A few years ago, Fire Emblem raised itself from the grave with Fire Emblem Awakening. Since then, the series seemed to have revitalised. Not only did we receive three versions of Fire Emblem Fates for the 3DS and Fire Emblem Heroes for mobile devices, but there are also three more games of the tactical role-playing game set to release by the end of 2018. One of these games include the newly release Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia.
Fire Emblem Echoes follows the intertwining adventures of Alm and Celicaduring the war between two factions of Valentia. Does Fire Emblem Echoes’ release have decent strategy, or will it fall just like many knights of Valentia? Find out in our review, after the break!
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
Nintendo 3DS Family Systems
Developed by Intelligent Systems
Published by Nintendo
Released: 19th May 2017 (Europe/NA)
Review copy provided by Nintendo
Screenshots/Art Courtesy of Nintendo
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is actually a remake of the Famicom title, Fire Emblem Gaiden, which never actually released in the West. The story follows the intertwining adventures of Alm and Celica. Once childhood friends, Celica was taken away from the village of Ram by her ‘grandfather’ in an attempt to keep her identity a secret.
The two eventually end up supporting amidst a battle between two factions, the Zofians, which was established by the goddess Mila, and the Rigelians, which was established by the dark god Duma. Alm even became the leader of the Deliverance, a Zofian army built to push back the Rigelian forces being lead by King Rudolf. Though both Alm and Celica are of Zofian upbringing, Celica can’t help but believe that there is a peaceful way to resolve the war, and that King Rudolf isn’t really as evil as everyone makes him out to be. It’s up to you to find out who is truly responsible for the conflict between the two factions, as well as find a way to resolve said issues!
Like other Fire Emblem games, Shadows of Valentia has the same style of turn-based combat. When engaging in battle, the game goes to a top-down grid view of the battlefield. Each team takes turns to move each member of their party on the grid. When you go to attack an opponent, the view temporarily dons a third person view of your brief battle as you and your opponent perform your attack. Depending on the level of your character will determine the strength of your attack, how well you defend, your chance of landing a critical attack, and whether or not you can fit in a second attack. Once you finish a fight, your character will gain a small amount of EXP, even more if you fell your opponent. This means that it would be a good idea to make sure your weakest characters land the killing blow to ensure they grow up big and strong… unlike me.
To win a battle, all you have to do is to defeat all opposing opponents, it’s that’ simple, sometimes all you need to do is to just defeat the opposing leader. Being able to come up a good strategy and good fore planning are critical if you want to succeed. Sure you may be able to charge in swords blazing, but when you progress further in the game, doing so would be reckless. There are other elements which help you gain the upper hand, such as different terrain types which can offer better defence or limit movement, and equitable items which can either replenish health or let you perform special abilities.
Each character can also learn a certain class, such as becoming a mage, an archer, or a mounted knight, and even perfect these classes for more powerful attacks and abilities. If things start to look awry, or if you made a stupid mistake, you can use a new item, called Mila’s Turnwheel, to rewind time back to any point during the battle. Of course, you can only use this a limited amount of times during a battle. There are truly a bunch of ways to create a good strategy, and some of the later battle can offer a great challenge.
One mechanic that is missing from Shadows of Valentia, which has been in recent Fire Emblem entries, is the weapon triangle. This essentially gave weapons of a certain type and advantage or disadvantage over a weapon of a different type. For example, swords had an advantage over axes, axes had an advantage over lances, and lances had an advantage over swords. Unfortunately this mechanic has been omitted from Fire Emblem Echoes… though this is likely to do with the fact that Fire Emblem never even had the mechanic at the time Gaiden was released. Another issue I had was the fact that half the time, battles felt very taxing and repetitive, especially those where you are pitted against many enemies. This was mainly due to the fact that a lot of battles have you moving your party long distances over plain land until you get to fight any enemies. Once again, this is likely due to the fact that Echoes is based off a game made in 1992, though it would’ve been nice if some of the battlefields were streamlined.
There are two main modes in Echoes: Classic, and Casual. Playing classic mode means that if one of your fighters die, they’re dead for good, no second chances. Casual mode on the other hand revives a fallen ally once you have claimed victory in battle.
Dungeons make a return in Echoes, in fact, it’s the first time they have made an appearance since Gaiden. Instead of having a top down view, Echoes now lets you explore dungeons in more detail in third person view. This also allows you to avoid enemy encounters more easily, if you are tired of level grinding. Villages and towns also return, this time in a visual novel style. You can view different scenes of the area, talk to the residents, some of which can even be recruited into your party, and even examine the area for some small treasures. One slight annoyance, and petty at that, is the fact that there is no way to document side quests. The majority of the side quests are very minor and just require you trading items for money, but it would still be useful for the game to document where the quest is set, oh well, will just have to stick with pen and paper for now.
Fire Emblem Echoes is very story driven, nearly every bit of progress will uncover more of the story, and it’s a pretty engaging story too. There are also very well executed animated cutscenes at various points which help make the story more engaging. There’s not one main character or party member which I do not feel for. Not only do you have the regular cutscenes, but every so often during battles, you get the chance to get two party members involved in a support conversation. Not only does it increase their relationship, letting them perform small support abilities during battle, but you also get a closer look at the interactions between each character. For example, after a while you start to find out that one of your archers, Leon, begins to have feelings for the burly and muscular knight, Valbar… one can only dream!
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is a very engaging entry to the Fire Emblem series. It has a very engaging story, decent challenges, and generally looks pretty great on the 3DS. It is also perfect for introducing new players into the world of Fire Emblem, not only do you not need to have played any of the previous games to understand the story, but it includes enough gameplay mechanics to not become overwhelming for newbies. Though this may be true, some of the core mechanics, such as the weapon triangle have been missed, and the battlefields could have received a bit of streamlining. Other than that, it’s a pretty solid entry.
Final Rating – 4 out of 5
If you’ve been wanting to get into the Fire Emblem games, or are a fan of Fire Emblem, or even just turn based strategy games, then I fully recommend Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia