NS Preview – Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia (3DS)

It’s rare that I write a preview for any game. This isn’t because I don’t want to, but because I worry that I will use all of my views up on any given game and not have enough to say for the actual review. However, on this occasion a game has fallen into my lap that I have a tremendous amount to talk about, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. My love for the Fire Emblem franchise in general is well documented, but how does the remaster of the previously Japan-only Fire Emblem Gaiden fare? Well …

In the story of Echoes, the two protagonists Alm and Celica are separated at a young age for reasons behind anyone’s control, but ones that are left open to speculation. Seven years on from this, both characters embark on quests to save Valentia from the blight that has spread over it, albeit from markedly different perspectives and directions. The story itself is simple, but this is no bad thing. The narrative threads in Fire Emblem in recent years have become increasingly convoluted and this return to a more straightforward narrative could be a great boon for the series in my opinion.

Gameplay is where Echoes strikes out as being the most different from its predecessors/successors (context dependent). I’d like to point out though, before I continue, that I have not played Gaiden. Therefore, I do not know which mechanics are repurposed from Garden or are entirely new to this version, so I will be treating all of the fresher mechanics as new. So, in terms of the same, the battles are still fought in turn-based strategy with the units of both armies being placed on – and moving around – grid based maps. The familiar unit types return, so expect mages, archers, myrmidons, soldiers, knights, essentially all of the usual crew are here. Also when battles are engaged, there is still a beautiful animated sequence of the fight.

With the new, weapon durability is still not here following from the example made by Fates, however the selection of weapons for characters are now equipped as held items, so every character begins with a weapon and can have that replaced by sacrificing carrying a healing item. Magic is now cast using the HP of the mage themselves, which personally I find to be a great way of balancing the fact that the tomes too never run out. Various wonderful sections in the game allow for 3D dungeon crawling, with the player able to find special items and fountains that will permanently boost set stats for characters of your choosing (which, in itself, gives the player far more agency over character progression).

In terms of presentation, this title is phenomenal. The art style is a midpoint between the more crisp, anime-style of Fates and Awakening and the watercolour style of Sacred Stones and the earlier games in the series. Speaking of which, the anime-style cut scenes throughout are beautifully animated and really bring a powerful poignancy to certain plot points. The game has full voice-acting throughout, which is spectacularly well done for almost every character, with only a few feeling wooden or inconsistent. Furthermore the music, albeit slightly forgettable (as is often the case with Fire Emblem games) is generally fitting and beautifully well-placed.

So far, I have had tremendous fun playing Fire Emblem Echoes, and look forward to writing my review of it once I have logged more time with it. It’s already shaping up to be a fantastic game, and I can’t wait to discuss it more with you all.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia releases May 19th on Nintendo 3DS both in stores and on the Nintendo eShop.

Thank you to Nintendo for supplying Nintendo Scene with a review copy of this game.

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