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