Shadows of Valentia is a faithful remake

Fire Emblem Gaiden is the black sheep of Fire emblem franchise; it used gameplay mechanics that were never seen in later games and ignored many other lore in the series. Instead of making it similar to other games, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia chooses to be true to the original by keeping almost all of the gameplay the same and only adding various quality of life updates. The biggest changes were in the graphics, art, and story, as Intelligent Systems wanted the game to fit a bit more into the rest of the series.

A renewed Valentina

Shadows of Valentina has the same basic plot as the original Gaiden. The story follows childhood friends Alm and Celica, who both separately go into war in the realms of Rigel and Zofia. With the story of Gaiden, a prologue is included to develop Alm and Celica’s relationship with a sixth chapter that features Grima from Fire Emblem Awakening. Additional aspects of the story are present, such as Celica’s story and Berkut’s storyline. Both include new characters; the masked knight Conrad and of course Berkut, the nephew of the Emperor of Rigel. Along with them two, a few other characters are new; Faye, Alm’s friend, Fernand, a former member of Deliverance, and Rinea, Berkut’s fiancée. Besides Faye, most of the new characters play an important role in the newly expanded plot.

The existing characters of Gaiden received fully revised designs courtesy of artist and illustrator Hidari. In addition, they are also given more personality than they ever had in Gaiden. This is through the use of new support conversations that were absent from the original game. Some units that aren’t very important to the main storyline, like Leon, are highlighted in mediums that describe their personalities. In Gaiden, many playable characters didn’t have a lot of screen time, so sometimes the only line describing them was their death quote. Shadows of Valentina rectifies this by ensuring that every playable character has time to shine. Of course, it’s also worth noting that every character is fully voiced, compared to the lack of voices in Gaiden.

Despite Gaiden lacking traditional supports, it was actually the first game to offer a support bonus. Alm and Celica may not have bonded through a support conversation, but they had a 100% critical rate when placed near each other. Oddly enough, this was one of the few gameplay elements from the original that got changed when switching to 3DS in Shadows of Valentina. In the remake, they still have an increased critical rate when they’re together, but it’s only one-fifth of its original capacity.

Artwork by Shadows of Valentia, depicting Alm holding a blade.

Nostalgic gameplay

Aside from the completely nerfed Alm and Celica’s critical rating, there aren’t many other gameplay changes in the remake. Despite Gaiden being so different from the rest of the series, Shadows of Valentina retains all of its unique mechanics that other modern Fire Emblem entries lack. Exploration is a vital part of both games, whether on the world map, in a dungeon, or in a city. In Shadows of Valentina, exploration is greatly improved thanks to its 3D graphics in dungeons and beautiful illustrations in cities. Another location that can be explored to a lesser extent is shrines where units can be promoted to new classes. It is also a unique characteristic that has its origin in Gaiden which has been preserved to preserve the feeling of the Famicom game.

Two other unique Gaiden gameplay features that have remained in Shadows of Valentina are the absence of a weapon triangle and spells using HP. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light didn’t include a weapon triangle, but its later remakes did. Shadows of Valentina is the only remake to omit the weapon triangle because it even goes so far as to slice up axes. Tomes are another type of weapon that is missing. Magic is still used throughout the game, but tomes have been excluded entirely. Rather than relying on tomes for spells, magical units draw their power from their own health point meter.

While there weren’t many changes to the gameplay, there were two features included to make the game easier; casual fashion and Mila’s Turnwheel. As Fire Emblem Awakening, Occasional mode prevents units from dying in combat and causes them to retreat instead when eliminated. This mode allows players not to lose their best fighters, unlike the classic mode where they are permanently killed. Related to this, Mila’s wheel is an item that can rewind the battle as far as the player wants, negating any unlucky attacks or deaths they may have encountered. It is especially useful for those who play in classic mode, as players can retrace their steps to create a perfect series of turns.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is nostalgic for the players of Gaiden, being almost exactly the same as the classic game but with a few modern touches. It keeps all the most important parts of Gaiden, and all the new gameplay and story is just here to improve the basics that Gaiden posed rather than changing it. The improvements make the game accessible to new players, but also to Fire emblem veterans who appreciate the nostalgia of the Famicom game.

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