While Fire Emblem is a franchise with a long history in Japan, its track record in the West is far more condensed; in fact Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones on Game Boy Advance was only the second series entry to arrive in the West. The first Western arrival is also available on the Wii U eShop, meaning that there's a useful opportunity to become fully acquainted with the early days of the IP's presence outside of Japan.
For those familiar with the predecessor or even the excellent Fire Emblem: Awakening on 3DS, much here will be instinctive - we still have a rock-paper-scissors wheel of effectiveness for weapons, turn-based strategy and plenty of nuance in between. The bedrock of the franchise is in polished mechanics, which Intelligent Systems had mastered even by this stage - the challenge always feels balanced, with three difficulty levels helping those looking for a light or full-on undertaking,
Mastering different unit types is integral to progress, not just in terms of strategically targeting enemies but also taking care of a host of factors. Weapons are finite and need to be managed by acquiring - through discovery or purchasing - replacements, and this title also introduces the concept of Support roles, engaging conversations between characters to boost their affinity and improve their teamwork. Every move matters, whether it's polishing off an enemy with a ranged attack, healing a struggling teammate or simply rescuing them and taking them off the battlefield, there's plenty to think about.
Unlike its most modern series entry, it's worth noting that permadeath is a non-optional part of this experience - whereas you could disable this in Awakening, here you're left with the horrifying potential to lose characters for good. Depending on your difficulty setting this can be the result of one slight error, such as carelessly putting a unit in range of multiple enemies, so it's imperative that you think carefully on your moves.
Beyond the core battles that form the Chapters of the storyline, this was an entry that did push the series forward in comparison to its GBA predecessor, too. There's an overworld map that can be traversed as you see fit, once you unlock areas, which is handy for stocking up on goods or even tackling some optional monster-slaying challenges. The setting of Magvel, a land mass with multiple nations, certainly becomes more important in the mind's eye with this over-world perspective, which was an advance for the series at the time.
In terms of the storyline itself, we rather enjoyed it, and there are even divergent paths in which you choose to tackle a handful of chapters focused on main protagonists Eirika or Ephraim; making use of a Wii U restore point or multiple save files should mean that you can see all of the chapters without necessitating multiple playthroughs; it's a neat touch. The localised text is somewhat earnest and simplistic, but that's understandable considering the format - despite that we encounter complex topics such as the cruelty of war, familial loyalty, courage and fear. The powerful force of the enemy's invasion across the continent and the high stakes in rescuing the 'Sacred Stones' is a tale well told.
Moving onto presentation, we also consider this to be a Game Boy Advance title relatively well suited to the Wii U. Its chunky, colourful pixels look rather attractive on the GamePad, but also stand up well on a TV, particularly with settings on 'Original Resolution' and with the smoothing effect turned on. The art style is rather well done, and it's not uncommon for modern Indie efforts to deploy similar 'retro'-style visuals - for a portable game that's a decade old, this stands up relatively well.
It's also limited by its time, of course, and while this isn't a criticism or a factor in the score it's worth mentioning that navigation and the overall user interface isn't the intuitive joy that fans of Awakening enjoyed. The single-screen Game Boy Advance necessitated a deeper layering of menus, so this takes some getting used to.
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones should certainly be on the download shortlist for fans of the franchise or strategy games in general. Its predecessor is a thoroughly worthwhile introduction to some iconic characters in the series, but Sacred Stones does hold its own in setting and plot, while featuring some feature advances over its predecessor. Another terrific GBA title that's graced the Wii U eShop.
What?! I had no idea this was due out in NA this month.
EDIT: I am an idiot who cannot read. Please disregard.
I got this game in the 3DS Ambassador bundle. Such a good game.
I always heard I'd enjoyed Fire Emblem, but always put it off. I finally tried this game when I got it via the Ambassador program.
Three days later, I finally turned off my 3DS and collapsed from exhaustion.
One month later I owned every American release.
The day this comes out on eShop is the day I call out of work early.
I love this game. I was unable to play ephiram's portion of the story. So I'm excited to play it now.
@CaviarMeths is that info available somewhere? I don't see it anywhere. I need this game - I hate emulator (I'm staring at YOU Radiant Dawn and Path of Radiance)
@vitalemrecords ...oh hell. I was looking at the info on the right quickly, and all I saw was "March 23 (USA)". Didn't see the 2005 >_>
Sorry everyone. False alarm.
@CaviarMeths You could edit your first comment to something different so you won't have to worry about apologizing.
This game sinks in hours and hours. Lol.
My favorite FE so far! I was so happy when Nintendo gave it to 3DS ambassadors a while back. Definitely worth buying!
