@OP: You should try Radiant Dawn or even its prequel Path of Radiance. You might change your mind on what is the best FE. If you like strategy and challenge...
Well I also like freedom and customization so I probably wouldn't change my mind, but we'll see whenever the Switch gets Virtual Console!
Outside of what you said, some things I'd like to see return or change in FE 2018:
- Nice compelling story with a conflict that actually makes sense. Awakening felt too generic, and Fates was convoluted and filled with plot holes. Echoes was probably the first time I cared about the conflict in a Fire Emblem since Radiant Dawn. For a game series with war as the focus...this is kind of a problem!
- My Unit/Tactician as an observer character, not a key story character. Robin was pushing this a bit already, but Corrin had no idea what he/she wanted to be. Having an avatar in a game like Fire Emblem is unnecessary (I'd rather take an established MC any day)...but having an avatar with an established backstory doesn't even make sense, and contradicts the point of having an avatar in the first place. It was like Fates was going after two rabbits and catching neither. Blazing Sword had the best inclusion of an avatar so far...i.e...basically just watching from the sidelines and almost never showing up.
- No more children! I like the romance options, but the additions of kids just makes me cringe, especially when their implementation is as contrived as it was in Fates. If they are brought back, find some good story reason for it, and not just create a random other dimension to fast-bake them into adults. Gosh what sad pointless lives those kids in Fates led. /rant
- Depth of Supports vs. Breadth. I get why Awakening and Fates went with a wider variety of support conversations...but to me, the GBA titles had the best and most compelling supports in the series so far. Hector/Lyndis and Eliwood/Ninian were fantastic, and even changed the outcome of the story in Blazing Sword. It was a disappointment to go from such compelling support conversations to "Oh I'm shy I want to be more outgoing....oops it's hard to not be shy...I guess it's okay to be shy...let's get married." I'd much rather have a few well written pairings than a million trivial ones.
- Ability to auto-promote at level 21. Enough said...I just prefer this over having to wait for Master seals to show up.
- Weapon durability to return. I know this is annoying, but I prefer it over the stat debuff mechanic in Fates. Inventory management adds a certain managerial charm to the game that I enjoyed.
I could probably think of some more things...but this is what's important enough to come to mind right now. For the record, I do enjoy Awakening and Fates...but they both brought about mechanics I really didn't like...and well...I'm very critical of this franchise I love so much. Overall, I'd say Path of Radiance is the gold standard I hold for the franchise, but that's not to say there aren't mechanics out there that could improve it.
I could get behind most of this, especially the avatar not being a focus of the story, but man I love me some kids! Just furthered the customization element, albeit at the cost of story, but eh, I'll take gameplay over story any day!
Not being able to reclass means your character is specialized, rather than being well rounded with reclassing. Therefore, you need to pick your team better and positioning becomes more important. Which character attacks who and in what order is important. Of course, this only really matters on the final few stages or on Lunatic.
Magic has always been really powerful in basically all the FE games, but like I said, having preset accuracy means you can't always hit even on terrain that has no bonuses. Terrain bonuses are a bit too powerful in this game, though :p
I just gave an example of a specialized unit through reclassing, unless you really think Kinshi Knight Laslow with his low stats and low weapon ranks can really handle any situation lel. I mean reclassing doesn't mean you can be multiple classes at once, i.e. if you reclass to an Archer, then you're an Archer with all it's pros and cons. I still say it's the other way around, picking your units is more important when you have options because now it's possible to make not well balanced team comps, rather than the game just giving everything you need for every situation. For instance in Conquest you don't have to get more Archers than the 1 default, but if you don't then some of the later chapters are going to be a lot more difficult.
But Seraphim n Excalibur have 90+ accuracy and Sages get a skill that increases accuracy, so I pretty much always hit. :L
Also, sorry dolphin, but a game being more focused doesn't make it minimalistic. It makes it a better game because you spend more time enjoying the story and coming up with strategies for every map than to grind characters and breed them/class change them to have an OP team that one shots everything. I see you like to one shot units, but that makes the movement and weapon type all you get to think about. It removes alot of tactical elements, especially from the map layouts, wich used to play a critical role, but not anymore.
Ha, semantics. Well there's no denying that Echoes gameplay doesn't have as much depth, I mean cmon there's no weapon triangle. Sure the story will probably end up the best of the 3DS era, but I'm all about gameplay. Also grinding isn't mandatory, it's not even necessary if you want to reclass or get kids. And you misinterpret my meaning, well yes I like 1-shoting as much as the next guy, but I don't like that all of my units can take hits well. It lessens the importance of positioning and field wiping when you have no squishy units to be always mindful of.