Ask someone about the Fire Emblem series, up until a few years ago, the series was considered niche – there was a handful of games in the series we never saw here in the west. Now, in 2017, Fire Emblem is a Nintendo staple for the Japanese developer, with games on multiple systems.
What makes these games so good, though? The tactics behind a battle, or is it the story? Fire Emblem provides both, and the reimagining of Fire Emblem Gaiden enhances the original narrative while adding design choices that enhance the experience, allowing for an adequate experience on the Nintendo 3DS. What we get in the final product, is a satisfying, complete experience that the series is known for.
Shadows of Valentia follows Alm and Celica, who live on Valentia, a war-torn continent to the west of Archanea, where the first Fire Emblem takes place. Our two heroes bear special marks, which naturally, puts them at the center of our story. The brutality of war sends Alm and Celica to opposite sides of the war, with their own armies and ideologies. Alm is roguish, while Celica is playing by the rules.
A first for the series, there is full voice acting here, and with beautiful cutscenes told through animated movies, it’s clear Nintendo put the effort into remaking this game. Granted, some cutscenes include lengthy dialogue, it’s some of the best scenes the franchise has ever seen, with some mighty fine artwork, too.
The attention to localizing Shadows of Valentia is noticed, there radiates love for the source material here with each character feeling different, and while my experience with Fire Emblem is only a few titles to date – I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the drama as it unfolded in a fantastic political thriller.
Being a tactical RPG, a lot of your time is spent, in battle, where the action takes place on grids. There is also an incessant need to include difficulty spikes, also, being an older title in the series leaves slack for the player because the systems aren’t as deep as newer games. Coming back to the difficulty, there were many times during my playthrough I’d be ready to slam my 3DS onto the floor and step on it. What draws fans in though is being able to create and execute battle tactics that floor your enemies. Readily sacrificing units to take the brunt of magic from Cantors to flanking and funneling enemies into defeat brings a sense of accomplishment that is hard to find these days in a video game.
Intelligence Systems knows that players like myself aren’t exactly veterans of the series, which is why the developers included a feature called Mila’s Turnwheel, which allows you to rewind time to the preceding turn if you mess up. The catch is it is a limited feature with only one use per battle and is entirely optional if you so choose to not use it.
A good portion of time is spent exploring towns and dungeons with an overworld to explore, although you must follow paths, and, unfortunately, dungeons are uninspired but worth visiting to get new items and gear for your characters. A neat feature is exploring dungeons in third-person which helps when trying to strike your enemies first for pre-emptive action.
Within dungeons you’ll find statues to pray to that allow for class changes for your party, each statue grants new classes, effectively allowing you to forego needing to expend time and coin for the items needed for classes.
Towns add in great ways to interact with your party and develop their character in an otherwise never ending cycle of battles and exploring. Available are locations like taverns, blacksmiths, and resident homes each offering value in some way.
Benefiting from being an older entry in the Fire Emblem series, where the combat has fewer things to worry about, it’s hard not to love Shadows of Valencia, add in a fantastic roster of fully-voiced characters with beautiful cutscenes, it’s fresh and exciting to be a Fire Emblem fan once again.