Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia

fireemblemechoes

It looks like Fire Emblem is no longer Nintendo’s most neglected franchise (that dishonour has now been passed down to Metroid.) There was a time when the strategy RPG’s days seemed numbered, but the popularity of Awakening changed all that. In recent times we got three different versions of Fire Emblem Fates and Heroes brought the fantasy series over to mobile devices. It’s barely been a year since the last 3DS game came out in Europe and we already get a new instalment to play in the form of Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia.

NORTH AND SOUTH DIVIDE

Shadows of Valentia is a remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden, a nineties NES title that never got a western release. Players take control of two armies led by childhood friends Alm (country bumpkin turned warrior) and Celica (a crimson haired priestess.) During the five-act campaign, which runs for around thirty hours, our teenage heroes march their troops across the war torn continent of Valentia. The region is currently in the midst of a North versus South feud akin to the current Korean conflict, only with less nukes and more dragons.

Like in past titles, battles are turned based affairs fought on grid-based maps. On one side are the human forces and on the other hostile AI minions consisting of soldiers/undead. The game’s mechanics are similar to other Fire Emblem titles, with a few minor differences. Firstly the infamous weapon triangle (swords beat axes, axes beat lances, lances beat swords) is absent from this instalment, which does reduce the level of strategy somewhat. Archers still inflict bonus damage to aerial units though and it’s possible to gain an edge over cavalry/armoured knights by learning special skills from weapons picked up during your travels.

NOW THAT’S GOOD EATING

Another change of note is that spell casters need to sacrifice a portion of their health in order to activate their magical abilities. I guess the penalty is in place to curtail the destructive power of sorcerers, who are by far the mightiest class in the game. Thankfully vitality can be replenished by calling upon the services of a healer or snacking on the grub found on village floors and musky dungeons. Gross. What’s the deal with these unsanitary video game diets? This reminds me of my Streets of Rage days, were players ate chicken found inside garbage cans.

One feature that I miss from this remake is the option of playing matchmaker with your militia. It’s still possible to build up the relationships between certain characters, via bonus boosting support conversations, but you sadly have no influence over what friendships lead to marriage. That may be for the best though, as the romance in Echoes is flat out bizarre. Alm and Celica are smitten with each other for example, despite only knowing each other briefly during their prepubescent days. The game also stars a yandere villager named Faye and a vestal who has a thing for older men.

VERDICT

My rating for Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is a four out of five. It’s my least favourite of the 3DS Fire Emblems, but a fine handheld strategy game all the same. I suspect Echoes would have been more to my liking were it not for the pesky summoners, who annoyingly flood certain levels with endless waves of monsters. The low hit rate of my fighters was frustrating too and I also despised how enemy witches would sometimes warp behind my front line, leading to unexpected casualties. Thankfully it’s possible to negate friendly losses by disabling perma-death or rewinding back the action via a feature dubbed Mila’s Wheel.

As far as Fire Emblem remakes go Echoes is far superior to 2009’s Shadow Dragon. Intelligent Systems have put a lot more work into this project, as evidenced by the inclusion of gorgeous 3D cut scenes and voice acting. The developer also added some third person dungeon crawling to the mix, which is a nice change of pace from the constant tactical warfare. Exploring the labyrinths may unearth treasure chests containing weapons, accessories and shields. Coinage can also be procured by smashing the jars found in the catacombs. First we had Zelda and now Fire Emblem. Nintendo seem to have a thing for storing valuables in pottery. What’s wrong with using a good old-fashioned piggy bank?

14 thoughts on “Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia

  1. i havent made it through this game yet because i havent been particularly motivated to play it for long stretches of time. i agree that the series feels a bit lacking compared to the other fire emblem series. im guessing that happens because many of the game mechanics are a bit archaic. i find the fixed progression of classes to be particularly frustrating. i dont know if i feel the same about the teleporting mages, though. they typically only teleport to the fringes of your party, so you can usually mitigate them by keeping your low-res units in a ball. im still not done with the game yet, so maybe that gets worse in later maps.

    • Where the witches teleport seems to be completely random. Most of the time they warp to a pointless location, but there were occasions were they caught me off guard. That said, I was asking trouble with my unit placement. Your formation sounds better than my “melee guys in front and squishies in the back” approach.

      • based on what ive seen, they choose a target on the fringe of your group with low res and teleport just in range of that unit. i havent looked too much into how they choose targets given all those options, but ive never seen them attack a unit that’s between two units

  2. So it’s your least favorite FE game for the 3DS? I would have been able to compare notes if I hadn’t been sidetracked by buying a Switch on the day that I went to the store to buy this game. I guess I’m good for now though, I’ll wait. Have enough to play!

    • Echoes is very good, it’s just that the other games are even better. Awakening is one of the best games on the 3DS and Fates made my top five games of 2016. Breath of the Wild should keep you occupied for a while, but you could buy Fire Emblem to play on the trips to work given how you are naturally cautious about taking the Switch outdoors.

  3. That dungeon crawling addition sounds pretty sweet! I still need to play Fates so it will be a long time before I get this game. I do have the two Amiibo for it , of course 🙂

    • I liked the dungeon crawling segments and would be okay with Nintendo including them in future games. It’s a good way of implementing optional battles if you want to grind. The exploration and puzzle solving also add some nice variation to the usual Fire Emblem gameplay.

    • Right now is a good time for me because I love the Fire Emblem series. The situation however shows how fickle gaming companies are. One hit is all it takes to determine whether a franchise gets put on hiatus or gets annual sequels.

    • The shipping does add some personality to the game, otherwise it would feel like a very basic strategy game. It also adds replay value. Fire Emblem 7 for example I completed loads of times to unlock all the support conversations. Other games in the series, that didn’t save the supports or had generic conversations, were one and done affairs for me.

  4. Great review! Although I’m excited to try out the dungeon crawling, I’m disappointed by removal of matchmaking. I know it’s a remake of an older NES game, but it’s hard to say goodbye to what’s been working so well in the latest games. Either way, I already have the game, so it’s a matter of sitting down and playing it. Hopefully, I enjoy it as much as you!

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