Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia - Nintendo 3DS Review
Quick Glance: Fire Emblem: Shadows of Valentia
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Retail Price: $39.99 - Standard Edition, $59.99 - Limited Edition
High Level Premise: Turn-based tactical strategy in a role-playing fantasy setting.
Graphics/Style: The battlefield play area is retro 16-bit sprites, dungeon crawling mode is third-person.
Music/Soundtrack: Lots of Fanfare, typical RPG sounds.
Story: Best friends Alm and Celica are separated and must choose their own paths in fighting evil forces that are invading their homeland.
Replay-ability: Moderate, I think with additional DLC available this will provide hours of additional gameplay.
Time Commitment: One level takes about 15 minutes, can save between levels. Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia takes many hours to complete.
Value: High on both editions, the Limited Edition comes with lots of extra goodies.
Favorite Element: The time wheel is a nice addition, in case you make some stupid decisions. Find cog items to reverse time within a match.
I have played through many iterations of Fire Emblem, and with each game, I become addicted all over again. Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is no exception, although this time the game is a high-definition remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden for the original Nintendo Famicom system. But don't let the words remake steer you away. This is the first time we are able to play this story officially, and in a brand new way. The programmers have basically remade the entire game from the ground up, incorporating way more dialogue (we will get to this in a second), Amiibo functionality, and more.
Speaking of dialogue, I hope you like to read because Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia has a lot. I almost feel like in the beginning there is way too much, and I felt confused at first between several of the main characters. Although there continues to be dialogue throughout the game, it is nowhere near as bad as the first 15 minutes of the game. There are also some really awesome cutscenes done up in the Japanese anime style, which add a lot of flair to the game.
There also is a 3-D, third-person mode where you can explore the dungeons to find additional status upgrades, items, and money to aid you on your quest. Some of these dungeons are totally optional, and you could easily bypass them if you felt like it. However, you will miss out on a lot of important upgrades if you do. It's also a nice way to buff up your stats by gaining experience when you take out these foes.
The story is basic, Alm and Celica are childhood friends, and Celica has to leave unexpectedly one day. Later, their homeland of Zofia is being invaded by another country and Alm takes it upon himself to lead a resistance to restore peace to the land. However, due to an unforeseen force, this may end up costing him everything he has ever known. The side character development is what I find fascinating about this series. Although there are some characters that are obvious throwaway generic characters, some talk about their personal involvement with the resistance, and why they are fighting. Some even question why they are even bothering fighting, which adds another layer of depth to the game. There is a really neat feature where two characters will get the ability to talk to each other on the battlefield. Most of the time this leads to more character development of these tertiary characters, so I usually do not pass on the chance to listen to their conversations.
If you have played any of the Fire Emblem games in the past, the gameplay should be quite familiar to you. A turn-based strategy RPG, you must guide your heroes to fight and overcome all enemies on the battlefield. There is a cool new feature with this game, eventually, you unlock the ability to reverse time during a battle using the Nintendo 3DS touchscreen. You are limited to how many times you can use this in the game, and can only earn more chances at reversing time by finding cog items. Some would say this is "cheating" or "not hardcore" and you are right, to a point. Just because I forgot about that one archer off of my screen, doesn't mean I need to be punished by losing a character I really want to keep. I can use one of my cogs to reverse time a few rounds and correct my mistakes.
There is also a limited edition of the game available which for $20 more includes some really nice enamel pins, soundtrack CD, and art book. This isn't super uncommon to find right now, and I think is totally worth the price. Usually, these things are a pain to find, but I have to give the Big N credit, these were widely available this time around. Amiibo support is also present, provided you have an 3DS Amiibo adapter or a New Nintendo 3DS system. By placing an Amiibo on the reader, you can unlock even more dungeons to gain additional items or summon a hero to aid in battle. This goes for the new Alm and Celica Amiibo figures, and previously released figures as well. Finally, there are some DLC packs available for purchase, which have additional missions, characters, and abilities to unlock. A season pass is also available for $45 to save over 30% if you were to buy all 22 pieces of content separately.
Overall, if you are into strategy games or already are familiar with the Fire Emblem series, you should have bought this game already. There is hours upon hours of value, and will give you your Fire Emblem fix until the new game for Nintendo Switch comes out in 2018. Alm and Celica need your help! Lead them to victory and make some new friends along the way.
Dean's take - I love Fire Emblem as a series, if you do too you should already have bought the game. This release adds some new features and strategy but is not reinventing the franchise so previous fans should find plenty to love. As Chris said it is a bit heavy on dialogue at times, which will be a boon for those who love the characters and the saga but the bane for those who quickly want to move to the next battle. In those battles, they have some battle animation which makes the combat more fun to watch but also draws out the battles if again you want to hustle through the game. If you have never played a Fire Emblem game, this seems as good a place as any to start as it is a return to the origins of the franchise. You may become a new fan with a catalog of games you can play once you beat it.