Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia Review

While less popular that most well known first party Nintendo series it’s no mistake that Fire Emblem has become a nintendo staple. While the west would not see a single title of the series until 2003 on the game boy advance, it became one of the most well known and loved tactical role playing games on consoles.

After 25 years later Nintendo released a remake of the black sheep Fire Emblem Gaiden, utilizing the power of the 3DS under the name Fire Emblem Echos: Shadows of Valentia. With a update look and with a mix modern and classic gameplay mechanics, Fire Emblem Echos: Shadows of Valentia is a decent experience that might be worthy of your time.

Fire Emblem Echos: Shadows of Valentia
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo, Intelligent Systems
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: April 20th, 2017
Players: 1
Price: $39.99 (Review Copy Received)

Fire Emblem Echos: Shadows of Valentia visuals come in a range of visual styles. Within battles the game utilizes a simplistic 8-bit pixel art style. Individual characters and obstacles are cleanly defined, making it easy for the player to identify the character that is currently being used.

When a character goes into battle with another unit it goes into a 3D view.  Within that 3D view characters as well as the terrain are very well animated and detailed. The same level of detail is utilized in 3D dungeons as well, creating a pleasing visual experience on the aging 3DS.

The drawn artwork for the game is also utilized very well in the visual experience. The world map itself has small details such as faded text and details due to age. While having 3D elements such as towns, it blends very well with one and another. The key stand out is the character artwork.

Each portrait of the characters gives hints to their backstories and personalities very well, adding an extra feeling of attachment to them or in some cases disdain. However, through story events when characters talk to one another the artwork really only changes in the eyes and mouth. While this is minor it is disappointing since they are done so well.

The vast majority of gameplay will be spent in tactical RPG battles. Utilizing your unit, you will need to fight enemy units in order to win a battle. The objectives for winning can change slightly or throw a minor curveball, such as making sure an NPC does not die but it does not sway away from the path much.

Each unit has a different character class, like archers attacking from a huge distance, mages doing high damage magic, and fighters focusing on melee damage. Maps can also become extremely repetitive with encounters that are not part of the main story. Quite often I found myself playing the same map multiple times and utilizing the same strategy to win.

Due to random spikes in difficulty the game can force a player to have to grind encounters or dungeons in order to level the units they have, creating gaps of wasted time. The catch-22 is to later to have another battle be completely dominated by the player as they were over-leveled for it.

Alternatively, the player can use Milas Turnwheel to revert actions they and the npc enemies have taken in order to attempt a new outcome, but you must keep in mind it has a limited number of uses each battle. While it’s up to the player to decide what method they will use in order to progress in the game, this can lead to frustration – especially to individuals who want to proceed with the main plot.

Many older fans of the Fire Emblem series will find many gameplay mechanics they come to know have been removed from the game. Removed from the game is the weapon triangle that adds a paper, rock scissors aspect with attacking and defending. Relationships are kept to a minimum as well.

Talking to another ally unit allows you to build up the support ranking between them, however gone is marriage and children. While the game is simplified in order to focus more on the split story paths between the two main characters Alm and Celica, it does take away from aspects that many long time fans have grown to love and can make it feel like it’s out of date compared to the earlier 3DS releases.

Beyond the battles there are some adventuring aspects to the game. The world maps allow the player to see where battles are located and you are able to see where the next battles are taking place. Also included are key locations such as towns and dungeons. Along with expanding on the story, towns also hold quests, and even blacksmithing for weapon upgrades. Tilting the camera, hidden items and consumables can be found as well.

3D exploration and dungeons play a key aspect, mostly used as grinding for experience or seeking a shrine for upgrading your character class. They add a new and very welcomed experience as a whole that hopefully will be added and expanded upon in later entries to the series.

The character you are playing runs in 3D space and can attack enemies in order to get an advantage and initiate a tactical battle, however if you are hit by a enemy the battle begins and they will go first. These offer a great break away from moving point to point on the world map.

The soundtrack for Shadows of Valentia brings remixed tracks of the original game as well as new tracks of its own and is done amazingly well. Each song fits very well with events going on currently with the game. Music for the battlefields easily bring a sense of tension and urgency and desperation, while events relating to the two main characters interacting can become melodramatic.

