The anticipation is building as we got to see more of the Gaiden remastering!
It has been a month since I first saw Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. Within that time frame, Nintendo has released more trailers and information on the title, as well as a chance to see more of the final game. Not only have I seen more of Alm's side of the story, but I also got my first quality time with Celica and her crew, and both crews have left me desperate for more Fire Emblem Echoes goes for that classic feel, despite the advancements made in recent games. This preview will expand on the things I've seen previously, so if you haven't read the original preview, I suggest checking it here!
While previous Fire Emblems built up a world and its characters quickly, Echoes takes its sweet time. The characters have in-depth discussions about their relationships with each other, how they will support the ideals presented and what their current plans are. This game is a lot more talky than previous entries and I don't mind it a bit. It is actually intriguing to get to know these characters, even if they aren’t the focus of the story. From local town folk to heavyweight generals, all have their own stories to tell. The way they reflect upon Alm and Celica is simply intriguing to listen to and I constantly just left it on auto-play.
You might be asking yourself why I would put it on auto-play. The main reason is that this is the first Fire Emblem game that is fully voiced. From the moment you realize this, it is sort of a shock to the senses. Previous entries only voiced a line here or there and forced you to read most of the way through. With rare exceptions, you will find that a character has been given a voice in the story. Even better is that the voices sound great as well. They haven't cut corners and it is what I imagined the major characters would have sounded like. Alm, Celica, Mycen and Nomah have me particularly impressed with their excellent casting choices.
During this newly preview time, I got to see the first two chapters of the game. In the first one, you follow Alm and his hometown friends as they become members of the Deliverance. They want to bring justice to the kingdom of Zofia and destroy the hordes of bandits on their way there. It is here that you are introduced to the battle mechanics, the dungeons and some of the other stuff I've mentioned before. While the gamegives you control quickly, it has some excellent guides to bring you up to speed with the finer details. It made me quickly realize once more how different the battle system actually is. There is less focus on traditional systems, instead basing it on having the right person for the job.
One thing that I couldn't see previously was the sheer density of various locales. Gaiden may be considered dated, but Echoes does a great job of modernizing it. When you are heading into dungeons or towns, there are plenty of reasons to explore. You will talk to NPCs that are present or look through the environments to snag up some secret goodies. That aspect is actually more critical than you might think. Certain weapons can only be found this way, like a lightning sword that randomly hanging against a table. Other weapons are given to you when you defeat very strong enemies in battle, so be on the lookout for those as well. The weapons and armor also become stronger the longer they’re equipped.
Talking about the dungeons, there is one thing that I couldn't discuss previously about the Mila statues. The villagers start out weak, but it’s important to make sure they gain experience. Once they have a certain level, you have the freedom to assign them a character class. Men like Gray, Tobin, and Cliff can become a Cavalier, Soldier, Mercenary, Archer or Mage. On the flipside, females like Faye can be transformed into a Pegasus Knight, Cleric, Mage and Cavalier. Certain classes, regardless if they are a villager or named party member can be upgraded further once certain level thresholds are reached. I noticed that it would happen with some as early as level seven which caused me to grind to see what would become available.
If you’re looking for three strong classes, the best ones to go for are Mage, Archer and Pegasus Knight. Mage gives unique offensive capabilities, while Archers already have amazing range that only gets longer as the level up. Pegasus Knights are great for handling movement as they can go over walls and almost act like theives with their ability to open locked doors and backdoor you into treasure. There’s more classes and you’ll end up with a lot of variety anyway, but those classes are the big ones. Still, Echoes does offer enough variance in maps that you can run your choice of classes.
Another important factor is that both characters have different squads. You will find that out the hard way when you switch to Celica and only start with a couple of Mages and a Cleric. It seems like this new team is in for a difficult trek but she’ll get allies quickly. Celica is on a mission to find out why the god Mila has disappeared. Doma and Mila were supposed to hold the balance in Valentia, but everything fell apart when the war started. Both warring kingdoms are in a state of disarray and both main characters have their seperate ways to resolve it. Alm wants to take down the Rigel Empire, while Celica tries to find a peaceful solution befitting her priestress background. The journey will see interesting trials and tribulations for both. The road for Celica to the castle will be a harsh one, but she can feel that Alm is waiting. What will happen once they reunite?
One more important factor is amiibo. If you pick up the Alm or Celica amiibo on day one, a lot more options open up. For starters, you will have access to Mila's or Duma's Ordeal dungeons, which will allow you to have a free battle against a bunch of enemies. It is good to farm experience and items out of it. In my first round, I got a bunch of really good swords and spears that made everyone on my team slightly stronger. If that isn't enough, you can also summon an illusory warrior that was made from the same statistics that you have right now. Other Fire Emblem amiibo can be used in similar fashion to summon otherwordly illusory warriors. Just be aware that Alm and Celica data will be saved to their respective amiibo. If you happen to have an endgame version of those characters, you can potentially let a friend use it for an edge in battle.
I praised the presentation previously, but I’ve noticed something else worthy of praise this time . The character animations in battle scenes used to be a little stiff. Intelligent System has seen to correct this grave error in Fire Emblem Echoes and make everything way more animated. Your units and the opponents will more freely in every direction to block any incoming attack. The attacks themselves are more spectacular as well with them running up to the opponent and taking the battle up close. Just seeing it all come together in motion brings a big grin to my face. I love it SO much.
As we learn more about Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, my excitement grows. The story aspects seem absolutely fantastic and have bigger production values than the previous two Nintendo 3DS entries. The voice acting, witty dialogue, and characters allow the story to shine. And the game is fun enough to back it up. I found myself deeply involved with the stuff I mentioned in the previous article plus the class system, which is filled with more surprises than it has any right to have. So yes, I'm feeling real good right about now.