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Yangus's Thoughts: Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia

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Welcome one and all to another edition of Yangus's Thoughts! Been over a year since I've done one of these, and this time we have a rather large one! For the first time, I'll be talking about a strategy RPG, specifically the latest entry in the Fire Emblem series - Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia.


Originally released on the Famicom as Fire Emblem Gaiden, this game is a full on remake of what's often called the "Black Sheep," of Fire Emblem. Intelligent Systems went all out with this remake, giving the story, characters, gameplay, and everything else a major upgrade, combining some elements from newer games while retaining aspects of the original.


For a brief summary of the story, the game takes place in the land of Valentia, with dual kingdoms - Zofia and Rigel - going to war. Two young heroes, Alm and Celica, each head out on their own journey, forming their own armies to try and stop the conflict in their own way. Alm hopes to stop the empire of Rigel head on, while Celica wishes to seek out the Dragon God of Zofia for help. Their tales entertwine, but what will the outcome of the two tales be?


Well, you'll have to look for your answer elsewhere, because I'm here to give my thoughts on the game! As always, these are just my opinions on what I liked and disliked.


With that mini-disclaimer out of the way, let's listen closely for the Echoes that will tell all...






The Likes:


-The playable cast of characters. Let me start off by saying that I enjoyed using every playable character in the game. In the other two Fire Emblem games I've played, I found myself gravitating towards certain characters as I played. With Echoes, I felt like I wanted to use everyone. The game actually grants this wish as in most of the game, all the characters that join in a respective route can fight together in battle rather than making the player select a handful of units for one battle. This doesn't apply to dungeon exploration where you are limited to 10 characters or the final battle where you can only have 20, but in every other case? Alm and Celica's armies fight as one, creating a real sense of teamwork and cooperation that I'm completely for. Everyone had their use in combat.


Outside of battles, I felt this game had a very believable cast. There are a few "extreme personality," characters such as Faye, but otherwise I found myself wanting to learn more about the dual casts. Being able to interact with them in towns, discovering their support conversations and relationships with others...well, it was all quite good!


Everyone has great voice acting to bring the characters to life. The leads for Alm and Celica were favorites of mine, as were Valbar, Zeke, Est, Clair, Clive, Gray, Delthea, and Sonya to name a few.


There is only one character I can't include here, and that is Deen. I'm sure he would be up with everyone else, but without playing as him and having him in the group, I can't confirm anything.


That aside, the bottom line is that I really enjoyed this game's playable cast. I felt like I got to know the characters well enough, all of them were useful for combat, and getting to use everyone (DLC characters included) in their respective routes was a big plus.



-The dual narrative. While the main plot is to stop the war with Rigel and discover what's happening with the Dragon Gods, I like how the game takes the time to focus on Alm and Celica's stories in their own acts. Split across 5 Acts (with a post game 6th Act much like Dragon Quest IV's 6th chapter post game), the first two take the time to follow each lead as they start their journeys. From Act 3 onward, the game allows you to freely change between the duo. In one case, you have to make a great deal of progress with Celica in order for Alm to continue.


So, you end up with two different journeys that can intermingle along the way. They each have their own enemy (or enemies) to combat, goals to accomplish, and allies to acquire. It created a good sense of individuality.



-The villains. Talk about a good cast of villainous folk. On the whole, the main villains of the game were easy to hate due to their clashing personalities. Desaix and Slayde helped cause the downfall of Zofia, making them targets I was more than happy to take down with Alm. Berkut was a tragic character who had some of the best voice acting in the game, and despite still having a good life despite the truth of Alm coming out he goes mad with power. Emperor Rudolf meanwhile was a likable man. While I think his methods were a bit extreme, I could see why he did what he did. I only wish things didn't have to end the way they did with him and that we had learned more of him as the game went on.


Jedah was a personal favorite as I always like the sleazy member of the church kind of character. He's got some nasty powers to boot, he's got a knack for persuasions, and his uncanny resemblance to Bishop Ladja made him an instant favorite.


Looking at this, I nearly forgot to talk about Fernand. Another tragic villain, he was one I had no problem fighting due to his constant belittling of Alm and the other Deliverance members who came from commoner families rather than nobility.


A fine cast of villains all around.



-The music. My goodness, Intelligent Systems really knows how to make their music shine. The updated soundtrack sounds fantastic and is one of the best I've heard on the system. It's up there with Bravely Default on overall music quality for the 3DS, and shows the system is fully capable of a soundtrack of this musical quality. It's a shame more companies didn't push the boundaries like IS does.