While the selection of music is great all around, it can become repetitive. The strategic fields background music changes depending on what act you are in the game. Fans of the previous entries will be disappointed that the music does not transition into different version of the field song, instead we are given a repetitive loop of a song for attacking an enemy, defending or one for healing.

The text heavy plot of the game without the voice acting would become very dull, thankfully the voice acting for the game works well. Almost every character interaction is fully voiced over and very rarely does a character’s voice feel out of place. The voice actors have done a good job making the voices match a character’s personality, adding more life to them.

Characters of noble standing speak in a high and mighty tone, while commoner characters tend to communicate in a more relaxed manner. While I didn’t feel one character stand out from with exception of the two main characters, the voices do add for a better and more enjoyable experience.

The story to the game is simple: two childhood friends Alm and Celica are split apart as war begins to ensue when the Rigel Empire invades the kingdom of Zofia. Both of the main characters go on separate paths in order to end the war, and while apart for the majority of the game, do cross over for some events.

Each one focuses on their own hardships and trials makes for a great multiple perspective based experience. Complexity and intrigue is added by its dark overtone with aspects of religion, murder, loss and betrayal becoming apparent early in the game. While it is more well written and enjoyable than most of the entries of the series, some elements do come as predictable.

All the characters in the game are well written and interesting. However, what stands out more is the interaction between all the allied character subplots. Throughout the story you come to know the reasons why they join the war.

Each character’s interactions with one another feels very well crafted and unique. This helps keep interest and a steady pace going during low points of the game. Rivalries form between one another, heartbreak between one sided love, or people being in the war for money, fame and power took me away from the main plot often and helped create a memorable experience.

With a return to classic Fire Emblem gameplay mixed in with some modern elements, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is hinted by Nintendo to be the last entry of the main line series on the Nintendo 3DS.

While difficulty spikes can become a major frustration, the story and characters help keep the player engaged in the game. While some aspects that previous fans might of enjoyed have been removed, Nintendo has created a well made remake from a bygone era.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentias was reviewed on Nintendo 3DS using a review copy received from Nintendo. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

The Verdict: 8

The Good:

  • Well written story
  • Interesting characters
  • Artwork
  • Great Soundtrack
  • Dungeons mix up the game play

The Bad

  • Frustrating difficulty spikes
  • Grinding
  • Missing features from previous games that add variety
  • Chocolate ISISCream

    Shame that it’s on 3DS only. Gaiden was the only good Fire Emblem. Would have been better on Switch tbh.

  • DwightParkman
  • DwightParkman

    not to mention alot of the other cons the reviewer mentioned are actually pretty positive implementations or cuts to the game. the whole relation/dating sim crap not being in this one really helped me take the game alot more seriously with the story and characters, as far as the difficulty spikes? im not really sure about that, if you played it even on the hardest mode with casual on, you shouldnt have too much of an issue as long as you promote everyone at the soonest chance

  • kenneth

    nope

  • Shamelessly copying this from my comment on another site so I don’t spend another 10 minutes typing it:
    The best fire emblem game I’ve played since PoR. I have complaints, but they are minor. The game never told you your hit/avoid/crit rates outside of battle, and never gave you item stats when you picked up an enemy drop. The unit menu didn’t have a tab for “talk” so you couldn’t ever see if there even were available supports. In all, I would have liked a lot more information to be given to the player. Aside from that, the presentation was worlds above just about any FE game so far. The Nintendo polish shone through in the UI, the map sprites, and allllll the menus. The art deserves a special shout-out, as it’s the best we’ve had since PoR/RD and maybe even better than those. It just oozes the fire emblem feel. Shout outs to the old support system making a comeback, but without limits this time. This is how you do it. Mila’s turnwheel may be divisive, but I loved it. That said, maybe they should have limited the amount of rewinds you get in harder difficulties, as it can negate the difficulty when you can just re-roll 3% enemy crits. Speaking of difficulties, hard mode was perfect. Not to hard, but not easy. I just wish there was something harder above that without being stupid like the endgame dungeon. I can’t forget to mention the music. Oh god, the music. I never thought I’d say this, but the 8bit remix of the final map theme blows Id~purpose and End of All out of the water. It really shows how much Yuka Tsujiyoko could have benefited from technological advances. The new tracks are equally impressive, esp. The Scions’ Dance in Purgatory. All in all, it was superb, and gives me a new hope for the future of Fire Emblem as a whole. If only we could get a Genealogy remake now….

