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Home > Review Archive > Video Games > Results: Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones

Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
by Dr. Matt J. Carlson
January 08, 2006

Weメve come a long way from rock, scissors, and paper.

Reviewed for GBA.

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Scroll down for our Kid Factor.

GamerDad Seal Of Approval - 10+.  Click to learn more about our review seal. The world of Fire Emblem is back for a second round of role-playing strategic combat. The first title in the series, made by the same folks who brought us the excellent Advance Wars, made a huge splash on the Game Boy Advance by introducing a deep strategy wargame with several layers of role-playing style storylines and character growth. Fire Emblem is back again on the GBA having lost none of its edge and with several improvements to boot!

The game's plot centers on a few main characters trying to regain their recently conquered land. These descendents of royalty gather an entourage as they travel and fight in pitched turn-based battles. What makes this turn-based game unique is the development of the main characters and their entourage over time. Each character gains experience as they fight in battles and gain levels, becoming better over time. Special items allow characters to upgrade into more advanced character classes to become even more powerful. As characters use specific weapon types, they increase their proficiency and become eligible to wield more powerful weapons. The depth of character development is paired with a very detailed combat engine.

At the start of combat, players choose which characters will be participating and then arrange them on the map to start the scenario. Once the fight begins, the player and AI take turns moving all their troops around on the game board and attacking one another. To be the best commander possible, a player will want to take advantage of terrain effects, use combined arms strategy (as in indirect and direct fire characters), and manage character healing. Healing characters is very important as any character that is eliminated in battle will be lost from the entourage for the rest of the game. In addition, there is a weapons and magic triangle, similar to the old fashioned game of rock, scissors, paper. Axe attacks are more effective against lances, which are more effective against swords, which are most effective against axes. Thus, managing which weapon to use in each melee is an important decision. The three types of magic have a similar feature.

Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones is very similar to the original. In this case though, more of the same is a good thing. The main campaign can be played from two different perspectives, adding replay value, and there are several features of the campaign that provide players with more combat opportunities to use in leveling up their characters. In some battles, an arena is available. Moving a character onto an arena space begins a fight with that character and a randomly selected enemy. A bet is placed, and winning the fight nets the player some quick cash as well as experience for the character. Care must be taken with arena battles as losing the battle will eliminate that character from the campaign. Thankfully, with a bit of skill players can back out of a losing arena fight. There are also two sources of randomly generated fights. Random monster encounters occur on the world map and can be fought for experience and treasure, as well as a special tower battle area. The tower battle area is a map with many hallways and rooms that can be fought through again and again to let weaker characters slowly increase in power. This is a great feature to help players upgrade weaker members of the entourage that don't join up until later in the game.

Other improvements include a nicer interaction with the shops, necessary to replenish weapons and items that are consumed over time, and a more robust character class advancement tree. While there aren't too many more advanced classes than in the previous game, most basic character classes have a choice to make when they advance. This is a nice strategic decision allowing players to specialize in abilities they prefer to use. In The Sacred Stones, I found several of the weaker classes to be a bit hardier than in the previous game. As a vanquished character never returns to the party, being able to take a few more lumps before falling is an important feature. This might be a result of an increased familiarity with the game's combat style, but it also arises out of the additional training opportunities provided by the Tower and optional random monster encounters.

Anyone wanting a second helping of Fire Emblem-style RPG/Strategy hybrid gaming will find plenty in this title to keep them satisfied. With an involved storyline, and a rich combat engine, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones proves once again that Intelligent Systems lives up to their name.

Click to learn more about GamerDad's Kid Factor review section. This is a combat-based game, but has no graphical representation of the violence. When characters are defeated in combat; they pay their respects in a vague way so it isn't clear if they're carted off to the back lines or actually perishing. The involved plotline may be a bit much for weaker readers, but can usually be skipped over without any real loss.

The combat model has many complexities to think about if a player wants to perform at peak efficiency, but the beginning game mode is easy enough to defeat with cautious play even without perfect strategy. The story line itself has some rough edges that tend to be more implied than clearly laid out. Things like cities being sacked and veiled threats to other characters occur, but will probably go over the heads of anyone who might be more easily upset by them.

This review edited by Dave Long

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ESRB rating:
E - Everyone

Fantasy Violence


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