Anyway, there are a lot of good tracks to the game. The title theme "Echoes," is a great start, the individual world map themes add a lot of emotion, the battle themes fit their armies well with "With Mila's Divine Protection," being my personal favorite, and the ending vocal song is a new favorite.


What I find appealing about the soundtrack is the way it changes as you progress. Alm and Celica each have their own themes when in combat, "March to Deliverance," and "With Mila's Divine Blessing," respectively. Well, as the two progress through the game, their songs become more dynamic. "March to Deliverance," for example, begins with a few instruments lead by a clarinet, but by the time you hit Zofia Castle and Act 3 it becomes a faster tempo, harsh strings leading the charge, with slow sections being headed by the brass and rock drums. These changes even affect the amiibo dungeon Duma's Ordeals, as the song becomes much slower, openly spaced amongst the instruments. Details like really impress me, and keeps the same song fresh throughout the game.


It's safe to say this is an easy 10/10 soundtrack in my book.



-The dungeon exploration gameplay. An unexpected addition that I really got a kick out of. The dungeons you can explore in Echoes feel right at home with Fire Emblem, offering you the chance to find new items and gain some extra levels for units. You can find Mila Shrines to upgrade job classes, secret springs to boost a certain stat or revive a dead character in Classic mode, discover secret items and passages...I loved these portions of the game. You had to think carefully who you wanted to bring along and how to spend your food resources in order to keep allies from being fatigued. A fun diversion from the main game of strategy battles.



-Changes to Archers. Archers are one of my favorite classes in any RPG, and the changes made to bow wielding classes in Echoes is great. Archers, Snipers, and Bow Knights can attack from greater distances, can attack an enemy right next to them (and as far as I know they couldn't do this before!), and thanks to different bows can learn some devastating attacks that improve accuracy. I was very impressed with the likes of Python, Leon, and Tobin (who I made an Archer) as they were able to help out so much. The changes made to bow wielding classes are just fantastic, making them a safer class to use without losing their strength.



-The investment I had while playing. I'm not gonna lie, when I played FE Sacred Stones and Awakening, it was very easy for me to put he games aside after half an hour of gameplay. They just didn't draw me in and kept my attention.


Echoes, however, never had this problem. Other than when I wanted to take a minor break from the game halfway through, this game kept me glued to it like a fly is drawn to honey. I was honestly shocked due to my feelings towards the first two FE games I played! I mean, Echoes did interest me quite a bit before I played it for myself, but I had the feeling in the back of mind it was going to be a game I THOUGHT would have me hooked, but end up being, "eh." This was thankfully not the case.


I think what led to my quick attachment was my genuine interest in the game prior to getting it for my birthday. A remake of an older FE game sounded interesting, seeing the game in action and all the effort that was being thrown at it was an eye opener, and the whole game delivered the Fire Emblem experience I had been hoping to have when I decided to try FE Awakening.


I suppose for this point, what you the reader should take from it is that the game was interesting from start to finish on several levels.



-Mila's Turnwheel. I LOOOOOOOOVE this mechanic! Mila's Turnwheel allows you to fix a mistake you may have made or try to prevent an enemy from landing a critical blow on an ally. Not having to reset the game every time someone dies on accident is wonderful, and makes playing Classic mode a tiny bit easier.


To counter the good, you do have a limited number of uses in one battle (or in one dungeon run), so it's not like you can abuse it to high heaven. I try to play carefully, but no one is perfect in how they play, so having the Turnwheel to turn to (pun intended) for those, "Uh-oh," moments is very nice. I hope this becomes a staple for future games in the series.



-The full voice acting. Something I touched on a bit above, I really appreciate the full voice work given to the game. For me, voice acting should either be all in or not in, and let me say I'm glad to have another 3DS RPG that doesn't rely on voice grunts for it's "voice acting."


Other than Catria's voice actress sounding bored all the time, everyone had some fine voices to match their characters/personalities.



-The free DLC. Having access to a pair of Boots to increase character movement, Pitchforks to reclass 3 characters should you wish, and some other extras make the free DLC a very good thing to download. I saved all the free DLC as a post game reward for myself, but I can see where having these items earlier on would be good (especially on Hard mode). Free items are always nice to have.