  • Even on hard/classic, it wasn’t that difficult to pull out a no-death run of the entire game with little to no grinding.

  • Uncle Ocelot

    So, did this get the Fates localisation treatment?

  • Tubsiwub

    I have a friend claiming to have found difficult sections. I’m playing on Normal and the game hasn’t once killed off any of my characters. I never went back to a previous area for levels and I’m not looking up guides or anything as to which villager should be what.

    If anything, it’s odd how the game allows you to give healers shield and have them tank hits like everyone else or how you’re allowed to give your armored units rings of resilience to prevent them from dying to casters. It’s like they brought down the difficulty in every aspect.

  • SOMEGUY7893 .

    Which is why the healers have a straight 60 hit for their base attack.

  • SOMEGUY7893 .

    How would it, there was no modern Otaku waifubait in the original and them trying to stay faithful meant only one new character has aspects like that.

  • Alfonso Lopez

    Hmm, I think the way the reviewer used “previous titles”, he was only thinking about Awakening and Fates.

    Which are basically a fork in the road for Fire Emblem.

    I mean, I hated those two titles, hell I haven’t liked a Fire Emblem since maybe Radiant Dawn (which I haven’t played but I have hope for it after Path of Radiance’s “great mechanics but sparse content”), thanks to the Marth remakes including new mechanics such as lateral class change, not to mention FE11’s paid-DLC-locking of the Elysian Whip and Falcoknight class. Still, I get that those games have a legitimate fanbase.

    But they should be considered separate. If you talk about “previous titles”, you really have to specify. (Hell, you’d probably have to specify between the first ten titles of Fire Emblem too, I’m sure behind me is a FE4 fan who disapproves of my FE8.) Fire Emblem Echoes really uses the original no-triangle system of Gaiden, and the Support system is a throwback to the GBA titles.

    I think that it’s important to think of it as that, rather than “It’s different from Awakening/Fates” as if it was taking its cues from those games.

    But yeah I’m not invalidating the criticism, the problem of the extra non-story battles and making it grindy really does weigh down a game and feels like padding. Fire Emblem shouldn’t have to feel that way, and that’s what really brings down titles like Sacred Stones, and maybe Awakening. (I think Fates has it too? Don’t remember.) The art… well, at least it’s not the same art as from Fates/Awakening. (I do hate to keep hammering on those titles, but really as a separate issue whoever did the art for those shouldn’t be drawing faces. Or medieval settings. Or armor.)

    The music thing, I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at there. I suppose this is the same “previous titles” problem, because in the GBA titles and in PoR there really were set themes for healing, attacking, defending, boss battle, etc. PoR might have had multiple battle themes (at about the halfway point of the game it changes I think) but that was it. And I dunno, was it better off otherwise? I honestly don’t know. But I’m not good at criticizing art, I do like to stick to the gameplay.

  • Alfonso Lopez

    I hope they keep remaking the old ones, it will save on me finding ROMs and emulating them.

  • Ephrain Estrella

    So what replaced the weapon triangle?

  • totenglocke

    It was too far along in development to port it to Switch. Games take years to make, everything coming out on 3DS this year and next year was already in the works well before the Switch had a release date.

  • Nah, I’ve played most of them already. To be perfectly honest, it’s to make FE4 a bit more accessible and to give the soundtrack the same treatment Echoes got.

  • It’s an actually good script, and the characters don’t come off as the “trying too hard” chars from fates, so I’d say no.

  • Nothing. This is a remake of the 2nd game, and the weapon triangle was introduced in FE4. Since it didn’t exist in the original, it’s not here.

  • Loli X Loli

    apparently, This one escaped the jaws of the threehouse. which is a great thing!

