Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, or Echoes for short, is the latest game entry in the Fire Emblem series that released on May 19th, 2017. It actually goes back to the roots by essentially recreating Fire Emblem Gaiden, the second game of the franchise that was only released in Japan in 1992. What made that one special was how it did things differently from the others like having dungeons. Now everyone can experience the great story and gameplay worldwide on the Nintendo 3DS.
I highly recommend Echoes, though if you are completely new to Fire Emblem, you may want to start with Awakening and Fates first to get a better idea of where the franchise is mostly headed. Echoes has a harder difficulty reminiscent of old Fire Emblem games, so keep that in mind. Without further ado, let’s get started.
I honestly think that Fire Emblem Echoes has some of the best storytelling ever done by Nintendo and Intelligent Systems compared to past entries, which is saying a lot considering that I’ve enjoyed many of them. Anyways, I won’t spoil anything of the beginning or the rest of the game.
From how it begins to how it ends is all well done. You’ll love the illustrations and cutscenes that go along with some of the events that occur. Some features were cut out in favor of a stronger plot – or in general – better writing. One of the best parts of Echoes is the relationship between Celica and Alm, so I can see why they did what they did and appreciate them for doing so.
The only real issue you could have is that you’ll wish the the campaign was longer, considering how much you’ll grow attached to the characters. Awakening and Fates (Conquest and Birthright), without including any DLC, lasted about 60 or so hours while on average people have been completing the main story of Echoes within 30-40 hours. I don’t really take that as a problem because some games, especially Xenoblade Chronicles for example, go too far to where the story suffers from being stretched out too much.
This game mostly plays the same as other Fire Emblem games, though there are notable differences that may even throw veterans off a bit. One of the most notable is how magic spells costs HP to use, however, it is not as bad as you may think. I think it’s a good way to make sure that magic users don’t become overpowered. There is also no weapon triangle and no axe users on your team as well.
Basically, you can almost think of each battle as a game of chess. The maps are set up as grids that show you where you can place your units. You can see the attack and move range of enemies, which you should always keep in mind. Some are better than others at being on the front lines versus others who should be in the back for support. Echoes does a good job at pacing you through tutorials to make sure that you know what to do.
Dungeons are a interesting addition to the formula as you can explore to find some treasure chests, fountains that give you slight stat boosts, breakable items that sometimes drop loot, and so on. Unlike Link’s latest adventure, you can even cut grass sometimes for money. Enemies will randomly spawn around you and you have the choice to fight them or not, though they will chase after you if they see or hear you. The only way to promote classes this time is to find Mila statues, which you will mostly only discover in dungeons.
One is the nicest new gameplay features is the Mila Turnwheel, where you can undo turns. Now, you don’t have to completely start over if you make one mistake that kills one of your characters. You may either go back to a particular phase (Player, Enemy, Ally) or go back one step at a time. This is especially great if you’re playing on Hard+Classic and a foe gets a lucky critical hit – murdering your best unit. However, if Alm or Celica fall, then it is automatically game over.
The support log is different in this game too in how there are only three ranks (C, B, & A) and the main characters can’t have conversations with everyone. Most will only have two to three people they can support with. No marriage or children, which is completely fine with me – though some reviewers didn’t like that; it made sense in Awakening, but how Fates handled it was bad, so I’m glad they chose to skip that for this entry.
Echoes probably has my favorite Fire Emblem soundtrack. The orchestra and choirs are amazing throughout the game. It’s crazy how they were able to keep to the original soundtrack in a way that ties everything together. You can tell that there was a lot of thought put into each song from beginning to end.
The overall art-style was also beautiful and different to keep somewhat in touch with the original, older aesthetics of Fire Emblem Gaiden. The characters and environments are nicely detailed and unique. The in-game graphics (the character models seen in battle) are fuzzy and could have been better like previous games, but other than that I think it’s all great.
Side Note: The full voice-acting performance for everyone is perfect. I hope they will do that for future titles as well because that is one of the things that makes Echoes stand out.
If you have a Nintendo 3DS, you should definitely buy Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. It is a well-done remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden. If you are into turn-based, tactical strategy games that challenge, then this is the game for you. It’s one of my favorite games this year so far.
Have a great summer and I’ll probably blog again soon! 🙂