(Game Boy Advance)

Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (Game Boy Advance)

Game Review

Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones Review

USA USA Version

Posted by James Newton

Once more, to arms!

For such a long-running series, it's hard to believe Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones was only the second game to leave Japan after GBA predecessor Fire Emblem. Since then the series has had a far bigger presence in the West, a fact underlined by Sacred Stones' status as a 3DS Ambassador title.

If Sacred Stones is your first Fire Emblem title, not to worry: its story isn't connected to previous entries. Set in the continent of Magvel, it follows royal siblings Ephraim and Eirika and the outbreak of an unlikely war with a long-standing ally, coinciding with the appearance of monsters. Told through stacks of well-written (if occasionally stuffy) dialogue, its militaristic concerns dovetail with themes of loyalty, family and more; it's rarely light and breezy, but at least it's interesting.

Equally interesting is the split storyline: Ephraim and Eirika each have six unique chapters in the 22 chapter story, but you can only choose one path per playthrough. To experience the full 28 chapters you'll need to complete the game twice: it may not be quite as strong as Shining Force III's Synchronicity system for replay value, but it's still a welcome step.

As with previous titles most of the action takes place on the battlefield. Veterans of Advance Wars or Shining Force will be right at home with the idea of two armies taking turns to attack, with a weapons triangle giving balance. These mechanics have hardly changed, and with good reason: it's delicately balanced and always engaging. Even simple early battles prove tense at times, not least because of the series' main calling card: permanent death. Lose a unit in battle and it's lost forever: no resurrections here.

There are sizeable changes in Sacred Stones, though. Unlike previous games, there's an (admittedly simple) overworld map to explore in between battles. It's hardly Granseal, but the ability to poke around Magvel brings a welcome change of pace: shops and optional battles lurk off the beaten track, giving curious players something else to look out for.

Things are different in battle, too. Units have branching promotion paths, granting you more control over their development than before: a cavalier can become a paladin or a great knight, with different pros and cons for each route. Likewise, you'll encounter trainee fighters along the way whose progression is in your hands: their use in battle is all down to how you train them and the decisions you make.

Graphically the game is hit-and-miss: character profiles are well drawn and attack animations are simply superb, but backgrounds can be dull and lack detail. Blown up on the 3DS screen they suffer even more, becoming blurry and washed out, so we recommend that Ambassadors push Start or Select when loading the game. Music is, however, rather good throughout.

Conclusion

Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones further refines the series' battle system with subtle additions, while the writing and animation is as good as ever. The introduction of a world map, branching unit promotions and unique chapters for the two lead characters mark this as the best GBA entry in the series and a great title for Ambassadors.

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User Comments (42)

daznsaz

#1

daznsaz said:

you might aswell of given it the full 10.it doesnt even show its age,best free game ive had

grumblegrumble

#2

grumblegrumble said:

This is my least favorite of the Ambassador games. I guess you either like this kind of thing or you don't, and obviously I don't. It's boring and predictable, cheesy and a little rough around the edges in my opinion.

Expa0

#3

Expa0 said:

Not nearly as good as most other Fire Emblems, but still pretty decent. I got the gba cartridge last summer, didn't bother to finish but I might eventually.

Capt_N

#5

Capt_N said:

I wonder if,,, Well, I suppose Nintendo will more than likely release these to the non-ambassadors as well, eventually. On the other hand, if they left the ambassador games out of the non-ambassadors' hands, they stand to non-verbally relate the message to the masses to next time purchase their systems early.

Robo-goose

#6

Robo-goose said:

Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones is a great example of a game where the developers decided to do something different, and it worked out amazingly well. Being able to go fight in little skirmishes, or making your way through the Tower of Valni (and something else which I won't spoil) adds the ability to train as many people as you want, rather than having to stick to a select few. Also, it stars my favorite main character in the Fire Emblem series: Ephraim.
As far as story goes, I really enjoy all the dialogue. I find myself playing through a Fire Emblem game not only to advance my units, but to find out what happens in the story, and thanks to all the conversations, all of the story is told, and told incredibly well.
The dialogue also lets you know a lot more about the characters you're using in battle, it makes you care more about your people, you feel as though your army is made up of interesting people, not mindless zombies.
Having the world map also disguises the game to make it seem a lot less linear, and it does a great job at it, too.
A lot of good things can be said about this game, and your review covered a good number of them. This game does have its down sides, though, but with how much good is in the game, they really don't matter.
Awesome game, awesome review. It's a good day to play Fire Emblem.

Hejiru

#7

Hejiru said:

I love this game. I was hoping it would be one of the Ambassador games, but told myself not to get my hopes up, it had slim chances. Then it was revealed and I fangasmed.

AVahne

#8

AVahne said:

Nice score, but I much prefer FE6; it has the most loveable characters and best maps of the GBA FEs. In my opinion FE6 was the best GBA FE game, followed by FE7, and then this.

THENAMESNORM

#9

THENAMESNORM said:

I love Fire Emblem. I cannot wait for the 3DS version, Any Shining Force fans need to play this!

