By Josh Speer / May 30th, 2017
As far as how combat plays out, it’s pretty much unchanged. You will have a skirmish once you encounter an enemy on the map, where sometimes enemy generals will throw minions at you if you tarry too long getting to the next story mission. During combat, you can pull up a grid showing enemy movement range, and you individually control your units and end your turn. Terrain effects were especially useful, boosting your evasion greatly, unless you’re facing a spellcaster, since magic ignores terrain. The one curiosity I found is that I couldn’t bring up a mini map showing my unit/enemy position on the field, though you can bring up an image showing a tally mark of how many units remain on each team. While that was a definite oversight, it was a relatively minor one. I could still jump between units using the shoulder buttons, and the grid always made certain I knew the danger zones. I had no problem with that, though I was a little disappointed by the lack of diversity compared to FE Fates: Conquest. Each mission objective in Echoes is the same, either rout all enemies or beat the commander. I would have enjoyed surviving for a set amount of turns or any other objectives. Not a deal breaker, but unfortunate all the same.
Some of you may worry that combat is easier or less challenging, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. While your objectives never vary, the game pits you against very challenging foes and brutal maps where you’re outnumbered two to one. There are also a couple new enemy units that will keep you on your toes—Witches and Cantors. The Witches in Echoes are mages who sold their immortal souls to the dark god Duma, and were rewarded with terrible power. One manifestation of that pact is they can teleport. Any map with Witches is always harrowing, since they will often port right next to the weakest unit and try and wipe them out. Pray you never have units with low RES on those maps, as they will be targeted and taken out with ease. That sounds bad, but Witches are nothing compared to Cantors. These are also magical units, but they aren’t as aggressive as Witches. See, Cantors don’t attack you directly, but summon hordes of monsters to do it for them. Each Cantor summons a specific monster type, ranging from Bonewalkers to Gargoyles to even shambling Necrodragons. Their only downside is they have to wait a turn after summoning them, and that if you kill the Cantor, all their creations die with them. You can’t wait for them to die from the HP cost of their magic however, since without fail, every Cantor has a Recovery skill that heals them every turn. I found this unit was the most fun and frustrating challenge I encountered in the game, forcing me to play aggressive and play smart, as you can easily feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of monsters they throw at you. The worst is when Cantors summon Mogalls, giant flying eyeball monsters which can divide into more units on their own. So you can’t say Echoes is easy in the slightest, just that the strategy is different.
On the topic of aesthetic design, I was pleased with Fire Emblem Echoes. The 3D dungeons added a lot to the lore of Valentia, with decrepit ruins and ominous castles. The static portraits are all well drawn for each unit, and their 3D designs are distinct and not overly clunky. While I did encounter minor clipping, such as Faye’s pigtails going through her armor and a cavalier suddenly floating in mid air after defeating a foe once, these were few and far between. The art in Echoes is comparable to Awakening or Fates, but the one area it shines brighter is the enemy design. There are so many wonderfully designed Terrors in this game, and they all look incredibly menacing. Ranging from shambling, head biting zombies with weapons protruding from their skulls, to winged gargoyles wielding scythes, to unholy, Cthulhu like monstrosities, the enemy design is fantastic. Though I preferred the monsters, the Duma Faithful are also noteworthy, as each of these sinister mages looked wonderfully diabolical. As far as the sound design, the game doesn’t disappoint, and it may actually outdo recent entries. While I was fine with the localization in both Awakening and Fates, the localization in Echoes is utterly outstanding. Every character has great voice acting, without exception. From Clair’s adorable condescension to Python’s lackadaisical attitude, every character is a joy to meet. Besides great voice acting in conversations, your team also boisterously congratulates each other or warns you of impending danger while you battle, which was an especially nice touch. The music was also great—from the March to Deliverance to Berkut’s theme, every tune gets you pumped and deftly sets the mood.
All in all, I quite enjoyed how Echoes brought Fire Emblem back to its roots. While I have enjoyed recent forays in the series, this felt more like the Fire Emblem I grew up playing. For $39.99, you get a ton of content, and that’s not even taking into account the DLC, which I didn’t sample in order to keep my experience more pristine. There’s a lot of replay value as well, with optional quests aplenty and many hidden memory prisms which unlock more lore. It’s also a long adventure, as my final playtime with the game was just short of 40 hours, longer individually than either Awakening or Fates. While not everyone will appreciate the hardcore emphasis of the game, I feel it’s a great sendoff for the Nintendo 3DS, which has done so much for the series. Now I just have to patiently await the next great adventure in Intelligent System’s fantastic tactical RPG saga.
Review Copy Purchased by Author
Pages: 1 2AlmCelicafire emblem echoesIntelligent SystemsNintendo 3DSShadows of ValentiaTactical RPG