Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 05/23/05 | Genre: Strategy RPG
Back when Nintendo was the dominate player in the game industry, several big name Role Playing Games were not released in the US market. Did you know that the NES missed out on two Final Fantasy titles? The biggest crime was when the SNES was not given several big titles. Two of these titles were Fire Emblem and Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones. We covered Nintendo's re-release of Fire Emblem shortly after it came out and awarded it a high score. Does the follow-up deserve the same praise?
First off, if you have not yet played the original Fire Emblem, do yourself a favor and go buy a used copy off Ebay or at a local Gamestop. The game is getting harder to find but you should be able to track down a copy. However, even if you can't find a copy of the original Fire Emblem for the GBA, The Sacred Stones does not continue any plot or contain any of the same characters from the original. This makes it ideal for someone new to the series to jump in and start enjoying the awesome strategic gameplay.
Fire Emblem is a Strategy RPG that puts you in an overhead viewpoint. Here players must move their units around, attack enemies, visit towns, buy items at shops, heal others, or strategically place themselves on ground that will provide better defense. Your party normally consists of 12 members but this can vary from mission to mission. No matter how many units you have control of; players will be given a specific mission objective. These objectives can range from securing a specific location, defeating all the enemies, or surviving for several rounds.
Players also have to be careful when moving their units around. Any character that is killed during a mission will be permanently removed from the available units. The only exception to this is that certain key lead characters cannot die or the game will be over. To avoid players potentially cheating, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones auto-saves after every turn. This allows you to turn off the game and not worry about saving it. However, if you turn off the game to avoid your character dying, you will get to watch him die again when you resume the mission. The only way to avoid a character's death is to restart the mission. Sometimes it is extremely difficult to avoid death but the reward of rethinking your strategy outweighs the frustration of starting a mission over. Also, if you do continue on with one or more dead characters, there is the potential to recruit several characters during missions throughout the adventure.
Due to the large number of characters you get in your party, it is difficult to find a place for them when going into an important mission. To resolve the lack of space for your weaker characters, there are several opportunities between missions to fight random battles. While this can be used to level up your stronger characters--thus making the game very easy--I tend to only use these particular missions as an opportunity to raise the experience of weaker characters.
Once a character reaches level 10, they can use an item to change classes. Class changes are important decisions that are much more complicated than in the last title. You have to pick between multiple classes and in order to take full advantage and receive more powerful stats, it is important to wait until reach level 20 before changing classes. Unfortunately there aren't enough items to change the class of all party members. But this provides you with a much higher replay value so you can go through the adventure and choose to change into a different class or upgrade a different unit entirely.
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones is a very long and fun adventure that doesn't quite exceed the past title. However, the original Fire Emblem is one of the top 5 games on the system. I still highly recommend The Sacred Stones and between the two titles you will find roughly 60 hours of strategic RPG goodness in the palm of your hands. And that is only if you play through each title once. There is a reason why more gameplay hours have been logged on both of these Fire Emblem titles than all my PSP and Nintendo DS games combined.
This article appeared in the July 2005 Issue of CVGames. You can view this Issue by clicking here.