It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the Fire Emblem series. I got my knowledge of the series as a child playing Super Smash Bros Melee with my cousins, and Marth burst onto the scene. I always had a passionate for JRPG’s, and back then, I never knew how much it would have bloomed from other genres.
For several months now, off and on, I’ve been working my way through Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. I got the game the very day that it released here in the States, and I knew from the start that I was going to enjoy the combat and story mechanics. There was so much in store, from the open dungeon travel to splitting the story itself in half between Alm and Celica. But, I’ll let my fingers do the talking and share my likes (and dislikes) about Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia.
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is set in an almost medieval time period where the player commands two sides of a forthcoming war. Childhood friends Alm and Celica are pinned with their backs to the walls, but rise with allies at their sides to restructure their world, challenge Gods, and eventually reunite with one another.
I’ll be honest. I’ve only ever played one other Fire Emblem game to completion, and that would be Fire Emblem Awakening, which quickly became one of my favorite JRPG’s of all time (someday, I think I’ll make a list). I was incredibly hyped about SoV from the start, and I wasn’t at all disappointed in the plot development here.
The story begins with Alm and Celica, both aged ten, living in Ram Village with their surrogate grandfather Mycen. The two are incredibly close, and even their friends from the village can see it. One day, however, kingdom guards from the marauding country of Rigel come to Ram Village in search of the lost princess of Zofia: Celica, her real name revealed to be Anthiese. After the guards are run out of town by Mycen, Celica is led away from Ram Village with the promise that she and Alm will meet again.
Seven years pass, and Celica is set to become a priestess, preparing for a pilgrimage that will lead her to the temple of the Goddess Mila, who has the power to stop the war between Zofia and Rigel. From the other side of the spectrum, Alm is given the chance to leave Ram Village and join a group of traveling mercenaries known as the Deliverance, all with the intent to stop Emperor Rudolph of Rigel from tossing Valencia into a darker pit of existence. As their numbers each grow, Alm and Celica each grow themselves into better, more confident people, all in the hopes of reuniting again.
I really enjoyed seeing Alm and Celica in particular develop their relationship, though I also found their relationship somewhat strange in the beginning. I didn’t really hallmark them as a romantic couple; I saw them early on as more of a sibling pair based on how they acted around one another. And the way that their friends portrayed their ten-year-old-child friendship felt… somewhat forced. Don’t get me wrong. I love them as a pair, siblings or lovers, anything of that sort. I just wish that it didn’t feel so pushed from an early age. I like slow burns a little too much.
I also enjoyed the contrast of Godlike entities being drawn to opposite moralities. But that’s always appealed to me in media. And the relationship between Mila and Duma reflects down onto Celica and Alm brilliantly. And flows well into the rest of the Fire Emblem lore as far as the reflecting universes grow over each new generation. Even the smallest moments seemed to have a winding purpose, and it assists each overarching story. Which is one of my favorite Fire Emblem tactics.
Fire Emblem is full of so many colorful (and occasionally really dull/unlikeable) characters, and I couldn’t even bring myself to list them all. So, for this list, I’m going to share what I thought of our leads/villains, and I will also share who my favorite characters on each team were!
Alm: From the moment that I saw him, I had this odd feeling that I was going to like, but not love him. And that somewhat stayed with me.
I thought that Alm was a really fun lead to work with. He is strong, determined, has his priorities straight a good majority of the time, and it’s clear in his actions that he cares deeply for each and every person that he comes across and befriends. And even those that he doesn’t manage to befriend, he does his best to help push them forward, and to me, that’s insanely admirable. However, on the contrast… I feel like he is somewhat dime a dozen in his trope of the strong, reluctant hero. I do like him. But I don’t love him.
Celica: I took one look at her when the remake was announced, and I knew that I was going to prefer playing with her. I wasn’t wrong.
If I had to choose a favorite between Alm and Celica, it was Celica. I loved her determination and strength, and how she pushed past every limitation in her way to keep her eyes on the goals that she had set in mind. It’s more amazing to watch how she interacts with her allies, especially Mai, Saber, and Boey. They keep her more grounded than she already is. They give her that extra push of reason that she lacks. I adore her development. But I also think that she is insanely gullible. Like, almost obnoxiously gullible to the point where you briefly consider slapping her. Still like her though.
NOW, for the characters that I really enjoyed watching throughout the story from both teams. I’ll try to limit it to just a good handful. Two per team!
Gray: I always find myself really drawn into a good chunk of Max Mittelman roles. And the cute playboy role with eyes for only one is so befitting of Gray.
