2017 has been filled with amazing games that I’m still working on finishing. As the year’s end nears, the biggest question asked is, “What is your Game Of The Year?” If you ask me, mine is Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia because the game reminded me why I like Fire Emblem in the first place while also being a wonderful remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden. After playing through Fire Emblem Fates, I slowly became disenchanted with the series because I found myself not enjoying the story even though the mechanics were vastly improved from Fire Emblem Awakening. The burn out from Fire Emblem Fates could be due to playing through all 3 routes (Birthright, Conquest, and Revelation), but I found I didn’t care about the characters. But, after playing through Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, I found myself wanting to go back to replay the game to re-experience the story, consequences of going against the suggested route, and meeting the characters I have grown to love again. Overall, I felt the game made me remember why I originally liked Fire Emblem because Shadows of Valentia is a well-executed game with an amazing story delivery.
The story of Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is similar to the previous Fire Emblem stories. There is a somewhat major villain who the protagonist has to confront but in the end, there is ultimately an evil dragon/being the protagonist needs to slay. Due to the title being a remake of the original Fire Emblem Gaiden, there was very little room to change how the plot ends because the story has been pre-established.
But the remake adds a couple of changes to make the game more interesting and the two biggest additions are the prologue, where Alm’s and Celica’s childhood backstory is explored, and chapter 6, where Grima’s creation is explained to connect Awakening to the series. In the prologue, although we get a glimpse of their childhood, we can already see that Alm and Celica care about each other in the short time they knew each other. I feel like this helps explain why they still care about one another as I progressed through the game. Then there is chapter 6 where Grima’s backstory is introduced. I was not expecting chapter 6 to have a difficult dungeon to explore and for Grima’s backstory to be revealed. I thought it was nicely explained where Grima came from and how the Fell Dragon manifested itself in Awakening. Even though the story was a standard Fire Emblem story, I enjoyed how the additions of two chapters enhanced my enjoyment of the game.
In Shadows of Valentia, it is possible to have consequences for not following the suggested route. I liked that if a character is killed or if the player misses recruiting a character, then there is a consequence or a change in the dialogue which makes the game feel slightly realistic. This also enforces the idea that there are consequences to actions that the game tries to spell out. The best example of this is if the player decides to go and fight Jerome first before taking on Nuibaba like the game suggests. If this happens, then the consequence is that Alm misses out on recruiting two valuable units on his side of the story. Tatiana, a valuable healer, is implied to have been killed by Nuibaba, and Zeke, a Gold Knight, is unrecruitable because Alm failed to save Tatiana who is Zeke’s lover. In my opinion, by having consequences of not following the game’s suggestion makes the game more compelling and forces me to critically think what my options are in the game.
Lastly, there are the characters. I thought I wouldn’t enjoy meeting the characters after attempting to play through Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon, but I surprisingly loved them all! It could have been simply having the dialogues fully-voiced, but I can’t truly pick a character I didn’t like. Plus, I enjoyed having the supports being limited between certain units because I think it makes the game a bit more believable that some units would be friends while some wouldn’t.
In Shadows of Valentia, new characters are introduced to enhance the story. My favorite character additions are Berkut and Rinea. I especially liked Berkut because he is Alm’s foil which makes a compelling story to see where the story leads two different yet similar characters. I also think it’s interesting that Rinea and Celica are similar to each other, but I think the two characters are similar to each other so that the player can see that Alm and Berkut are foils of each other. Although both hold their ideals closely, the difference between the two is that Berkut is fiercely proud of his abilities while in parts of the game, Alm is seen questioning his abilities. This sets the two apart from each other and later in the game, the player can see how this difference will lead them both on different paths and creates a compelling interaction between the two characters near the end of the game.
In the end, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is my game of the year because of the compelling chapter additions to the story which enhances the remake, the consequences of one’s actions which creates some setbacks in recruiting units, and the characters. I came into this remake not expecting too much, and after playing the title, I was blown away by how well-executed and enjoyable Shadows of Valentia is and that’s why it is my Game Of The Year.
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