Paige FTW: ‘Echoes’ Whets The Strategy Appetite

After a year spent mostly gallivanting through various open-world RPGs, I found myself beginning 2019 by yearning for something more … confined.

What better time than now to get into Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, a full remake and upgrade of Fire Emblem Gaiden, which fell by the wayside for me last year — particularly since Fire Emblem: Three Houses is supposed to make its appearance sometime this year. 

While the series’ core gameplay conceits and classic story beats remain intact, Echoes adds a number of wrinkles to the formula: a story split between two protagonists and armies (with different challenges for each), explorable dungeons, increased range for archers and mages (at the cost of a health penalty for every attack in the case of the latter), special ability-granting items instead of breakable weapons, and unique class upgrades, among others.

Series newcomers will find the game akin to the more recent Awakening and Fates, with much less depth and customization, while series veterans may find that it’s just … a little too easy sometimes, with all these nifty perks.

Fire Emblem is an interesting series — unlike other long-running franchises, half of its games have never made it to America, who got introduced to the series with its seventh installment.

Earlier titles have subsequently been remade (a la Shadow Dragon), but the natural growth and ebb of the series has been choppy as a result, and it’s difficult to get or appreciate the overall picture of how the series has evolved — and therefore to recognize Echoes’ original contributions to the formula.  

Due to no fault of its own, this game simply … is fine. It lacks the audacity of the newest titles and the golden standard of the original Game Boy Advance titles. What a ringing endorsement to start the new year, huh?