The way of the heart or the way of the sword?
Whether you are a fan of the original Fire Emblem games, or you are just getting into them, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is a great game to play. With the same style as other modern Fire Emblem games, this strategy RPG packs a lot of gameplay into a tiny cartridge.
A remake of the Fire Emblem: Gaiden game from 1992, Shadows of Valentia is a Nintendo 3DS game based in the same world as other Fire Emblem games. In my opinion, this makes the game a great middle ground, as it combines the modern-age gameplay and graphics with the original characters and story from nearly thirty years ago.
The controls and gameplay are simple to learn, yet the battles are still challenging. With the familiar turn based, grid battle-system used in previous games, your army fights a various number and variety of enemies on your journey to end a raging war.
Collecting and forging various weapons, shields, rings, and other items along the way, your units will slowly level up as you fight battle after battle. Although it can be a bit repetitive, each fight will almost always present a new challenge, and if you aren’t careful, you’ll lose some people along the way.
Before playing, you can choose between Regular and Hard mode, as well as Classic mode and Casual mode. Classic mode means that if anyone in your party dies along your journey, they are out of the game forever — they are dead. Casual mode means that at the end of a battle, any fallen units will be restored to your party, just as they were before.
Although you can only move between set locations on the map, you are free to move to any location you want, anytime you want. You may have an army blocking your way, but each of these usually help you progress in the story.
You also have the freedom to explore (in a first person view) each city, castle, fortress, and shrine you come across. Here you will find various people, some of whom may join your fight. You will also find various items, some of which are easy to miss, but all of them will be helpful in your journey.
There are a good number of dungeons in Shadows of Valentia as well. These allow you to search (in third person) for items, treasure, and battles, with the freedom to actually move however you want, interacting with the world around you. You can smash pots and crates, and collect gold and swords while running away from pirates or chasing down zombies. The world is vast, and there are many things to explore.
Alm and Celica, the main characters of the game, are two friends who end up fighting in the same war. Alm fights for the Resistance, an army of rebels trying to stop the Rigelian Emperor from further bringing them grief after he kills their king.
Meanwhile, Celcia realizes that she must save the goddess Mila from the Rigelians and the mad god Duma. Although she views war as ugly and unnecessary, she recruits several companions to help her fight their way to the temple, to protect the goddess.
Although they fight the same fight, she and Alm have opposing opinions over the war: Alm believes that violence is the only answer. If he kills Emperor Rudolf, the war will end, and in his eyes, this is the only way. Celica disagrees, believing that love is the answer, and that if they set aside their differences and try a diplomatic approach with the Rigelian Empire, they can settle matters without bloodshed.
Personally, I thought that the story was amazing and intricate. Although I saw a few things coming a long way out, I was also surprised by other revelations. I won’t spoil anything here, so you can rest assured that no matter how clever you are, you are likely to be surprised by some things.
The main story was a lot of fun, and the thirty-three side quests offered are quite fun as well. Although some of them can be a bit confusing to figure out (you may need a walkthrough for some things. You can find one here at GameFAQs: Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia FAQ. This guide should provide you with everything you will need to collect every item and win the game. I would know, because I wrote it myself).
The sound and music in the game are a lot of fun, but for the long battles the music can get annoying after a bit. I would recommend keeping the sound on, however, as there are a great number of voice-acted scenes and dialogue in the game. These are spiced up with quite a bit of comedy, and you may just laugh out loud now and then.
Personally, I thought the graphics were great. They were better than I expected, but this was my first Fire Emblem game and I had no idea what I was getting into. Although the battle scenes are a bit pixelated, they are meant to be, as a homage to the setup at the start of the series. The dungeons are detailed and vast (and look fantastic in 3D), and the fight scenes are a treat to watch.
For fans of the genre, I would say that Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia has a lot of replay value. For one thing, you can try Hard mode, and for another, you can choose between Classic and Casual mode. You also have the completionist routes, of collecting every item, completing every side quest, and obtaining every award (one of which will only be awarded for completing the game on Hard and Classic mode).
Personally, I loved this game. As my introduction to the series, I can easily say that I will be playing the other Fire Emblem games now, and soon. It was an impressive game, and I had a lot of fun with it. Although it can be challenging to a fault, it is still a great game and I recommend it to anyone who loves RPGs and/or strategy games.
What about you guys? Have you played Shadows of Valentia? What about Fire Emblem: Gaiden? Tell us what you thought of the game, and what you liked/disliked about it in the comments below. Avoid spoilers, please!
Copyright 2018 Ammon Hansen
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