Review: Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia (3DS)
Nintendo always had a lot RPG games on their handhelds and consoles. Pokemon is probably the most popular Nintendo RPG but the Fire Emblem franchise is probably one of the most loved RPG games by fans of the genre. Since the last entry of Smash featured many Fire Emblem characters, the game raised in popularity and lots of people got interested in the franchise. How popular the game now is? I bet there aren’t a lot of people who played one of the first Fire Emblem games: Fire Emblem Gaiden. I have to admit me neither but luckily for us Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is a 3DS remake so we can learn to story of this hidden gem that is Fire Emblem Gaiden.
The continent of Valentia was once divided between the Earth Goddess Mila and the Dark God Duma, siblings who split up and formed rival nations devoted to worshiping them: Mila’s nation of Zofia, and Duma’s nation of Rigel. The two deities, who each held extreme viewpoints on the world, ended up corrupting their subjects, and Zofia was eventually swallowed in a war triggered when its military leader, General Desaix, attempted a coup d’état. Rigel’s ruler King Rudolf used this opportunity to lead Rigel’s armies across Valentia in an attempt to destroy both deities.
Fire Emblem Echoes follows the same basic plot as Fire Emblem Gaiden, with the protagonists Alm and Celica fighting in a war that has consumed the nations of Rigel and Zofia on the continent of Valentia. Echoes introduces new characters to the story that did not exist in Gaiden such as a new friend of Alm in Faye and a new villain in Berkut, as well as a new prolog that expands on Alm and Celica’s childhood relationship. Additionally, a sixth chapter is added after the end of the original Gaiden story, expanding on the lore of Valentia and connecting the game to Awakening.
The gameplay mechanics of Echoes are for the most part like any other Fire Emblem game. You lead your army to victory by positioning and letting them attack turn based with amazing fight scenes. I think a good way to describe Fire Emblem games is to compare it with a very complex version of chess. Positioning is very important and knowing the moves your army can do. So it is very important to think about your strategy before going balls in battle.
Another important aspect of your tactic is choosing which classes you will be using in your team. There are 12 different classes to choose from and it’s important to make a balanced team that has at least 4 different types. At the start of the game your party consists mostly of villagers but after you level them a bit you have the option to choose a class that is best suited for the character. This sounds very confusing but the game does a really good job to help the player choose an optimal path for every character.Every choice you make with a character affects how the character stats improve and how you will use this character strategically. Even in battle, you have to make decisions which affect your soldiers. When a soldier gets killed he will not return to your group when you play in classic mode but this is not the case when you decided to play in casual mode which I definitely recommend when you are new the series.
A more forgiving game mode is not new in Fire Emblem Echoes but in my experience, it felt like the whole game was more forgiving and easier to pick up for newcomers. Older Fire Emblem games had a lot of complicated mechanics that could make things very confusing when you play it for the first time. But the dating mechanic and the weapon triangle were completely removed from the game. For veterans of the game this can be a downside but it felt very refreshing and more intuitive. Relations still happen but it is following the story line. In replacement of the weapon triangle, you are now free to give your soldiers weapons that enhance their stats. Another new cool feature is “Mila’s turnweel”. This allows you to travel back in time during battle when you made the wrong move. This seems overpowered at first but the uses are limited and you are glad it exists when one of your favorite soldiers dies in battle when you messed up.
The freedom you have in Echoes is huge in comparison to other games. You can choose which path you want to take and when you want to battle. You control both Alm and Celica travel routes to follow both their storylines. When you enter a dungeon you can walk around freely to discover the dungeon. You are even able to hit enemies but this only leads to a normal battle where to start with less health. It is nothing amazing but it is a cool feature that is added to the game.
Besides all the action, this game is so beautiful in every way. The music instantly gets you in the mood of the game. The character models look very pretty and all feel very unique. The story is, in my opinion, the best Fire Emblem story. Dialogues can be funny at times but still are very dramatic with amazing voice overs in all of them.
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is a pioneer in the Fire Emblem series that features a lot of new mechanics that pleases both veterans and newcomers to the franchise. The story may start off very cliché but gets a plot twist that results in an amazing story that will hook you for many hours. If you played Fire emblem games before you will love this game and if you never played one, this is the perfect game to start with!