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

By Rudy Lavaux 26.04.2017 7

Review for Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia on Nintendo 3DS

The popularity of Fire Emblem has been in full boom in the West ever since the release of Fire Emblem: Awakening to both critical and commercial success all the way back in 2013. Fire Emblem: Fates released last year and was met with just as much success worldwide, if perhaps a little bit more lukewarm in Europe, though. Still, with the recent release of Fire Emblem Heroes on mobile platforms and the sudden slew of announcements in February, there is no denying that the series is at the peak of its popularity and that Nintendo intends to make sure Fire Emblem fans are kept satiated. On the way are Fire Emblem Warriors for both Nintendo Switch and 3DS this year, a completely new mainline entry exclusively for Switch, and a quick-to-release remake of the second Famicom episode... Never before have so many Fire Emblem related releases been seen so close to each other. Some fans may not have had yet time to fully digest the three-game package released barely 12 months ago and yet Nintendo puts forward a game that is somewhat of a missing link in the franchise, at least for Western gamers. Cubed3 goes hands-on with Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia

For comparison's sake, say Zelda II: Adventure of Link and Final Fantasy II are the Neanderthal of their respective evolutionary lines, while every other episode that came after in both franchises are the Homo Sapiens and their descendants. The Neanderthal, despite being evolved from the same root DNA, went extinct after a short while and did not influence much, if at all, the DNA of what came and remained after them. That does describe Zelda II and Final Fantasy II and their weird systems quite well indeed. Well, Fire Emblem Gaiden, the second episode in the series, is very much in the same category as it represents a side-step in the evolution of the series. An evolution of the formula of the initial episode that came before it, but one that didn't lead the series anywhere for its future, as the formula went back to its roots soon after to never return to the odd recipe introduced in their second instalment.

Zelda II and Final Fantasy II are both kind of black sheep nowadays to most fans of their respective universes, due to them feeling so different and unlike what decades of their franchises have made them accustomed to in terms of expectations. There is not, however, any truly comparable consensus where Fire Emblem is concerned, simply because the series remained bound to the Japanese market for such a long time and, as such, few, if any, modern Fire Emblem fans have even heard of Fire Emblem Gaiden, which released on the Famicom all the way back in 1992, when the Super Nintendo was already out pretty much everywhere in the world and most players had already moved on from the 8-bit generation.

Screenshot for Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia on Nintendo 3DS

The reason the subject of Fire Emblem Gaiden and its being a very odd episode in the franchise is brought up is, of course, because Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is a full on remake of this game. In the West, gamers have indeed been missing out on several of those older releases in the series. It is, therefore, with a lot of curiosity that this game is approached today since it is effectively the Zelda II of the Fire Emblem series, a comparison already commonly drawn for good reason among the few fans that did experience it. For one thing, it introduced free world map travel, allowing players to return to previously visited places. This should sound familiar to those who played Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones and Fire Emblem: Awakening, but they should take note that this would go unused for the five mainline entries that came after it.

It did away with weapon durability, which only Fire Emblem: Fates and, ultimately for simplicity's sake, Fire Emblem Echoes would not reuse, either. Instead, each character has a default weapon based on its character class always equipped, and only one item slot to carry something else, either a consumable or a different weapon or accessory, like a shield or a better sword than the default one that will, therefore, give either a defence or stat boost. Even more unique is that characters gain in proficiency with that secondary item, unlocking special skills for that character over time, something that wasn't present in the original. Another aspect that was unique to the original, and which, therefore, makes a comeback in this remake, is that magic spells drain the user's HP. Not much, at least not early on in the game, yet it does change the way that mages are approached.

Screenshot for Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia on Nintendo 3DS

Although, with that being said, they do tend to be overpowered compared to the hordes of bandits with low resistance to magical damage that the player will have to take down. It's worth noting as well that, like the original, there is no magical power stat, magical damage being calculated instead from the sole "attack" stat that encompasses both physical and magical damage, just like in the older titles. While this may sound like a drawback, it actually plays in favour of the open-ended re-class system that the original was the first to introduce to the series.

It is indeed possible to re-class a character while praying at statues of the goddess Mila. New to this remake, though, is the notion of fatigue. Although it was once used in Fire Emblem: Thracia 776, where it had the potential of preventing a unit from taking part in a next chapter, here it does seem to only affect the user's ability to "fight well" according to the game itself, which does sound like it will not affect damage dealing per se but would affect accuracy and the capacity of the character to dodge incoming attacks, although this is not made entirely clear. Fatigue can be relieved by eating or drinking, or by making an offering at, again, a statue of the goddess, found inside dungeons. Speaking of which, the defining element that sets it apart from the rest of the franchise, much touted in the reveal trailer, is dungeon exploration. Originally displayed in a top-down view, reminiscent of Zelda/any JRPG of the 1980s on the Famicom, those are now fully remade in 3D.