-The accolades system. I like earning these as the game went on. With no hints as to how to unlock them (which I actually really like), it becomes up to you to try out different ideas to see if you can earn them all. Or you can always look them up to see why you can't seem to earn anymore.


I did do that last bit after completing a few other tasks I thought would get me an accolade, such as getting all the supports to Rank A. Turns out, you share the accolades across all game files! While these means players will have to replay the game to earn some of the harder ones, playing the game without any guide allowed me to earn over half of the accolades on my own.


I'll admit the completionist in me wants to try and earn all the accolades in due time, so I'm liking Intelligent Systems included these in the game.



-The Cipher Characters DLC. Hailing from the Japan exclusive Fire Emblem Cipher, four additional characters can be recruited for Alm or Celica's route: Emma, Randal, Shade, and Yuzu. The two former appear in one map, same goes for the two latter, and depending on who plays and completes their map, they will become new units for that army.


Of all the DLC in game, this is by far my favorite. Not only does it give some exposure to an Japan exclusive FE card game, but you get four very good units from it. They felt like they fit right in with the Echoes cast. I ended up putting Emma and Randal with Celica while Shade and Yuzu went to Alm, but putting them all together can get some special dialogue that shows the four all get along well.


If there's any paid DLC I would recommend a player to buy, it's the Cipher characters pack. I always like seeing unexpected inclusions in games, especially when it's a good unexpected inclusion.



-The Memory Prisms. These Prisms allow you to learn some backstory of certain events and characters, and are a nice addition to the game. I always liked finding a new Memory Prism to learn some more of the world of the game, so kudos to this.



-Alm. Alm gets some real bonus points in my book for:


1. Having green hair.

2. Being a left handed character.

3. Having well done character development as the story progresses.


Alm has become a new favorite protagonist of mine, thanks to the points above. As a lefty, I always like seeing left handed characters in games.


Despite that like, I do really like how Alm grows throughout the game. All the moments that upset him, made him happy, the stress he had to go through...I felt like I could understand his feelings. Celica was a good lead as well, but of the two, Alm is definitely the winner.





The "Meh"


-The majority of the DLC. While I really like the free stuff and the Cipher characters, the rest of the DLC isn't too special, save for the Rise of the Deliverance pack. This is one I'll go over below, but for the rest of the DLC, it's the usual easy grinding/tougher grinding quests developers love making people pay for in RPGs nowadays. There are also overclasses which can further strengthen characters who've reached the higher levels of their last class. Neither the overclasses nor the grinding DLC interest me, so they are "meh."


-The repetition of "Rout the Enemy," as the victory condition. There are a very small pool of maps that don't have this as the win condition, but otherwise this is what you have to do for the whole game to win each battle. Honestly I didn't mind it, but it would have been nice to have some more variety in what was required.



-The side quests. While you can get some stat boosting items and other goods from doing side quests, they weren't all that impressive. It would have been nice if the side quests had come from members of your armies, perhaps as a way to get to know the people you fight with better. They are still worth doing for the rewards, but they are just ok.



-Amiibo content - While I think the two amiibo dungeons should have been in the game by default as secrets, after playing through them I can't say I'm angry they were locked behind amiibos. Really they weren't that exciting anyway, though the extra items you can get from them are nice.




The Dislikes:


-The balance of maps on Celica's route. Good grief, Celica got the short end of the stick when it comes to maps to fight on! Having to deal with a number of desert and swamp maps, Celica's route can feel a lot tougher than Alm's due to all the environment maps she has to deal with. While Alm's maps are usually large forested plans where you want to take advantage of terrain, Celica's maps have hindered travel for units who can't fly and/or can hurt your units at the start of each turn. There should have been a better balance of what Celica's army has to travel and fight on. Especially on those damn swamp maps!



-Having to choose between killing Deen or Sonya. This was definitely my leasts favorite part of the game. Towards the end of Celica's Act 3 route, you have to deal with either Sonya or Deen. Whichever one you kill is dead for good, and whichever you don't kill becomes a recruitable ally not long after.


Now, my problem lies in that you have to kill one of two good units. While I chose to recruit Sonya, I looked into the two before I made my choice, and it made me wonder: why didn't the game pull a "Surprise!" and have the character you fought end up barely surviving and appear in Alm's route instead. It just seems like a waste to get rid of one of the two for the sake of progression, and I was hoping this remake would change this portion of the game.