Linux_Man

#10

Linux_Man said:

While honestly this is my least favorite of the GBA Fire Emblems (Fire Emblem was much better, and I liked Sword of Seals too, even if I had to play it in Japanese and import it from Japan) this is the best one to have via the ambassador program due to its less structured nature. It also has some of the most fun glitches in it allowing you to teach anyone dark magic (and allows you to use Myrrh once her Dragonstone runs out) and finally get an Archsage (Sage that knows all 4 types of magic)

SunnySnivy

#12

SunnySnivy said:

I'm so glad this was part of the program. I love this game sooo much. After I beat this, I'm definitely going to buy more FE games. And hey, if I hadn't bought my 3DS early I would have never found out about this game!

J-Forest-Esq

#13

J-Forest-Esq said:

Finished this the other day, a top class game. Easily my favourite of the Ambassadors. Even if it is a bit cheesy.

TheGreenSpiny

#14

TheGreenSpiny said:

Man, this game is okay and all, but I'd much rather have Advance Wars. I thought those game were so much more well made.

Noire

#18

Noire said:

This one is fun just for the relationship between Ephrain and Eirika. :P

Sam_Loser2

#19

Sam_Loser2 said:

I adore this game. I was ecstatic when I got it in the Ambassador game, and the fact they included it give me hope they'll release Fire Emblem 3D out here as well.

kyuubikid213

#20

kyuubikid213 said:

I've only sunk about 3-4 hours into this game, but I love it to death. I suck though...so many characters have died.

Kid_A

#28

Kid_A said:

I had never played one of these games before the Ambassador program. So I fired it up nonchalantly, expecting to turn it off five minutes later. Holy...wow. This game is incredible. One of the best RPGs I've played. And now I hear this is one of the series' weaker entries? Yo. I am on board with Fire Emblem. Very much on board.

RevolverLink

#30

RevolverLink said:

I'm probably never going to finish a Fire Emblem game. Not because they aren't great games, but because I absolutely refuse to let any of my companions die. Which for someone like me, who isn't terribly good at strategy games, feels like a task bordering on the impossible at times.

Bucbanzai

#32

Bucbanzai said:

@RevolverLink
Don't eve play the DS version. Early in the game you have to sacrifice one of your characters to act as a decoy and you never see them again

JayceJa

#34

JayceJa said:

amazing game, i like the re-playable tower as an opportunity to level the low leveled characters you get, as opposed to the other games where you have to babysit them through a few chapters before you can use them at all, during which time the characters you use regularly fall slightly behind

piojito_O

#36

piojito_O said:

My very first fire emblem. :P
At first I was put off by the seemingly endless text (wasn't really understanding/paying attention); The character designs made me want to give it another try.
So glad I did! =D
What annoys me about them is that the main lords are usually goody-two shoe types. Gameplay is addictive, some interesting characters here n there that you grow attached to, and amusing dialogues. Support systems add to the replay value.
For me: Best FE = Path of radiance
Sacred stones is kinda - "eh" (after you try the others) but still deserves a chance.


It's easy to dismiss fire emblem games, (many ppl hate heavy reading? xD) , the mechanics seem confusing at first. But once you get the hang of it, you'll learn to appreciate them for what they are.

Truly a MAGNIFICENT, often overlooked/underrated series. Sure they have their flaws, can get a bit repetitive, but they have potential to be much Much better, I prefer FE over another Mario game anyday.

milkman12

#38

milkman12 said:

@3
HOW IN THE HOLY MOTHER OF FUDGE IS FIRE EMBLEM PREDICTABLE?? i do NOT expect you to have predicted that (spoiler), and that his role was really being played out by (spoiler).i do NOT expect you to have predicted that the (big spoiler). i suggest you not say stuff thats not true.

@36
dont use ross

@17
its called "Fire emblem:kakusai"
kakusai is japanese for "arousal"
but sadly, the 3DS version is only confirmed for japan ):

AVahne

#39

AVahne said:

@ milkman12
And why not? He's always turned out to be a pretty nice Berserker in every one of my around 15 playthroughs. Different people, different character preferences I guess.

SyFyTy

#40

SyFyTy said:

Fire Emblem,(GBA) Advance Wars & Civilization (PC) (before Civ Rev but that too) were the three games that got me hooked on video games even though I've been around them since pong and pacman growing up. My first play through I thought they were predictable too but the second playthrough I realized that I didn't understand it correctly in the first place then I reallly enjoyed them. I don't think N gives Intelligent systems nearly the credit they deserve for Big N's success.

napoleon0

#41

napoleon0 said:

For confused people: the Ambassador was something that Nintendo did. People that bought the 3DS before August 11, 2011 got 20 free games as a way to make up for lowering the price hugely. (still confused? Google it)

Happy_Mask

#42

Happy_Mask said:

I used to play this game on my old GBA! Back then I beat the game on it's hardest difficulty and actually 100%ed it! I found out that I need to polish up my skills... But because of this game and fire emblem 7 I now own every American Fire emblem release!

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