Screenshot for Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia on Nintendo 3DS

Players can move around those by directly controlling Alm or Celica using the Circle Pad, while the D-pad on OG 3DS systems or the C-Stick on New 3DS controls the camera. Either hero can use their weapon to smash crates, barrels, as well as flowers and strands of grass, to reveal items and coins that can be picked up, Zelda-style, for later use. Such dungeons are populated by enemies that engage combat by making contact with the hero being controlled, which then triggers a battlefield, in the same Fire Emblem style, against a small number of said enemies. Once the battlefield is cleared of all enemies, the game goes back to dungeon exploration.

Overall, a lot of the things that have been added over time to Fire Emblem through subsequent releases, but which were not yet part of the series at that point in 1992, are either not back altogether, or are added on top of the original through new mechanics. The weapon triangle that has become so important over the years, and synonymous with the series, for instance, is absent here, simply because it didn't exist yet at that point when the source material came out. Early hands-on with this remake does not hint at marriages and children being part of this game, either. In fact, character relationships are not being put to the forefront here like in other, more modern entries, with character interactions like support dialogue only happening between units straight on the battlefield, as was the case in older games before the days of Fire Emblem: Awakening, making this one more of a throwback to older generations of games but while still adding enough on top in terms of new content that barely anything of the original remains apparent.

Screenshot for Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia on Nintendo 3DS

Final Thoughts

The original game that came out 25 years ago is barely recognisable under the shiny coating of modern graphics, and with all the comforts in terms of stats presentation, and the like, being added to make the experience easier to plod through, as well as numerous new gameplay ideas that have never been seen in any episode prior to this one. That does not mean, however, that this latest title feels like every other more modern Fire Emblem. Some of the things that have come to be accepted as mainstays of the franchise by those who only became big fans with Awakening will feel like they are being sent backwards instead. Indeed, the early experience with this game does show something that decidedly feels a lot like an older Fire Emblem game, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones in particular, which itself was heavily inspired by Gaiden. However, other unique twists are thrown in that also counterbalance the old with more original new content that has never seen before, resulting ultimately in a more experimental-feeling Fire Emblem than anything that has been put out in years, and that's something worthy of praise.

Developer

Intelligent Systems

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (1 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   

Comments

Brilliant preview! I am psyched for this game and now I am even more ready but there is an abundance of Fire Emblem in my life at the moment.

I have it pre-ordered and already have my Alm and Celica amiibo, but I need to finish a few games before getting around to this! Day 1 purchase for sure!

( Edited 13.07.2017 19:54 by Guest )

I loved DS games, and really hope more remakes of classics appear in the future. Really looking forward to trying this one Smilie

Excellent level of detail, Rudy! One of the most in-depth previews ever!

( Edited 13.07.2017 19:54 by Guest )

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Our member of the week

Adam Riley said:
I loved DS games, and really hope more remakes of classics appear in the future. Really looking forward to trying this one Smilie

Excellent level of detail, Rudy! One of the most in-depth previews ever!


Thanks. My review is already pretty much done as a matter of fact, I've been plodding through this very quickly. Not getting MK8 Deluxe on time has helped me stay 100% focused on this and not play anything else all weekend. This means I have already experienced quite a lot, but I'm still moving along to try to even make the ending if I can and see absolutely everything, as I now realise, having seen more of the game, that some of my assumptions were not entirely accurate in the preview (about the effects of fatigue, primarily). Anyway stay tuned for the review folks, it's coming very soon!

( Edited 13.07.2017 19:54 by Guest )

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

^do you have a review copy or are you playing it in Japanese? 

 

( Edited 13.07.2017 19:54 by Guest )

Review code - and thanks for the update, Rudy. Glad you're enjoying it. Will be interesting to see the final verdict (obviously can't say anything yet because of the embargo). I'm actually more excited about this than I was for Fates!

( Edited 13.07.2017 19:54 by Guest )

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

But its already been released in Japan, so does the embargo still stand??

 

( Edited 13.07.2017 19:54 by Guest )

Of course - different embargoes for different regions. The timestamp on this preview, for instance, is when the preview embargo lifted for UK media Smilie

( Edited 13.07.2017 19:54 by Guest )

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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