The Fire Emblem series is known most know for the strategy-based battle system within a medieval setting, mixed with elements of fantasy. Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is a remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden that released in 1992 and only in Japan. Significant changes have been made to make Fire Emblem Echoes a whole new experience for all fans. The most iconic of the update to the series is the full voice-acting for all in-game dialogue.
At the start of Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, players are first given chapters that highlight the backstory and past of the main protagonists. These chapters are new the remake. This additional segment gives an emotional weight to the game. They allow for players to see the bond of the two together before their separated for the majority of the game.
There will be two paths to journey through the story, Alm’s and Celica’s. For the first section of each, it will be locked on that character. Once the story has progressed enough the game will let you control each side freely. There are some roadblocks that will require progressing both sides of the story, making it impossible to blow through one-half of the story without touching the other. I personally enjoyed the aspect of choice. When I had a more difficult battle that I was uncertain of how to tackle, I would switch to the other side. This way I was still making progress and not just ramming my head into a brick wall. Eventually coming back to the one I felt stuck on and able to figure out what I had missed prior to complete it.
The separation of plots allowed for more characters to shine and garner attention. In previous titles of the series, when my cast of soldiers to choose from was over 40 but the battles only allowed for less than half many characters were left behind. As a result, they often went unused and were under-leveled to use in later battles within the game. While Echoes number of playable characters does not get that high, there is a way to utilize every character. This separation made for different strategies on both sides based on the class of the characters on each side. So even going into battles I found myself focusing and planning differently based on the characters and having more difficulty fighting some classes one side, but breezing past them on the other.
Along with new chapters came a few new characters. Three of which stood out and took larger roles within the story. One being a rival-like character to Alm, another in conflict with another main character, and the last with a royal position. Yes, I am being purposely vague, but I do not want to go in-depth and spoil their larger story moments. The inclusion of these characters made for a more streamlined story. Providing more active antagonists and conflicts for the earlier chapters of the game.
The battle systems in Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia feels different, at least for those jumping into this game after playing the likes of Fire Emblem Awakening or Fire Emblem Fates. I personally found the bulk of difference came from the changes to the inventory and weapons systems. Each character as one item slot. In that slot, the character can hold a variety of weapons the main variety being weapons, shields, and healing. That likely already sounds weird to those who have played prior games of the series. The limit to the inventory has made the weapon items more like boosters for attacks rather than consumable items.
Whether or not they hold the weapon they will always be capable of using a sword or lance. That is for the physical weapons, magic and healing items do not exist. Gaining specific spells is a matter of class and leveling the character rather than buying the items. The biggest benefit to this change is the weapon never breaks or runs out of uses during battle. The downside is the choice between spare healing, extra defense, or extra attack. I leaned toward giving extra attack by providing weapons.
There are some other alterations. Magic is unlimited but will cost the user HP each time. The more powerful the spell the more HP it will cost. Meaning you need to be aware as you push forward. Though it can also prove beneficial if when knocking an enemy spellcaster down to low enough health that they can no longer use their magic eliminating their threat till the end of the battle.
These changes made an impact in terms of strategy for the battles. What remained the same however is the grid and turned mechanics of the battle. I do not remember any field standing out and most looked the same with minor changes. With the more irritating battles taking place in large areas that were mostly empty.
There is one new mechanic that was a holy grail for players choosing to play on classic mode, Mila’s Turnwheel. The item gives players the option to rewind to previous turns. In the classic mode where every defeated character can no longer be used it makes for a great time-saver. At least for those like myself who prior had to exit the game, reload, and restart the battle from the beginning sometimes.
The last new mechanic to discuss is the dungeons. Personally, I took very little issue with them. From discussing the game with others I can understand how they can be a hit or miss in terms of enjoyment. The dungeons give an area of free movement to explore. Either with Alm or Celica, players enter the dungeon only able to take 9 other characters with them for battles. The encounters can be seen and hit in advance to give advantage on the battle. The limit to characters and just who is brought along can make for some tough spots. While exploring the dungeons characters will also become fatigued, a status that will also cause an issue in longer battles but will reset at in the end of them outside of the dungeons. Within the dungeons, fatigue continues to build each battle as they fight, take damage and even by healing.
The main complaint I know of is they need to be done for progress or to recruit characters. Had they not been a forced mechanic as much as an optional one it might have made for a more peaceful introduction to the series.
Fire Emblem Echoes is a return to the classics of the series that I adore. It lets the characters and their relationships be developed with in-battle supports and through the story. The story contains a conflict of upper class and lower class that challenges stereotypes of the world. The changes to the battle mechanics making it feel fresh and interesting to adapt to them rather than focus on experiences with prior games of the series.