For May, I will be featuring a 3DS title as my Game of the Month. If you’ve seen other posts I have put up recently, then it probably won’t come as a surprise which game I have chosen to feature here.
It is a remake of a NES title, and part of one of my all-time favourite video game franchises.Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is a remake of the second game ever released in the Fire Emblem franchise, Fire Emblem Gaiden. Gaiden was a NES title that never saw the light of day outside of Japan, but with this 3DS title, international players now get the chance to experience the stories of Alm and Celica.
As shown in the image above, I got my hands on the Limited Edition version of the game, mainly because I’m a sucker for stuff like that – my wallet certainly is not thanking me for that, though…
In Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, the continent of Valentia is divided into two kingdoms: Zofia and Rigel. A divine accord meant that the two kingdoms should have been at peace with each other, but war has broken out. Peace can only be brought back to Valentia by the power of two armies.
As is the case with any Fire Emblem game, there are a whole host of allies to recruit. Serving the role as the main characters are Alm and Celica.Alm lives in Ram Village with his grandfather Sir Mycen – a renowned knight. However, Mycen does not let Alm leave the village, so though he was taught about war, he’s never truly experienced it. When a soldier called Lukas comes looking for Mycen’s aid, the knight refuses. Alm takes it upon himself to accompany Lukas in his grandfather’s stead, and thus he joins the Deliverance; a rebel army fighting to stop a Zofian coup.
Celica was a childhood friend of Alm’s, but she had to leave the Ram Village when she was younger after an attack by a knight of Zofia. Her quest has her searching for the goddess Mila, even travelling across pirate-infested waters.
Of course, neither Alm or Celica have to travel alone – they can find plenty of allies to recruit to back them up.
Characters can be equipped with weapons and items before battles – though they can only carry one thing at a time. Certain weapons bestow the ability to learn special abilities called Combat Arts, though the characters can only use a Combat Art if they have the weapon that teaches it equipped.
Turn-based battles on a grid are the order of the day in any Fire Emblem title, and Echoes is no exception. It’s important to take into account terrain – a forest provides more cover than the plains, for example.Participating in battles allows characters to earn experience, and grow stronger through levelling up. After each successful battle, bonus experience is also handed out to surviving characters – though it caps out at 99, so a character won’t level up from bonus experience.
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia isn’t exactly what a newer Fire Emblem player might expect from the series. For a start, the Weapon Triangle is completely absent – as such, it is vital to rely on terrain during combat.
Archers also have the ability to attack foes right next to them without relying on any skills, and a Mage’s spells are cast from their health. There’s no weapon durability to worry about, though that was the same in Fates.
For the first time in the series, you can control Alm or Celica in an action-adventure style as they explore dungeons. As anyone who’s well-versed in video game terms probably knows, dungeons provide loot, items and enemies. Touching an enemy will start a grid-based battle, though it is possible to attack them so they start the fight with reduced health.
As you fight and explore in a dungeon, your characters will start to become fatigued. Characters with higher fatigue will suffer a drop in their stats, but fatigue can be staved off by having them eat something or making an offering to a Mila Statue.
Mila Statues can also be used to class change a character of a high enough level. Promoting a character works differently from other Fire Emblem games – when a character promotes, their stats are increased to the base level of whatever class they are promoted into. As such, you don’t lose out on too much by promoting your characters as soon as they are able.
In other Fire Emblem titles, it would generally be best to max out a character’s level before promoting them (generally level 20) – you can still do that in Echoes, but the experience gain drops off at higher levels.
Aside from enemies to fight and dungeons to explore, there are also towns to visit. You can talk to the locals, find items and get quests. It is also possible you’ll meet new recruits from towns.
As characters fight alongside each other, bonds will form. Once a strong enough bond has been formed, two characters can have a Support Conversation. This provides benefits for the characters, but also gives the player an insight into their personalities. It makes it all the more heart-wrenching to see a character you like mercilessly cut down by an enemy.
However, if you have made a tactical error, you can use Mila’s Turnwheel. It turns time back one turn, allowing you to revise your strategy. And of course, you can also choose between classic and casual modes – the latter keeps Fire Emblem‘s signature perma-death, whilst the latter doesn’t.
Alm and Celica amiibo were released alongside the game – or included as part of the Limited Edition in certain parts of the world – using them can unlock special dungeons where players can battle bosses and collect items.
It is also possible to save the current strength of Alm or Celica to their respective amiibo. During combat, using an amiibo and sacrificing a portion of Alm or Celica’s health summons a computer-controlled illusory hero who will serve as an ally for a turn.
Of course, the Fire Emblem amiibo from the Super Smash Bros. series (Marth, Ike, Robin, Lucina, Roy, and soon Corrin) are also compatible. Using the respective amiibo, it becomes possible to summon that character during battle.
Other amiibo can be used in order to summon a monster ally during battle. Again, it is only temporary and requires either Alm or Celica to sacrifice some health.
Downloadable content is also available for the game. The DLC provides more items, experience, in-game currency, story content and characters. A season pass is available, though it costs about as much as another 3DS game – I’m interested in it, but the upcoming Comic Con gets to have its way with my wallet first.
Exclusive classes and characters from the Japanese TCG Fire Emblem Cipher will be made available through the DLC.
However, not all DLC has to be paid for. The goddess Mila will offer several special gifts on a weekly basis for a limited time, and they are free.
I feel that Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is going to be quite a surprise for newer fans who got into the series through Awakening and Fates. Considering it is a remake of the second game in the series, it is something of a history lesson for newer fans – and I guess anyone outside of Japan who didn’t resort to importing or emulation.
The game seems pretty faithful to Fire Emblem Gaiden, though with modern touches.
When it comes to the strategy genre, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia proves that the Fire Emblem franchise is up there as one of the best.