Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia - 3DS Review


Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is an interesting throwback title, because it reminds me of what made Fire Emblem such an enduring video game series with many traits that have trickled down through the years. However, there are some unique aspects to the game as well, that also shows me how much the series has grown as well.

Admittedly I am a little late to the party on this review. I have long been a fan of the Fire Emblem series, dating back before the series really gained popularity with Awakening and in general consider these types of tactics games among my favorite genre. However, it was just one of those titles I knew would soak up a lot of my time, and I had to figure out exactly when I was going to commit to it, because that is what happens to me with every Fire Emblem title - I completely become immersed in it and spend dozens of hours with each one, and to its credit, the same happened with Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia as well.


When you think of a remastered or re-released title, most people tend to think nostalgia cash grab, but this was a game that never actually saw a US release. So to that extent, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is a new title to most people, myself included.

The story follows two different nations - Rigel and Zofia - that are, as usual in this series, at war. Personifying these contrasting states are Alm and Celica, each played and marking a stark difference from one another on their path to the tale's conclusion. Some of the more popular aspects of the more recent titles are done away with (such as marriage, offspring and pairing of units), in some ways making Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia a shallower experience from an RPG standpoint. One of my favorite aspects of the Fire Emblem games is that the series has taken on more RPG components over the years, and these features while not all-important, were certainly felt in their absence in this release.


The story is a darker, even more heavy one than most of the other games in the series. Sometimes the narrative threatens to get a bit overly dramatic, and the dialog between characters can be pretty hit or miss. There were times I found the banter truly enjoyable, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't sometimes find it a little eye-rolling as well. Some characters fare better than others in this regard. It helps that Alm and Celica are not only vastly different characters, but that their armies have a pretty substantially different composition as well. This helps to add some variety to the game, since they are two halves to the whole experience.

Not only did the RPG elements get scaled back a bit, but some of the familiar strategy elements did as well. Gone is the rock/paper/scissors-like weapon triangle (swords > axes, axes > lances, lances > swords) that the series has been known for. Also, default weapons no longer risk breaking with over-use and skills unlock in a more traditional fashion (earned by unlocking rather than buying). In some ways, the balancing act of trying to figure out if you want your items to be of the healing or special weapon variety combined with the new Mila's Turnwheel (think of it as a limited use rollback in time) help to add some new elements to the strategy component of a fairly challenging game. Fire Emblem has always been known for its difficulty, and Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia does the namesake proud on that front.


In terms of the actual gameplay, one really cool new element is the addition of dungeons. Our protagonists can explore these 3D dungeons in order to collect treasure, money and sometimes stumble onto hidden zones. Of course, Fire Emblem is well known for its risk versus reward structure, and that holds true in this segment of the game as well. Encounters bring up the strategy gameplay component that makes up the majority of the time you spend with this title, and the more battles you have in the dungeons, the more your units will grow tired. As they fatigue, their stats will suffer and the only way to counter this is to either leave the dungeon or eat some food. This element of the game was a welcome one, because in a way it helped me forget about some of the previously aforementioned RPG elements I missed, by adding this component of dungeon exploration. That is a good thing, because one area this title shows is age is in the actual map level design. There is a very flat feeling to the battle stages, and frankly the environments are somewhat lacking compared to what we've seen in more recent entries.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is an interesting mix of old and new. The art style certainly reflects the more recent releases in the franchise, and there are some unmistakably 'Fire Emblem' elements at play here. This is a touched up version of a much older game, and I think it serves as a nice reminder of the progress the franchise has seen over the years. However, there are some cool twists here such as the dungeons and two primary protagonists controlling different armies that allowed me to enjoy the game despite missing some of my favorite elements from more recent entries.


Game Information

Platform:
3DS
Developer(s):
Intelligent Systems
Publisher(s):
Nintendo
Genre(s):
Strategy
Mode(s):
Single Player
Other Platform(s):
None

Source:
Purchased




Article by Nick
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