This, ladies and gentlemen, is how a proper remake is done. This right here. I've played a lot of games in my time, and I've played my fair share of remakes and reboots, and not once have I ever seen a game remake turn out as perfect as this one. I'm going on record here - Fire Emblem Echoes is a perfect remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden in virtually every way.
If you're familiar with Fire Emblem Gaiden or have read my review of that game, then you should be familiar enough with the story, but I'll sum it up quickly anyway. Alm grew up in the tiny Ram Village with his grandfather, Mycen, and, for a time, a childhood friend named Celica. He was shooting some B-ball out in the woods when a couple of knights who were up to no good started making trouble in his village. He and his friends got into one little fight, and his gramps got scared and said "Celica's moving in with some priestesses on this remote island in the middle of nowhere for reason I can't tell you because plot device." I won't go into more detail than that so as not to spoil anything, but I will say that the complaints I had about the story in Gaiden have been COMPLETELY fixed in Echoes. The story is told in a much more organic manner with significantly more character development, resulting in a game that tells the same story but in a way that had me hooked and invested immediately as opposed to mildly interested but mostly apathetic at the end as was the case with Gaiden.
When I said that Echoes was the perfect remake of Gaiden, I meant it. This isn't a reboot style game like Tomb Raider (not that Fire Emblem needs rebooting) or a reimagining like the recent Ratchet and Clank but a true remake. Almost everything was kept intact. The world maps looks exactly the same, each battle map is virtually identical to its Famicom counterpart, and the game's major turning point battles still play out the same way. Also like the original game is the lack of weapon triangle, class up "trees" that can be triggered (or not) whenever you want after reaching a certain level rather than a single upgrade done either at level 21 or with the use of an item, and relatively non-linear gameplay on the world map with side missions and the ability to go back and forth as you please. There were only two big changes, both of them positive in my opinion - dungeons have been fleshed out to be more than two screens before the end (they're entire legit dungeons now), and the last dungeon has completely redone. That latter point is extremely significant in my opinion because, while interesting, the last dungeon in the original Gaiden is so frustrating difficult that it stopped being fun and was just irksome.
Another addition that I absolutely loved is the weapon customization. You gather silver and gold coins throughout the game, and these can be used at blacksmiths to upgrade your weapons. You also have the option of naming your weapon. At first I did my usual thing of giving them obscene and offensive names, then I went to offensive and occult names in Latin, and then I ran out of ideas and just started naming weapons after students. I mean, I had like 30 of them; my creativity only goes so far. While it can be a pain to try to collect enough money (even if you take the bitch way out like I did and use the "farm money" DLC), it's definitely worth it in the long run because not only can you (eventually) upgrade a shitty weapon type all the way up to a badass one, but upgrading a weapon within its type (steel, silver, etc) dramatically boosts its stats. We're talking a jump of attack power 3 to attack power 8.
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is an exemplar for what a remake should be. They keep almost everything from the original game, modernize the look and feel, and add a few neat extras here and there, but they do all of this in such a way that it still feels like the same game you played on Famicom. There is some post game stuff one can do after finishing Act 5, but I'm still poking around through that, so I won't speak on it too much except to say that you can revisit DLC or random Terror battles as much as you want. I'm not quite prepared to say that Echoes is the best Fire Emblem of the entire series - that title still goes to Awakening for me, I think - but it's DAMN good. If you're a fan of SRPGs at all, you owe it to yourself to pick up Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. It's truly a masterpiece.
My Rating - 5 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.