Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia puts players in the midst of a war struck continent torn apart by warring Gods. The continent is now home to two separate Kingdoms, namely Zofia ruled by the God Mila in the South and Rigel ruled by the God Duma in the North. Although the two Kingdoms lived in peace for millennia, alas everything good must come to an end and it is now up to Alm and Celica, lifelong friends, to lead two armies parallel from each other to try and stop the war.
Just as with previous Fire Emblem titles there is no shortage whatsoever in the game’s character roster. Echoes introduces players to a large variety of characters each with their own stories, dreams and aspirations. Alm and Celica are joined by childhood friends, mercenaries, nobles, and knights to name a few. Each character fills the game with laughs, love and sorrow. And of course no legendary story can be complete without the villains. Unlike Fates I found the villains in Echoes were to the point with no hidden agendas. The strong and ambitious anti-protagonists fill the story with the much needed despair and darkness that our protagonists require to fuel their quests for Valentia’s salvation.
World Map / Dungeons / Towns
Maps and towns within Echoes are similar to previous installments where meeting an enemy on the world map will trigger a battle and exploring towns will allow players to recruit members to your army as well as shop and upgrade weapons. Dungeons however work a little differently. Unlike Awakening and Fates, Echoes possesses dungeons that players will be able to free roam through. Free roaming in dungeons works the same way as many other role playing titles where players take control of the main protagonist in a third-person perspective and are able to explore the dungeon for hidden items and even avoid enemies by running around or past them. In this mode players will also be able to strike objects within the dungeons breaking crates and opening chests revealing even more treasures. Battles within dungeons remain the same as battles on the world map. Striking enemies within the dungeon will trigger the battle screen where players will be taken to the classic top-down view of a map to begin the turn-based battle on a grid based battlefield. Admittedly I found the dungeon crawling a breath of fresh air to the series. For the die hard fans worried about this becoming a norm in the series, I wouldn’t worry too much as the dungeons were far and wide between the world map locations keeping Echoes true to itself and the Fire Emblem series.
On the battlefield
Battles as I mentioned before occur on a grid based battlefield where the player’s army or units move about like chess pieces each with their own attributes, powers and class. Mages, archers and cavaliers are just but a few classes that can be selected for your units within your armies and equipped with items and weapons. Unlike the previous installments however the weapons triangle has been removed from the game where swords had an advantage over axes, axes had an advantage over lances and lances had an advantage over swords.
All in all Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is truly a must for new fans to the series as well as returning fans of the series.
The game also grants players a choice from two modes, Classic Mode and Casual Mode. Now if you’re a first time player to the series and would rather focus on the story and progressing at a leisurely pace I would highly recommend the casual mode where if your units are defeated in battle they will return at the end of the battle ready to go for the next one. Classic mode however is a whole different ball game, although “old” to veterans of the series. Once units fall in classic mode they do not return and are killed off permanently. This mechanic makes you second guess yourself before every action and creates a connection between the player and character. Truly a well placed gem in this tactical RPG title.
All in all Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is truly a must for new fans to the series as well as returning fans of the series. The music is simply superb as it always is in the Fire Emblem games. The dialogue and story is captivating and keeps the player wanting more right until the credits roll. I found the difficulty level even on Normal to be challenging and cannot wait to tackle this game again on Hard. The extra mechanic added to the game called Mila’s turn-wheel turned me off a bit as it allows the player to turn back time a few rounds if you felt like a mistake was made in battle or if one of your units has fallen. Obviously for players wanting to progress this is a useful crutch, however it robs players of that magic and powerful moment that can only be experienced through the loss of sacrifice. Sacrifice experienced when the smoke has cleared from the battlefield, the taste of victory is fresh within our mouths but the stench of sorrow lingers in the air over our fallen comrades.
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia might be a complete remake of the Famicom’s Fire Emblem Gaiden released in 1992 but to western fans this is a completely new chapter in the Fire Emblem series that cannot be missed.