The Fire Emblem franchise is one of the most interesting franchises for Nintendo. Starting out in 1990 for the Famicom, Fire Emblem recently has gone from a niche series to one of Nintendo’s most popular. From mobile games to spin-off games like Fire Emblem Warriors, Fire Emblem is now a prominent franchise for Nintendo owners. Fire Emblem Echoes is actually a remake of the 2nd game in the franchise, but make no mistake: this isn’t a half-assed effort from Nintendo. If anything, Fire Emblem Echoes may be the best Fire Emblem game to date.
Presentation has never been a focal point in my opinion for the Fire Emblem series, but Echoes changes that in a drastic way. Animated cut scenes are littered throughout the game, and the Japanese-anime style that is used is fantastic and very suiting of the game. Along with this are fully voiced characters, with tons of dialogue for each with well done voice acting. The amount of animated cut scenes and voice acting in this game is very impressive, and Nintendo really put a layer of polish on this game.
Diving into the actual game, it’s mostly a standard Fire Emblem affair with a couple added things to keep the series fresh for veterans. The story of the game focuses around two characters; Alm and Celica. After being separated at a young age, these two are on a path that intertwines with each-other as the game progresses. What’s unique is the fact that eventually you control both Alm and Celica’s armies, each with their own teams and inventory, which adds a whole new level of depth to the Fire Emblem series.
On the battlefield, it’s your standard turn-based strategy-RPG that we have come to expect from the Fire Emblem series. If this is your first entry in the genre, you fight on a grid-like surface with each character being allotted a certain number of spaces that they can move based on their class. This portion of the game takes place in a top-down setting with minimal, but sufficient, graphics. Once you encounter an enemy and choose to attack (or be attacked), the game transitions to 3D character models that act out the battle. These are some of the best animations I’ve seen in a Fire Emblem game to date, with great attention to detail and interesting outcomes. You can pause these interactions, speed them up, or turn them off completely in the settings.
“Permadeath” is a staple of the Fire Emblem franchise, meaning that if your character dies in battle, they are gone for good. If you are a newcomer to the series and are on the fence about this, you can turn this off and it changes to your character being revived after the battle.
It’s not all just turn-based battles this time around though. Echoes introduces a new feature: 3D dungeons. Don’t expect a Legend of Zelda-like experience, but these dungeons are nice little diversions to the main meat of the game.You explore these dungeons and look for items, fake walls, and treasure. Enemies are in these dungeons as well, and you can attack them first with an action move, but the game then goes to the standard turn-based battle system. Personally, I would have loved to have seen the developers just go full on with this section of the game, and make it just an action segment with real time battles.
A few other minor nitpicks include the fact that there is only English voice acting, with no option to have the Japanese voices. Also worth noting is that the fact that characters can only hold 1 weapon at a time. It would have been nice for strategy purposes to have the option to use more than 1 weapon in battle.
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia really surprised me. What I thought would be a simple spin-off game ended up being arguably the best Fire Emblem game I’ve played. There’s more than enough new things to spice things up for series die-hards, and newcomers will enjoy things like being able to turn off “permadeath.” With some of the best presentation on the 3DS, Fire Emblem Echoes is a must own for RPG fans.