  • Captain Vidya

    So no pickles or “…” or muh quads? Fuck yea.

  • chaoguy

    If it’s excessive then I get it being an issue.
    And it’ll feel excessive if fighting is no fun and you need to grind a long time.
    If your combat is fun then you can get away with more grinding before major fights.

    Depends if you want an RPG where fighting every fight before a boss is enough.

  • chaoguy

    So- should it be put on a pedestal as what people want from localization?

    Also, I thought they cut alcohol items, or was that false?

  • CRES

    That was done during development. The files are in the game, but are locked out in all versions. So it is hard to say whether or not this was censorship or just a design revision.

  • Kainevil Rc

    The only thing you have to care about in a Nintendo game is if it has Censorship. Oh, and the overall low difficulty/lack of challenge.

  • Kainevil Rc

    Switch is an overpriced piece of shit toaster for hipsters.

  • Anon

    Fire Emblem Echos

  • Jettythesunfish

    Yeah, seriously. Might as well list “jumping” as a con in a platformer. I don’t get this chronic dislike of grinding in an RPG. People should expect this by now.

  • Jettythesunfish

    Hate to be that guy, but it’s “might have”, not “might of”. Sorry, that’s a serious pet peeve of mine.

  • Personaknight

    Sums up my same feelings on how people react to random encounters. Hell most of the time there are mechanics to negate random encounters or give you warnings, but seems like everyone these days want to swing a sword at an enemy just to initiate turn based battle like it’s some action game.

  • Personaknight

    Some characters are extremely camp, but it balances out as the plot progresses.

  • Personaknight

    I got the Limited edition of this since amazons prime was givi9ng 20% off pre-orders at the time. I’d say art book and soundtrack were nice though not really worth it. What really disappointed me was that on 2ds it cuts my battery life in half to lasting from 3 hours to 8 minutes and I have no idea why since my other games still work fine. Also it’s a shame how much content is behind that dlc season pass.
    I still enjoy this game for being different from the other games since I can enjoy it more as an srpg and less as a Fire Emblem game. I also really like the retro character designs and it still holds true in this remake.

  • DwightParkman

    not sure if anyone is a fan of Phantasy star, but the online entries are based completely around grinding and that managed to be fun, therefore, grind isnt a bad thing, it just has to be implemented with effort. and i feel fire emblem echoes managed to succeed at it.

  • le master trole

    As always, nobody seems to care about the awful sound quality of the voice acting.

    Maybe this criterion is too niche even for nichegamer…

  • le master trole

    People want the “cinematic experience” nowadays and not work for their ingame progress.

    I’m not saying games should be korean mmo grindfests, but a little effort is needed for a game to be engaging and challenging.

  • Kainevil Rc

    We can still enjoy the True Main Story with Skinship Dialogue and all using the fan translation patch. Only the DLC and some support character dialogue are missing. I’m still waiting for it to be completely finished/revised before spoiling my fun. The more i wait the better experience i’ll get. I just started playing Echoes because everything has been undubbed including all the DLC release and i still notice the change in dialogue from localization, it’s very obvious. Although there isn’t really much to censor because it is a very straightforward game.

  • Kainevil Rc

    I don’t know how you would need something like Mila Wheel on a game this easy….It’s not freaking Tactics Ogre Remake. ( That game was boss and had an incredibly better story )

  • Kainevil Rc

    It’s one of the easiest games i’ve ever played on Hard/Classic ( Never played a Fire Emblem game before ). Probably will finish it only because of the art and because i’m playing it undubbed. This is why Nintendo has been dropping the ball hard over the last few years. It’s not only about offering useless gimmicks or appealing presentations to the casual public, you have to consider the challenge/gameplay aspect of the games as well.

  • UnpluggedBeta

    Tactics Ogre remake…. oh God! Can you imagine them butchering that plot? Who owns the rights to it?!

  • PaRaLLaXTHeTiCS

    Love Nintendo, but agree. Can’t get onboard with the 3DS no matter how hard I try. I don’t even think that the DS was all that great. PSP on the other hand was pure fucking gold.

  • epy

    They let me choose japanese voices in the first 3DS title just to betray me again and again…