Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones - Review  

Standard Tactics +
by Lucky Melchior

20-40 Hours
+ Very Good Tactical Battle System.
+ Excellent interface and interaction.
+ Game has replay value.
- Little Originality.
- Modest visual & aural presentations.
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   Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones was released in North America in 2005 on the Gameboy Advance. Sacred Stones is the eighth overall Fire Emblem title and the second to cross the pacific, both being on the GBA. While it is the next game in the series Sacred Stones is not a direct sequel to Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken, but rather has a stand-alone storyline.

   Sacred Stones features the same enjoyable tactical gameplay that Fire Emblem is famous for. Once again you control many units that are each one of many different classes, each character can be promoted to an advanced class if you obtain certain items. The battles system is based upon the weapons triangle, swords beat axes, axes beat lances, and lances beat swords. This works similarly for the three magic types with light beating dark, dark beating anima and anima beating light magic. The strategy does not end there however, where your units are placed is very significant. For example if a unit is on a woods panel their evasion rate will increase or a unit on a fortress panel will have increased defense and will recover some H.P. after each round, etc. Also, like in the previous version, once a character dies they are permanently removed from your roster. Quite often you may be forced to restart a chapter because a key ally was killed and you cannot afford to lose them. Overall, Fire Emblem has a very good tactical battle system.

Battles take place on a tactical grid Battles take place on a tactical grid

   The story centers around Prince Ephraim and Princess Eirika of Renais. They are forced to flee their country when it is suddenly attacked by it's neighbor and ally the kingdom of Grado. You control Ephraim and Eirika as they try to regroup and uncover the mystery of why their longtime friend the prince of Grado has turned on them. There are a few twists and turns in the story and a few interesting characters as well, but nothing you have not seen in various RPGs before this one. One big improvement over the previous game is that you are no longer included in the storyline as a tactician. This time the story focuses solely on Prince Ephraim and Princess Eirika and therefore this time important exposition that progressed the storyline is never interrupted by the characters stopping to address you. Overall, the storyline is fairly standard for a tactical RPG and is slightly above average as a whole.

   As with it's predecessor, the game's soundtrack is rather average, at best. While there are no terrible tracks, there are none that really stand out either. Of course the aural capabilities of the gameboy advance does not help things either. The graphical presentation is slightly improved over that of it's predecessor's. The sprites used on the tactical map are again passable, but this time the enemy army has some unique units and therefore each board doesn't becomes a sea of the same units and similarly looking terrain. The battle animations displayed in combat are mostly the same as the original and again are pretty good. Overall, Sacred Stones has acceptable visual and aural presentation, but hardly noteworthy.

    Again as with it's predecessor, Sacred Stone's interaction and interface are one of it's stronger attributes. Once again the game is constantly auto saving, if you want to stop you need just turn off your GBA and then the next time you turn it on you can resume from the exact same point when you turned off your GBA. The menu system is simple and well laid out. It is easy to manage the equipment of all your allies. While Sacred Stones does have replay value this is one area where the game took a tiny step backwards from Fire Emblem. While in Rekka no Ken you gained access to a whole additional quest after completing the game, Sacred Stones does not have any additional quest. However, there are points in the story where you have to make a choice which character to focus on and you could make an alternate choice in an additional play-through. The game is of standard length for a tactical RPG and your initial play-through should take you around 25 - 30 hours to complete. Finally, what this game gains from slight improvements in other areas it loses in originality as it is roughly the same engine as the previous installment.

    Overall Sacred Stones is a good solid tactical RPG. It has a very enjoyable tactical battle system with excellent interaction and interface. The aural and visual presentation is a modest, but in no way hampers the overall experience. I recommend this game to fans of TRPGs who have never played the series before. However, gamers who have played the previous game may get a sense of been there done that before, but it still warrants a play-through.

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