Here’s a game I picked up in the middle of last year, and have taken until now to get into. That can’t be good.

Echoes is my third Fire Emblem game. Fire Emblem is a famous series of games for Nintendo systems, around since the NES days. They took their time leaving Japan, and are only now starting to become better known, following games released in English for the 3DS and soon, Switch. They’re tactical RPGs. You have a team of characters that you build up and take into battle. The battles are turn based, and take place on different maps which are covered in a grid of square dictating where characters can move to. The aim is usually to wipe out the opposing army, using the different types of warriors at your disposal. Across the three games I’ve played, the main tactical part remains the same, which I believe is something that goes beyond just the 3DS versions.

If you’ve played a Fire Emblem game before, you’ll be as much at home playing this one as any other. The main game is exactly what you’d expect it to be with little to no changes. This is where the good stuff comes to an end.

If all Fire Emblem games are basically the same game, why are there so many of them? What changes? Well, what changes is everything surrounding the main game. In Fire Emblem Birthright, you had to build a castle in between battles. It involved saving money to buy different types of buildings, and forming relationships with different characters, which sometimes involved some extremely creepy behaviour. You may well have heard me talk about having to blow on the 3DS to cool down your imaginary girlfriend after she’s too hot following her bath. I didn’t like that, but I put up with it.

Fire Emblem Echoes doesn’t have blowing on over heated girls, but it does have something that is doing its best to ruin the game. Let me introduce you to cave exploration.

So as you move your army around the over world map, you occasionally encounter shrines and caves that you need to go explore. For this the game moves into a 3D third person view, and you run around in a cave. Simple as that. Sometimes you encounter piles of boxes or barrels, and you smash those in to possibly find something like food or money. This is the most infuriating part. There’s so much to smash, and so very little that you get out of it. Never the less, because you do get something, you have to take your time and smash all the boxes. It’s possible to spend more time smashing boxes than playing the main game. To make it worse, there’s a basic set of sound effects that go with the process and they never change. They just repeat over and over as you smash through more boxes. If there are other people around, you need to turn off the sound on your 3DS. From time to time you’ll come across enemies to do battle with. If you see them first and manage to hit them, they’ll start the battle with damage. If they make the first hit, you start the battle with damage. In the caves your characters get tired the longer you’re in there. Eventually they all start battles with damage and lower stats. There’s no avoiding this. It’s how you level up and collect more items for your inventory.

The whole shrine experience is really really bad. It’s easy to get lost, and there’s usually no logic to the layout of the caves. I would go so far as to say that the shrine exploring has ruined this game for me. Sadly it’s not the only problem.

While all the shrine exploring is boring and laborious, it didn’t compare to the spanner in the works that is managing two teams of people. Usually in these games you control one team of characters. You get to know their abilities and how best to use them. However in this game, as soon as you’re starting to get to grips with your team, the game lifts you out of everything and makes you start building up a second team. It’s like being forced to start the game again after a couple of hours of playing. That’s the element that had me taking so long to play this game. It’s infuriating. You get settled in to what you’re doing and the game pulls you right out of it. That’s before the problems it gives you when battling. You now have twice as many characters to keep track of so you’ll often throw somebody into a fight thinking they’ve got abilities they don’t have. You might have an archer on one team with a special skill, forget which team that archer is on, and end up leaving a weaker character in a dangerous situation.

Add all this stuff together and you end up with my least favourite Fire Emblem game. Actually, I’ll go as far as to say I don’t like it. If I hadn’t payed £34.99 for it, I’m not sure I’d be taking the time to play it at all. If you’re a Fire Emblem fan it might be worth picking this one up if you can find it cheap and you’re aware that it’s far from the best. If you’re not already a fan, this isn’t the game that’s going to turn you into one. Try Fire Emblem Fates instead.