A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is a tactical role-playing game (RPG) with fantasy violence. Characters attack each other with medieval weapons and magic. Noninteractive animated sequences during battle show the impact of each strike, and a story sequence shows the apparent death of a key character. It's all animated, with no gore and little blood, but some scenes can be emotional if the player becomes attached to a character. Combat rewards thoughtful and cautious decision-making; one wrong move on the battlefield can result in favorite characters dying permanently. Parents should also know that some female characters dress in suggestive clothing and that wine and beer are used as restorative agents in combat. Mild profanity appears infrequently throughout the story and includes "hell" and "damn."
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What's it about?
Based on the 1992 game Fire Emblem Gaiden, which was only released in Japan, FIRE EMBLEM ECHOES: SHADOWS OF VALENTIA completely reimagines its inspiration by anime cut scenes and a more modern take on turn-based tactical combat. It follows both sides of a continent-spanning war between nations that had lived peacefully beside each other for a millennium. As in most Fire Emblem games, players slowly amass a large group of individual heroes, all with their own classes, gear, and abilities. This is the pool from which characters are drawn to create custom war parties used in chess-like turn-based battles carried out on gridded environments. These encounters take place as players move along a linear world map to progress in the story. Most of this should sound pretty familiar to franchise fans, but Shadows of Valentia also introduces something completely new to the Fire Emblem experience: 3D dungeons that players can explore from a third-person perspective to search for treasure and take on special enemies over the course of their journey.
Is it any good?
If your only experience with this series is the free-to-play Fire Emblem Heroes mobile app, you're in for a deeper, more satisfying game. Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia delivers a rich tactical role-playing game experience, with battles featuring a dozen or more characters waging war on big maps that provide a range of sophisticated tactical options based on terrain, unit abilities, and gear. The concept of "permadeath" -- one of the series' signature features, although it's missing from the app -- only enhances the story, putting extra weight on the emotional connections players make with individual members of their unlikely bands of warriors. Permadeath can be switched off, but doing so vastly lessens the stakes and tension of each battle and comes with an equal reduction in the satisfaction derived from victory.
Shadows of Valentia isn't only about rehashing familiar mechanics. It also introduces new elements, such as 3D dungeons that you can explore from an over-the-shoulder view like any action game. These sequences deliver an enhanced sense of control and immersion within the world and can result in valuable treasure finds and more challenging enemy encounters. Not all the additions are as welcome, though. A new fatigue system, for example, makes it harder to keep your favorite fighters at combat-ready strength. These games are hard enough as it is, and fatigue just seems like an unnecessary burden. But the overall experience remains absolutely compelling. There are good reasons why Fire Emblem has sat among the cream of the tactical RPG crop for decades, and you'll find pretty much all of them on display in Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about technology addiction. It's easy for kids to become obsessed with lengthy portable games such as Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, but do you know how to set limits on games that you can take with you wherever you go?
Talk about the notion of "permadeath" in games. In most games, when a character dies, he or she simply respawns, but not in Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. So how does the possibility of a character dying forever affect how you play? How does it affect your emotional bond with the character through the game?
- Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
- Price: $39.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Nintendo of America
- Release date: May 19, 2017
- Genre: Strategy
- Topics: Magic and fantasy, Adventures
- ESRB rating: T for Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes
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