For the second time in the franchise’s history, Nintendo has prepared a brand remake to the Fire Emblem classics. These games, that have not set foot outside of Japan, have found new life in these cartridges for all to enjoy. Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is the remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden which released exclusively to the Famicom back in 1992. With it, Nintendo brings the old adventure back and adds in some great new gameplay ideas. How well does Echoes stand in the face of modern Fire Emblem? Let’s find out.
Right from the start, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia takes a very story-driven approach. The franchise was always known to have memorable characters and stories. In Echoes, players are acquainted with Alm and Celica, the two main protagonists who will play pivotal roles in the plot. The attention to detail and the focus on character development makes this pair quite interesting. Through this redefined experience, the world of Valentia and the its story are presented in a more cinematic manner.
Of course, being on the 3DS, the game has now been given new 3D graphics as well as redesigned characters to make them more modern and appealing to today’s standards. Furthermore, every character is voiced, even the figurative villagers. The narration is always present and it further develops every character. The voiceovers are well produced to create a more familiar interaction with every face. This is a strong point that affects the overall experience a lot more than anticipated.
Not the game world and the characters look different, but even the menu and the user interface is unique. With Fire Emblem Echoes, it seems that the people at Intelligent Systems wanted to experiment with this game and try new things to expand the player experience. This is quickly noticeable by any Fire Emblem veteran. Unlike Fire Emblem Awakening and Fates, this game allows players to control their characters in more places than simply the battlefield.
When in a village or other significant location, players take a more direct control of the main character and can do a multitude of different things to interact with their environment such examining the various objects of interests or talking with inhabitants. This is akin to the investigation portion of the Ace Attorney games for those who are familiar with it. These segments give a more realistic experience when taking the role of Alm as it gives a break between long periods of going through battle after battle.
In other times, players must explore dungeons. This is a brand element in Fire Emblem as players will take control of Alm through a third-person perspective to explore the dungeon. During these dungeons, players will find enemies lurking. Once there is contact, a battle will ensue. The versatile experience behind Echoes is impressive and it gives a bit of old and new in a nice cocktail without overusing one type of segment more than another.
Battles with enemy armies are still be approached the same as all Fire Emblem have before. Of course, even those have given some extra upgrades to make better strategic choices. Instead of having to command every unit manually, Alm can shout orders to his team and they will automatically. The battle scenes that show when units are battling are more dynamic this time around. Fighters will sometimes strike in various manners, giving a more realistic representation of the fight.
During your adventure, you will travel through a world map and even enemies will be seen travelling as well. Of course, there will be times when bandits and the like will cross your paths and you must defeat them to advance further. The adventure of Alm through the country of Zofia will be a perilous one with much to explore and freely to do so by the player. This freedom is very welcomed and gives a deeper meaning to the player’s decisions and actions. Not only will every unit that fight grow, but so will the adventure.
After every fight, every unit’s participation is calculated to see how many enemies have each member slain and they will be awarded in the same way with extra experience points. Also, there is a happiness gauge to see how involved a member is. Should a member die during the fight, it will affect them negatively. Of course, it will affect them only if they are not permanently killed off should you play in Casual mode. In Classic Mode, the perma-death rule is applied and if a unit dies, they are gone forever, such is the way true Fire Emblem play.
Fire Emblem is no doubt one of the fastest growing franchises Nintendo currently has. Not only is there a new remake in the form of Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, but there is also the wildly popular mobile game: Fire Emblem Heroes. There are also two new games in development for the Nintendo Switch as well. There is even a popular trading card game in Japan. With this new remake, I have no doubt that all these great elements Intelligent Systems have brought will have an impact on future titles as well.
Fire Emblem Echoes has proved that even should the formula be drastically changed; the overall experience of the game can still be top notch. Truthfully, I had my doubts, but this more direct interaction with Alm and Celica has proved to be quite immersive in taking the role of the characters. It has made them very memorable to me. This is a must-have for all fans to experience and giving them an idea as to which direction the franchise may be going. One thing is for sure, this experiment is indeed a success.