In 2017, my family drove down to Florida to visit Grandma, as we did every year at the time. On the way, we stopped in Savannah, Georgia, where we planned to stay two days and see the sights.
Once enough sights had been seen for the first day, we returned to the hotel, where my siblings and I shared a room. We Mario Partied and Karted through most of the night, but there came a point where we were all just sort of lazing around. I went over to my youngest brother to see what he was doing, and he gladly took his headphones off and told me all about Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia — how it was a remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden, and how its dungeon-crawling sections might appeal to my gaming tastes.
As a long-time Super Smash Bros. player, I was well aware of Fire Emblem; I’d been maining Ike (alongside Link) since Brawl. I’d never dipped my toes into the franchise, however, as I wasn’t big on turn-based games. Still… my brother was persuasive (especially when it came to the aforementioned dungeon crawling). I told him I’d consider it.
Later that same year, he introduced me to Persona 5, and my ambivalence for turn-based games transformed into something akin to love. It wasn’t long before I picked up Shadows of Valentia. It’s now one of my favorite games.
That being said, I wouldn’t call Fire Emblem a top 5 favorite video game franchise of mine (or even top 10). There are, however, some gems I think would benefit from an Echoes-style makeover. The series has seen its fair share of remakes already, but Shadows of Valentia feels like a whole new game compared to Gaiden thanks to its gorgeous visual overhaul, its spectacularly re-scored soundtrack, and its endearing voice acting. Why not extend that courtesy to a few other Fire Emblem entries?
The Binding Blade
The Binding Blade famously heralded Fire Emblem’s transition to handheld consoles… but was infamously never released outside of Japan. To this day, franchise fans across the globe clamor for an official translation. Nintendo localized Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light in 2021, so hope yet remains.
Either way, one reason The Binding Blade could use the Echoes treatment is its protagonist: Roy. It’s a well-known fact that he appeared in Super Smash Bros. Melee before his own game was released. The idea was to promote Fire Emblem, but for Nintendo to then not release The Binding Blade overseas seems like a strange move. Worldwide audiences were instead introduced to the franchise proper via the similarly named The Blazing Blade, often simply referred to as Fire Emblem (it’s confusing, I know).
Three Super Smash Bros. entries later, Roy is one of the most popular characters in the fighting game series, yet only Japanese-speaking players and those who’ve experienced fan translations truly know who Roy is. An Echoes redo of The Binding Blade could easily rectify that, especially since English voice actor Ray Chase does a bang-up job in both Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Fire Emblem Heroes.
Another thing about Roy: as a unit, he kind of sucks in The Binding Blade. His stat growths are pathetic, forcing players to essentially baby him until he promotes and gets access to the titular sword late in the game. It's not that the protagonist has to be the most powerful unit available, but having them be usable should be a no-brainer. Otherwise, it’s unnecessarily difficult to connect with the character both on a gameplay and story level.
Speaking of character and story, one of the main ways Fire Emblem endears us to its characters is through its Support system. Have two characters stand next to one another for several turns, and they’ll eventually unlock both stat boosts and conversations. The Binding Blade’s iteration of this system is notoriously difficult to work with. Nowadays, we can just look up Support conversations we missed on YouTube, but does anyone really want to do that? For my money, it’s better to connect with the characters while you’re actually playing as them, not after.
The Binding Blade isn’t the only GameBoy Advance (GBA) entry that could use an Echoes version…
The Sacred Stones
The Sacred Stones marked Fire Emblem’s third and final foray onto GBA, taking place on a different continent than its two predecessors — and thus introducing a collection of new characters. The gameplay didn’t change much, however, with one crucial exception: the EXP maps.
Outside of the main story missions, players could grind for EXP on several maps featuring waves of enemies. There’s always that one character you like but is kind of unusable because their stats/growths aren’t all that, so this system proves a boon in that way. On the flip side, being able to level up at will can potentially grind the game’s difficulty to a screeching halt.
Either way, Gaiden introduced a similar concept, and Shadows of Valentia improved upon it, so it would fit right into an Echoes rehash of The Sacred Stones. Boosting the difficulty on these sections as well would do much to prevent over-leveling. Probably. Where there’s a will, there’s an exploit.
While Gaiden and Shadows of Valentia essentially tell the same story, the latter’s addition of Support conversations and DLC side stories — as well as a general overhaul of the original’s writing — make it a stronger narrative. The Sacred Stones tells a fine story, but the relationship between sibling protagonists Ephraim and Eirika is… unfortunate, to put it lightly. It’s mostly due to a translation error, but it can be (and often is) easily read the wrong way.
Shadows of Valentia’s translation is one of the best things about it, so if the same team were to work on an Echoes entry for The Sacred Stones, Ephraim and Eirika could be re-contextualized for a modern audience. Second time’s the charm, right?
Path of Radiance
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve mained Ike in Super Smash Bros. since Brawl — which I started playing in the summer of 2008. Thanks to my old turn-based reluctance, however, I didn’t play Path of Radiance (and its sequel, Radiant Dawn) until winter 2019. Count ’em: that’s 11 years, folks.
Now, I go back and forth as to whether I like Path of Radiance or Shadows of Valentia more. They are, without a doubt, the best two Fire Emblem games I’ve played. Were Ike and the Greil Mercenaries to enter the Echoes realm, however? Well, let’s talk about it.
Path of Radiance paved the way for Fire Emblem’s return to home console — specifically, the GameCube. That also meant the franchise’s first 3D models, which… listen, it was 2005, okay? The thing is, the GBA games’ sprites still hold up graphically today, as do their vibrant animations. GameCube renders generally don’t hold up, and Path of Radiance is no exception.
Shadows of Valentia boasts many well-thought-out character redesigns, but its pristine art style sticks with you more than anything. Seeing Ike, Soren, Titania, and all the rest transcend their polygonal forms under similar art direction would be a treat indeed.
There’s also the game’s questionable English voice acting to contend with. It appears in the few decent-looking cutscenes spread throughout the story, and it does nothing to uphold the illusion the narrative otherwise beautifully weaves. Like Roy, Ike has a modern voice actor in Greg Chun, and many other Path of Radiance characters are fully voiced in Fire Emblem Heroes. Deft writing and skillful voice acting went together like wine and cheese in Shadows of Valentia, so… well, you know what I’m going to say by now.
It’s difficult to say whether we will get another Echoes game. Shadows of Valentia sold well, but Three Houses rekindled the fire in Fire Emblem. Honestly, it’s tough to discern what Nintendo’s next step will be for the series. We’re slowly but surely closing in on three years since Three Houses’ release, so it’s reasonable to think we’ll be hearing from them soon.
For now, all we can do is keep playing Roy in Smash, cringing as we read the Ephraim-Eirika Supports, and skipping cutscenes in Path of Radiance.
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