Being a sucker for the Fire Emblem franchise, I was very excited for the release of Shadows of Valentia, a remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden that was released only in Japan. As always, this is just my personal opinion. Feel free to share yours in the comments!
Title: Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
Release Date: May 19, 2017
Console: Nintendo 3DS
How I got the game: I bought it.
Warning — there may be story spoilers!
Like the majority of Fire Emblem games, Shadows of Valentia is a turn-based tactical RPG franchise with a myriad of characters that the player raises into an army. Shadows of Valentia is based off of the Japan-only released Fire Emblem Gaiden. Considering I had never played any form of Fire Emblem Gaiden — emulated, translated, not even YouTube videos — the plot of Shadows of Valentia was completely new to me.
Despite the perma-death aspect that Fire Emblem games are famous for, I played the game in the Casual mode, allowing characters to come back after falling in battle as opposed to being out of the game entirely like they would on the Classic mode. While there is a special item called Mila’s Turnwheel in the game that lets players turn back a turn in the game should a mistake be made, the Casual mode allows me to fully enjoy and get to know the characters while also doing my best to unlock as many Support conversations between them as possible.
Unlike previous games with Support conversations, where various characters could be paired up, gain spouses or best friends, depending on how strong their supports were, Shadows of Valentia has a limited number of Support conversations. Characters have good or bad endings that are mostly dependent on whether or not their predetermined spouse or best friend lives until the end of the game.
Shadows of Valentia has plenty of the same character classes as previous games, with fairly strict class tiers. Unlike the Fates trio, Shadows of Valentia had gender-locked classes again, with Pegasus Knights and Clerics being female only, while males were the only ones who could be Mercenaries, Soldiers, and Archers. Mages and Cavalier class trees were accessible by both genders.
Tactical battles are similar to previous Fire Emblem games, with each side taking turns to move and attack. Each character class had access to specific weapons and magic, with many weapons unlocking special skills the more the character grew and used the weapon. Shadows of Valentia also had a navigable world map as well as dungeons that one could explore through a third-person behind-the-back perspective and towns that were explored like a visual novel, talking with villagers and allies, and point-and-click interaction with the backgrounds. I enjoyed this unique exploration take, even if some of the dungeons took a little too long for me to get into the next battle.
As usual, I was pleased with the graphics of the game on the Nintendo 3DS. The few anime cut scenes were fun to watch, as was the opening video, and the character models were on par with the previous Fire emblem games. The battle maps and dungeons were mostly unique as well.
I definitely enjoyed the music too, the battle scores always leaving me eager to beat the map. This game also had full voice-acting, which was a pleasant surprise. I found myself really enjoying the voice acting, with each character’s tones being really well done. Exclamations, questions, pauses, everything said sounded full and natural.
Fire Emblem games revolve around wars and revolutions. Shadows of Valentia is no different, keeping the classic story formula that works so well for Fire Emblem games.
As a brief summary, the main plot involved warring gods, where each one ruled over one part of the continent of Valentia. The god Duma ruled Rigal to the north while the goddess Mila ruled Zofia to the south. Duma believed in strength while Mila believed in peace and pleasure, and the truce that the pair had was broken when Rigal’s Emperor Rudolf invaded Zofia to seal Mila in Falchion, a divine sword. It’s Mila’s disappearance that prompts Celica to start her journey to search for the goddess, while Rudolf’s invasion of Zofia compels Alm to leave his village to fight for the country he calls home. Eventually, Alm’s and Celica’s armies join up to take down the final boss to bring peace throughout the continent.
Shadows of Valentia has dual paths, letting the player switch back and forth between Alm’s and Celica’s routes with ease. Alm’s path consists of leading the Deliverance, a band of Zofia’s last remaining soldiers fighting to free their country from Rigal’s invasion. Even after Zofia is free and the larger plot looms before them all, Alm continues to lead his army into the heart of Rigal in order to break the land free of Duma’s influence. His path was my favorite regarding a variety of battles and scenes, along with plenty of interesting characters to recruit and speak to. However, his motivation for quite a few of his battles were saving a “damsel in distress” — literally all of the female recruitable characters except for Faye (who is even an optional recruit for Alm’s side) could be recruited after being rescued. Saving people is a fine motivation and all, but a little variety regarding who was saved or how the ladies were recruited would have been nice.
Celica’s route involves… mostly pirates, to be honest. Her path is about traveling to Mila’s temple and, upon finding Mila missing, searching for the goddess, pitting her against Duma’s most faithful follower Jedah. About half of her battles in the second act of the game took place on boats, which got monotonous for me quickly. The speed of the characters and their limited movement on boat maps were tedious unless I had the Pegasus sisters on my side. While her story and characters were more engaging to me than Alm’s was, there was in the second half of the story that bothered me about Celica’s character — she didn’t communicate as well as she could have with her closest allies. In order to move the plot forward, she needed to keep a secret, and it’s a common enough trope that just annoys the hell out of me. These people are putting their lives on the line for you, Celica, you owe it to them to tell them everything that’s going on!
All in all, the story was okay. The plot twists were simple enough to figure out long before the game revealed them, but it was still on par for a Fire Emblem game. I had fun creating strategies for the myriad of battle maps and raising my little army, which is what Fire Emblem games are all about.
Like other Fire Emblem games, Shadows of Valentia has a decent replay value if one considers the different combinations one can use to create an army. However, in Shadows of Valentia, every recruited character is used in battle until the last dungeon where the player must pick nine additional members to go with Alm or Celica, depending on which side you are playing. Generally you pick and choose which members of your army joins you in a every battle in Fire Emblem games, giving them more replay value than Shadows of Valentia.
In addition to that, there are more varieties to character classes in previous Fire Emblem games than Shadows of Valentia had. In the beginning of Shadows of Valentia, players are able to choose a handful of classes for the few villager characters that join Alm’s side, allowing players to switch up what their beginning army will be like, but other than that, most classes are static and, depending on who you recruit, one side can get all swordsmen while the other is full of mages. Each presents their own challenges, of course, but I would look forward to replaying Shadows of Valentia more if I was given the chance to really choose my army with the classes and characters for each battle.
Of course, there’s plenty of DLC for the game as well, pricing at about $45 dollars for it all, which is more than the game is going for now on Amazon.
In my opinion, though, there are other Fire Emblem games that I will replay again before Shadows of Valentia.
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia gets…
3 out of 5 lives.
Have you played this game? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!