I do plan to recruit Deen when I replay the game, but then I have to kill Sonya...gah, it's starting all over again already! The feeling of regret having to kill one of them! If there's one thing I hate in RPGs, it's missing out on playable characters.



-Faye. As a character in battle, I liked Faye. She became a Cleric on my playthrough and was very helpful all throughout Alm's route.


However, when it comes to her personality......YIKES. The girl has an uncomfortable obsession with Alm. It's pretty much her only character trait apart from being cold towards another character named Silque. Unlike Clair, another girl on Alm's route who develops a crush on Alm, Faye doesn't show a lot of concern for anything else. Clair has many other things she cares and thinks about, so her crush on Alm isn't her only trait.


What's sad is that even though Alm lets Faye down gently in their A rank support, Faye REFUSES to let go! Hell, in the epilogue, her portion says she STILL has an obsession despite getting married to another man and disappears for days on end!


I don't know what the devs were thinking when it came to Faye, but...this is not how you should write a character with an obsessive crush.



-Locking support conversations behind a paywall. Now, I can handle the Rise of the Deliverance DLC pack having special story maps, special reward weapons, and Memory Prisms as incentives to purchase the DLC. What I CAN'T handle is that several support conversations are locked behind it! By playing through the DLC you earn the ability to have the likes of Lukas have support conversations with Forsyth and Python, to name one example. Locking support conversations behind a paywall is just wrong. Why leave out these conversations in the base game? It's ridiculous!




The Bottom Line:


I never would have imagined I'd write a Yangus's Thoughts on a Fire Emblem game. Heck, I never would have imagined I would have loved this game as much as I did! Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia was a fantastic surprise, and was a very hard game to put down. The story and characters kept me invested, the simple gameplay was well executed, the music was phenomenal...despite my complaints above, this game was a personal 10/10, and was an adventure I'm glad I got experience. There's a lot I love about my time with Echoes, and I hope future installments of the series are like this game. This is the Fire Emblem game that has made me a fan of the series, and I can't thank Intelligent Systems enough for the work and effort they put into this title.




Thanks for reading everyone. This is Yangus, signing out.

Edited by YangustheLegendaryBandit
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Very nice. It's a crime that I still haven't played the game. The DLC kinda of worries me. It's great to hear you liked it. I hope my song suggestions helped you out. :D

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They did help, thanks. And thank you for reading!


And yes, I can understand being worried about DLC. Best advice I can give is to stick to the free stuff and the Cipher characters of you don't want to go overboard. I'll admit I had no problem also buying the Deliverance pack on my own since I had received the game as a gift. If I remember right the Cipher pack was $6, and I played them during Act 3. The 4 characters are good units, and are worth getting.


I think you would enjoy the game. Actually I'm surprised you don't already have it! Thought you had bought it back when it came out a few months ago.

Edited by YangustheLegendaryBandit

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It was after the months of Dragon Quest VIII, Breath of the Wild, and Persona 5, so you gotta cut me a little slack since so many great games were coming out.

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The choice of Sonya or Deen is like the choice of Arran or Samson in Shadow Dragon. You can pick one, but you won't get the other. The big difference is that Sonya and Deen are fair fighters. Arran and Samson sucked.

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It was after the months of Dragon Quest VIII, Breath of the Wild, and Persona 5, so you gotta cut me a little slack since so many great games were coming out.

Oh, I wasn't trying to criticize you (apologies if it sounded like I was). I just thought you had gotten the game early on but just hadn't played it yet due to other games.

The choice of Sonya or Deen is like the choice of Arran or Samson in Shadow Dragon. You can pick one, but you won't get the other. The big difference is that Sonya and Deen are fair fighters. Arran and Samson sucked.

After seeing how good Dread Fighters are, I will go with Deen on a Hard/Classic playthrough. I don't regret choosing Sonya, but I think I would have gotten more mileage out of Deen.


It was satisfying having Sonya confront Jedah, though.

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I would agree, except I already had Atlas pulling Dread Fighter duty. Had I gotten Kamui up to that point too, it would've been overkill. Celica's side has one too many, to be honest. Alm could've used another. Feel like Jesse should've joined his army, especially considering he had a prior run in with Silque (who is one tough lady, by the way. Love her.)

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Alm could have used one of them. I don't mind Celica can have up to 5. Not a Thoughts worthy point to make for me. If it had been though, probably would go under the "Meh."

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