat should your strategy be one with too many holes in it. For those who still find the basic game too easy, Shadows of Valentia features a classic Fire Emblem mode (eat your heart out Dark Souls,) in which any ally who falls in combat is dead for good … as in the whole game … Choose your actions wisely and save that Turnwheel for when you make a really really stupid decision in combat …. or get really unlucky with an enemy who has a 3% crit chance and still critical strikes your ally into oblivion. That being said, even with all the challenge of the game, finding a strategy that succeeds and defeating your foes with your plan is incredibly fun and is sure to provide a real sense of being the leader of an army that Alm and Celica embody in game.
The Amiibo feature in game adds an interesting mechanic to the game in that it allows Alm and Celica to summon an illusion ally for one turn in combat who will help them defeat their foes. It isn’t a game altering mechanic or anything but it can help out in a pinch when you really just need an extra assist in achieving whatever strategy you devise for victory. It is nice to have another use for the various Amiibos you may have already been collecting and further increase the number of reasons why they still decorate your shelf. The Alm and Celica Amiibo specifically allow you to save your data to them and create illusion versions of them to assist you as well. They also each give you access to an extra dungeon to traverse through. (We will review each of those soon.)
Overall the game does a good job of continuing, (or re introducing depending on how you look at it,) the classic strategic gameplay that we expect from Fire Emblem while at the same time, providing an interesting story to carry us through it. The tale does a good job of immersing us into the world of Valentia while the stellar voice acting endears us to the cast of Characters in a way that past few Fire Emblem entries don’t hold a candle to. The 3D graphics leave a fair bit to be desired but the Anime cut-scenes are fantastic but unfortunately are not featured often enough in the game. The game is fun while still managing to provide a good bit of challenge to those who don’t prepare for combat accordingly and has a fairly decent system of teaching you how to succeed in combat against your foes.
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia 8/10
Care to pick up a copy? You can get one from Amazon here as well as grab the Alm and Celica Amiibos!
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