Fire Emblem Fates was a Fire Emblem game like no other: intentionally difficult with a rushed translation and created to feed off of Awakening, a game that’s actually innovative. With the only positives being found in the game’s character design and main theme, Fire Emblem‘s version of The Maury Povich Show proved to be a crappy plot; I don’t care who the main character’s father actually is. Nintendo decided that instead of framing their games on previous successes they would return to their roots, and I’m here to tell you that Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is a barely recognizable gift from the Lord.
A full-fledged reinstallment of the second Fire Emblem game, Fire Emblem Gaiden played just as well as one would expect any game from 1992 would. As the years go by, this quality of gameplay, graphics, and sound naturally tends to decrease. In fact, it decreases to the point where just looking at the graphics of a Famicom system, never mind actually playing the game, could cause the average person to vomit. This game is quite the opposite, as other than some awkward, Berzerk-style 3-D modeling in cutscenes, everything is beautiful.
Translation is top-notch; characters such as Grey and Tobin are guaranteed laughs while other dialogue carries tension and sentiment. Nearly every line of dialogue is voiced, a shocking amount of voice acting for a 3DS title. The music is remastered in such quality that even the Super Smash Bros. renditions pale in comparison.
Besides the sound and the quality art, character models and expressions are on point, movements (outside of cutscenes) are fluid. If you recall Awakening‘s battle system, everyone was given generic battle animations and no feet, in Fates, feet was clearly a big deal as the protagonist couldn’t be paid enough to put some freakin’ socks on, yet the battle animations had an oomph to them. This time around, battle animations are so smooth you almost won’t want to skip through them, even though it’s unavoidable that you will in order to save yourself up to 30 hours of waiting.
The gameplay is possibly the most interesting part. You start with Alm’s army, which is entirely customizable as to who reaches what class. You have a map that you can travel on at your own leisure, as well as a plethora of side-quests and dungeons to help you become stronger in a variety of unexpected, fun ways. The next part of the game is through Celica’s perspective, who has her own band of companions. Upon reaching Act 3, the game fully opens up to the player, providing a unique experience of managing two armies at the same time.
This is not without its gripes, however, as the game gives Celica 45 mages and gives Alm 2 sticks and a sandwich. Once Act 3 (of 4) begins it’s open season, Alm has to muscle through with his group of under-leveled meatheads. This difficulty is a major punishment for permadeath/classic mode players, yet the ability to rewind turns a set number of times makes the game astronomically less frustrating than its predecessors. Still, The game’s intentional silence on the matter of the removal of the rock-scissor-paper weakness mechanic and how you need to reclass immediately as hitting level 20 is a waste of time, is as much of a Rudolph move as any major enemy.
Keep in mind this is not the magnum opus of Fire Emblem by anyone’s standards, yet it is a testament to how much Fire Emblem has grown over the ages. The game isn’t perfect, yet Nintendo showcases that it isn’t about to ruin this franchise like it ruined Metroid. Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia provides fire emblem fans with what they haven’t seen in years: a good game.