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Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia Review


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On 07/07/2017 at 12:00 PM by Julian Titus

More Fire Emblem isn't a bad thing.
RECOMMENDATION:

Some of the changes to the formula don't quite land, but this is still strategic role playing at its best.

As much as I loved Fire Emblem: Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright, I was skeptical when another game, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadow of Valentia, was announced to be released this year. While I’m happy to see this franchise finally gain some much-needed popularity outside of Japan, I’m not sure if I want to see the series become annualized. I have yet to play through the other two campaigns for last year’s game, and after spending over 40 hours with Echoes I might be good for a while. Or then again, I might be just as addicted as I was last year.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadow of Valentia is actually a robust remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden, the second game in the series that was originally released for the Famicom. As many 8-bit era sequels, Fire Emblem Gaiden was a major departure in the series in terms of mechanics, which translates to Echoes. Weapons are no longer finite use items, but are instead equipped in a character’s single item slot, which forces players to choose higher damage over healing items. In addition to the standard battle map, Echoes features dungeons and interior areas that are explored like traditional role playing games, complete with hidden treasure and multiple enemy encounters. It’s quite the departure for the series, and while I can appreciate the change to the formula, some elements land a bit flat for me.

Battles are just as thrilling as ever, even if there are a few things missing from this earlier Fire Emblem game. After my first couple fights I could feel that Fire Emblem addiction taking hold of me, as I would play my 3DS late into the night as I told myself “just one more battle, then sleep”. The tried and true “rock, paper, scissors” type of unit strengths and weaknesses are not present here, which allows for a little more experimentation. It’s no longer possible to position units next to each other for assists, which adds an extra layer of challenge when moving troops on the map.

Truly, there is an extra layer of challenge present in Echoes from top to bottom. It’s definitely one of the toughest strategy RPGs I’ve ever played, with AI mercilessly targeting specific units until they’re dead, certain party members being nearly useless at early levels, and enemies dodging multiple attacks even when there is an 86% chance of a hit landing. Later on, battles get particularly brutal, as certain boss enemies are able to shrug off most attacks while unleashing devastating moves that target every member of your party, no matter where they are on the map. If you choose to play with permadeath on you are in for some 3DS chucking moments, for sure.

Adding to the difficulty curve are the random units that pop up on the overworld map constantly and move around as you move from point to point. Since you control two armies I ran into multiple situations where my other army would get attacked by a wandering enemy squad, which then led to a squad member dying in the first turn before I could do anything. On top of that, the dungeon exploration left much to be desired for me; thanks to multiple battle encounters these indoor areas added a ton of time to the game, keeping me playing long after I wanted to stop because of the rarity of save points.

There’s a saving grace in the form of Mila’s Turnwheel, which is a consumable rewind feature that allows you to roll back time to fix a mistake or, in my case, save certain key party members from eternal death. Fire Emblem purists may balk at the idea of being able to course correct mid-battle, but I found that it allowed me to try some more daring tactics. Sometimes I was rewarded with a cunning victory, and other times I had to backpedal to rectify a terrible mistake. The Turnwheel added an extra layer to an already robust set of strategy, and I’ll be sad to see it go if it doesn’t turn up in the next game.

I complained about the localization for the Fates games last year, but thankfully that is not the case here, as the translation is once again handled by 8-4, who worked on Fire Emblem: Awakening. Not only did I find the incidental dialogue to be a joy, but I was amazed at how engrossed I became with the overall narrative. On top of that, Echoes has some of the best voiceover work I’ve heard from a game in ages. I couldn’t bring myself to button through any of the dialogue because the performances were just that good. Combined with one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in a couple years and you have a strong presentation of an already great game.

I enjoyed exploring one of the more experimental entries in what is rapidly becoming one of my favorite series. I was a little overwhelmed by the higher difficulty of the game at times, and I think the dungeon exploration is something best left in the past. But this is a Fire Emblem through and through, and even if I had a few complaints, that didn’t stop me from voraciously devouring this game like a man possessed.

 

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Homelessrook

07/07/2017 at 06:30 PM

I really want to pick this one up but, my money is tied up in other games. Good write up too, makes me want it a little more now.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

07/10/2017 at 11:21 AM

Thanks! I'd say it's one to remember to get later if you can, even if another one comes out next year.

mothman

07/08/2017 at 04:19 PM

Found a used copy today so I bought it after reading this the other day. :)

Julian Titus Senior Editor

07/10/2017 at 11:21 AM

Awesome! I think you'll enjoy it.

mothman

07/10/2017 at 04:52 PM

Already am Julian. I put it in just to check it out and before I knew it 4 hours had gone by. 

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