Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia brings a classic entry in the series to a modern audience while staying true to what made it unique. The main story is largely unchanged from the original Fire Emblem Gaiden on which the game is based, but an additional prologue, new characters, and expanded endgame join with updated mechanics to create an entirely new experience.

Title: Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Intelligent Systems

Available On: 3DS Family of Systems

Reviewed On: New 3DS XL

Release Date: May 19, 2017

Review Copy Supplied by Publisher

The plot is fairly straightforward, and doesn’t suffer from the overwhelmingly large roster that more recent entries in the series seem to favor. Your connection with the cast is also driven to new heights by fully voiced dialogue, and the addition of an ‘auto-advance’ feature that allows you to sit back and watch the story unfold rather than pressing ‘a’ through plain text. Support conversations that expand relationships between characters now take place on the battlefield rather than tucked away in a menu, and even unnamed NPCs that you encounter have interesting personalities. The overworld map of Valentia, while reminiscent of the other entries on the 3DS in style and functionality, also has a life of its own — enemy detachments patrol, undead creatures respawn, and the journeys of the main characters, Alm and Celica, unfold on paper.

We also get a new perspective on our main characters in the form of 3D exploration through the game’s dungeons. Each one had a unique atmosphere, and although I was not able to play the DLC for this review it appears that unique dungeons will make up a vast majority of the content as it rolls out. This is also where the games Amiibo come into play; the Alm and Celica Amiibo unlock new dungeons to explore while other Fire Emblem figures are relegated to a spell which summons them to aid in combat. This feature captures the excitement of bringing your favorite character to a tough situation without making you overpowered — there is a tradeoff of health to summon them, and they’ll be pulling valuable experience points that permanent members of your team need. The dungeon segments make good use of the right analog stick on the new 3DS, and while moving in this manner enemies you make contact with will trigger the traditional turn based strategy combat for which the series is known.

The combat in Shadows of Valentia is a huge leap away from other entries in the series, but not necessarily in the wrong direction. The weapon triangle which gives certain weapons advantages against each other is completely absent. There is also no minimum range on bows, casting magic damages the user, and many of the stats are simplified. The combat in this game makes each unit feel more important and less situational while preventing situations where a unit is useless and forced to sit out of an entire engagement. There is also more of an emphasis on using your environment and teamwork for strategy instead of just matching off units based on which weapon they’re holding. The only big disappointment was the skill system — there aren’t really any interesting passive abilities, and with a few exceptions using a regular attack is typically better than using an ability at all.

Hit percents and critical hits are as random as ever, but ‘Mila’s Turnwheel’ removes a lot of the frustration that was present in other entries. Gone are the days of hard resetting only to repeat the same strategy for a 30 minute engagement up until an unexpected 1% chance event kills your favorite unit — now you can turn back the clock one turn at a time, and try again. There is a limit to how much you can use this ability in any given battle, and as a result the challenge stays alive while making the player more willing to attempt big plays.

Fans of the series will find a lot to love in Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, and if the over complicated nature of the series acted as a deterrent to you before then there has never been a better entry to jump in on. Intelligent Systems takes a good game and adds an insane amount of polish.

Positives

  • Small, but powerful, cast of characters
  • Fully voice acted dialogue
  • New gameplay elements perfectly integrated

Negatives

  • Paid Day One DLC
  • Lackluster skill system

Our review was played on Hard difficulty in Classic mode, but casual mode is back in Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia.