Release date: 20/05/17
1992’s Japan-only Famicom (NES) title Fire Emblem Gaiden is reborn as Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia and unleashed in the west. But does a 25-year-old JRPG/RTS game stand up in 2017?
It’s a classic tale. Boy meets girl, boy and girl are separated, boy and girl reunite years later, boy and girl go to battle to save their lands from evil.
The boy in question is Alm, the girl Celica (to quote A Fish Called Wanda, “Why did they name her after a car?”). The battles? They’re big ones.
The first thing that strikes you is the blend of deep storytelling with beautiful imagery – meaning there are oodles and oodles of story development screens. If you have a short attention span then put down that 3DS and walk away... slowly.
If, however, you love getting absorbed into an incredible epic tale then that side of the deal is well and truly delivered. The other major part of the Fire Emblem Echoes trip is the RPG-tinged tactical real-time strategy element, which plays out via an overhead, grid-based system. Kind of like chess, but with even more death and destruction. There are also mini quests dotted about to give players a break from the story campaign – 3D dungeon crawling and the like - which yield loot. Glorious loot!
An introductory tutorial story introduces us to Alm and Celica, who are ambushed one day by the rather slimy Slayde and his men. It’s against this bloke that, with thanks to Alm’s grandpa Mycen, we get to learn the key mechanics of the game. As Celica is a marked woman, Mycen sends her away. But as he does, he declares that Alm and Celica will reunite one day...
Jumping backwards in time as it does, many may be concerned that Fire Emblem Echoes lacks features that have more recently been introduced into the series. It does – but don’t switch off whatever device you’re reading this on yet.
Another big deal is the voice implementation. Almost every character – major or minor - is given voice here, and it doesn’t sound like the actors were phoning in their lines. There's genuine enthusiasm and heart here.
The battle system is a simpler one than that which many will be used to – not that it’s easy by any stretch of the imagination. There’s no rock-paper-scissors implementation, for example. As the game progresses, however, you require more intricate strategy and troop juggling to survive as, after all, perma-death is a thing (well, unless you opt for the wussy newly-added override).
Just after modern day glitz and glamour? You may be bummed with Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. Sure it isn’t as immediate as later series entries, but if you have a respect for where those glitzy and glamorous games evolved from – and revel in a gripping epic tale - then you’ll soon find yourself absolutely smitten with this remarkably reinvigorated remake.