I was a big fan of Gray right from the start, for his design alone. And he became a really compelling asset for me with his cheerful, optimistic banter. He kept everyone’s spirits up on the team, and to me, that was a necessity.
Also, pairing him with Clair was a must for me. I loved that. I love those two. Farmboy/Aristocrats are the best.
Mae: A pink-haired peppy mage? Yeah, I think I’m gonna fall right in line with this chick.
It didn’t take me long to fall in love with Mae’s character. Much like Gray, she is insanely cheerful and supportive, but she’s also a bit more aggressive in her love. She is very willing to rip anyone who threatens her friends to shreds, and as someone that literally has that same trait, I couldn’t help but high-five her as my strongest mage.
Also, she and Boey were one of my favorite pairings in the story. I really love how they had a sort of love-hate relationship throughout it all, and still end up happy with each other in the end.
Saber: I was on the fence about how Saber was going to be as a character after he was introduced, but boy did HE come through.
Saber was the first member of Celica’s party from the outside, and he was mainly brought on as a sellsword. Somehow though, he became much more than that. He was incredibly supportive of Celica, and he probably cared about her the most of their group (aside from Mai). I found his development unexpected. And worthwhile.
Lukas: I didn’t expect to like the coolest, most collected man on the team, but the aura he gives off is really… smooth.
I tossed it up between Lukas and Tobin, but the man with the cold shoulder beat the man with the pretty face. Lukas appealed to me more due to my secret passion for soft-hearted men. I really loved watching his backstory unfold in his conversations with Clive, and it seems as though he genuinely wants to better the world despite not being overly accepted in it himself.
NOW, for my favorite of the villains.
Berkut: Oh. My. Gosh. That is all.
I never imagined that I was going to be so insanely attached to Berkut’s character. Not even because I find him attractive, which he is. But because he is such a profusely brilliant foil to Alm, and I’m amazed that he was so interesting to me. I thought that his burning desire to be accepted by Emperor Rudolph was well executed. I believed in his lust for power, and his need to be stronger, better, because it seemed like every step that he took was going to end in failure. And I find that so amazing. He’s truly underrated as a character, especially on the villain spectrum. Because you see how he became a villain, how he became the broken man that wanted to be the one to claim victory, and willing to take any means necessary to succeed. To feel accomplished. To be loved.
And honestly, Berkut slowly became of my more acknowledged JRPG villains because of how he was portrayed. It’s easy to see him as a whiny brat. But there’s so many layers to him that could have easily been unraveled in such a battered way. I commend him.
Fire Emblem is well known for its turn-based combat, and you never know when the tables are going to turn on you, which makes it all the more fun to tackle. The battles are difficult, even on normal mode, and the harder that you amp things up, the crazier it becomes to play. For instance, Classic Mode kills off your party a little at time for good, though SoV allows you to revive them a limited number of times. I personally avoid getting my party axed. I like to have them stick around, to know them better.
I think my favorite aspect of the gameplay that differed from Awakening would be the opportunity to explore dungeons. It just appealed more to the slightly open-world aspects that I love about JRPG’s, and I’m glad that it was incorporated. I hope that “The Three Houses” keeps a similar style when it releases in July.
I think this is the one time that I can’t recall more than maybe two pieces from the OST from the dredges of my memory in a recent game I’ve played. Which is a bit depressing for me, because I do like the music. I just can’t seem to find many pieces that were overly memorable for me.
As far as the animation goes, I think that the cutscenes are brilliant and fluid. And the in-game sprites/battle animations are incredible, especially when compared to Awakening. I think as far as those mechanics go, you can definitely see the touches of improvement, a little at a time. And that pleases me.
AN OVERALL VIEW
Overall, I really enjoyed this game for all of its perks and worths. Was it better than Awakening? Absolutely not. But, this game was still wonderful to experience in all the glory of Valencia.
The full-on voice acting made the experience more enjoyable, and I absolutely give my biggest props to Erica Lindbeck (Celica), Ian Sinclair (Berkut), Kyle McCarley (Alm), Max Mittelman (Gray), Ray Chase (Fernand), Robbie Daymond (Tobin), and Cherami Leigh (Mae). The entire cast was incredible to watch. I loved every moment listening to them.
The story was woven well, and the characters were fun to watch.
I give the game a very solid 9/10.
So, before I sign off at this crazy 1:50 a.m. review and prepare for my 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift at my full time job… I’m gonna need some more coffee. I will no longer have that issue, because I’m now affiliated with Phineas Coffee, the best kind of coffee for gamers and late night writers like me that are going to cry in the morning without caffeine!
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