After a bit of meandering, my gaming instinct's verdict is now clear: I'm done with FEE for the time being. I might have forged on if Berkut were the final boss; but given that he's not and that there's still another — short, but still — whole act after him, I'm throwing in the towel. When I play FEE again (because indeed, I'll definitely replay that hidden gem of a game), I'll make sure to grind early on; and since I know now what to expect, that second run will undoubtedly be much more streamlined and satisfying.
Not that my first run wasn't satisfying already, mind you; in fact, I daresay that Echoes is my favourite FE entry so far. Apart from all the goodness I mentioned in my first post, I'm extremely fond of a number of playthrough-altering features. Those include the absence of offspring units, which is a blessing in disguise as far as I'm concerned because it spares me the cumbersome task of playing matchmaker on the battlefield. They also include the wonderful possibility to play with all units at all times, sparing me the heartbreak of ditching some promising characters along the way — and the hassle of replaying the game just to cruise with them. And how could I not mention the deeply and wonderfully strategic battles, which forced me to get out of my comfort 'charging like a bull' zone and rack my brain in earnest to make it out alive?
On the 'room for improvement' side, I would have liked an exhaustive quest log to save me from all the blind backtracking I had to endure to fulfill sidequests, as well as the possibility to hold more than one item per unit. More subtle and developed storytelling would also have been a must, especially during segments such as (SPOILERS!) Alm's and Celica's conflictual second parting, which loses all its emotional impact because of how shockingly rushed it is, or Alm's discovery of his lineage, which is digested way too fast and smoothly. (END of SPOILERS) Well, at least I cannot complain about cutscenes overstaying their welcome, now can I?
Of course, a FE wrap-up post wouldn't be complete without a list of my favourite units. I'll keep the finer details for my next run reports; for the time being, suffice it to say that Alm, Celica, Lukas, Clair, Python, Mathilda, Clive, Tatiana, Zeke, Leon and Sonya were absolute little darlings of mine for reasons both futile and profound, ranging from their looks to their battle prowess.
FEE contains little romance, and certainly no active wooing the player can perform; however, that didn't prevent me from indulging in a darling little FE habit of mine, i.e. spotting a couple with potential and rooting for them. And so, my own Best Couple Award for Echoes goes to Tatiana and Zeke, a pair that's both sweetly endearing and hot as heck. We'll see if Celica and Alm, another couple I really fancy, end up stealing the top spot once I'm done with the story. I also kinda ship Clair and Lukas, despite them not being a canon pairing; and Mathilda and Clive manage the tour de force to be classy and hilarious at once, which earns them an honourable mention in my FEE couple ranking.
Long story short: I love that game, I'll certainly replay it again, and I'll finish is while I'm at it. For now, new gaming shores are beckoning — or maybe not so new indeed, if I obey my gaming instinct that currently presses me to play Three Houses. See ya soon with more gaming goodness, dear fellow gamers!