There goes a spoiler free review with a picture of the final boss!!! LOL
This is definitely the best GBA FE that was released and I played'em all including an English modded version of the one starring Roy. Awakening gets the award for best handheld FE, but no FE can hold a candle to series faves Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn. But Sacred Stones is an excellent strategy RPG that's worth your time
I think it's time Nintendo started translating and releasing Fire Emblem games that never made it outside Japan on the VC. Along with Mother 1 and Mother 3. Thats what I would like to have. May not happen though :/
As a long time Fire Emblem fan, I would rate this as a 7 or 8 when comparing to the other games. It's a good game, but weaker than the others.
Same deal with Awakening.
Both of these games are great for newcomers though and would probably be regarded as excellent by them.
Meh, I prefer the Elibe saga to Magvel and Ylisse.
I agree none of them handheld games can really compare to Tellius though.
One of my five fav games of all time. But still have my GBA cart, so won't get it again
One of the more enjoyable Fire Emblem games out of the three. Only minor disappointment is that it's a bit too easy and way too short. I was able to beat it around 15 hours through whereas Binding Blade (FE6) and Sealed Swords (FE7) took me around 30-40 hours in comparison.
Still need to finish the first GBA one. Too many games
Hope they do a Wii U version of this, Advance Wars and Batallion Wars before the Wii U goes to unpopular console heaven. SMT vs FE seems to have died.
Own this on 3DS but would really like to play it on Wii U...
To be honest, I think Lyn, Hector, and Eliwood were more interesting and overall better characters than Marth, Eirika or Ephraim. I think Roy's game was very unbalanced and throws too many playable characters at you at every turn. But "Fire Emblem" was a solid, solid game.
I got this via the ambassador program and could never really get into it. I initially wasn't interested in Awakening because of this game; but after picking it up regardless, it became one of my favorite 3DS games. I might have to go back to this.
Make all great games from GBA avaible on 3ds.
In this time its hard to get original gba card in reasonable price.
No amount of post editing can fix the damage you've done T_T (LOL). Well, unless NOA decides to release this game soon . After playing rekka no ken for the first time on eshop I'm jumping at a chance to play sacred stones.
This was my first Fire Emblem game. I was usually playing it on my lunch breaks back when I worked full time for the guv'ment.
May snag it eventually
@Turbo857 I never understood the hype behind the tellius games starring ike, I played every fire emblem so far and the only ones I find bland and disappointing are the tellius and shadow dragon, I find them too easy and unappealling. I got path of radiance at the same time I got sacred stones, path of radiance bored me a lot, but sacred stones had me hooked after I chose Ephraim´s path.
I also disagree with your opinion regarding Binding Blade, yeah, the game throws a lot of characters at you, but once you know which ones are gold and which ones are garbage, then start building your team, the game starts to roll in an unbelievable way. Unlike Shadow Dragon, in which all characters were bland and boring, and the game forced you to kill characters to access he gaiden chapters.
While I already have this game on my 3DS and see no reason to double dip, it's still an excellent game for SRPG fans.
@Turbo857 Personally I think "Fire Emblem" was the best GBA FE game, and the best handheld entry too. But Scared Stones is still definitely one of my favorites in the series.
I do have to agree with you on Path of Radiance, it's still my favorite Fire Emblem. Can't count how many times I've replayed that gem.
One of pictures shows Ephraim attacking the final boss and he's 100% going to die... why would someone do that and screenshoot it, and how do you let Ephraim get that bad. He's one of the best characters in the game, and he and Erika are literally invincible with A support.
I got this one for the 3DS, I hope GBA games are eventually released for 3DS.
You know, this game does a hard difficulty the right way. You can still get through it with careful use of your units and without really even using Seth at all. Awakening on the other hand? Those opening missions on lunatic/classic pretty much force Frederick on you.
@EvisceratorX Same story here. I was bored with this at first but got Awakening anyway. Now I'm a big Fire Emblem fan.
Also, who besides me saves two separate files at the split in this game? I like to alternate between the two paths after every mission.
Really?? Too easy, you could always play the game on its hardest setting but even at normal Radiant Dawn is pretty well regarded for its challenging difficulty. I felt the handheld games were much easier (except special missions in Awakening). You've gotta be the first FE fan I've met that felt that way about the Radiance Saga.
I hear ya on Shadow Dragon but no FE touches the Radiant Saga. #1 Radiance was the first FE to introduce class based skills, and Dawn featured 3-tier promotions, different player perspectives and intersecting storylines. What it comes down to is characters and story. When I think of memorable characters in this series it always comes back to the radiant saga. I can't even name a villian without first picturing the Black Knight.
FE games are pretty much cookie cutter as far as story. Noble Prince seeks revenge against invading corrupt kingdom. Ike was the furthest thing from a prince and the motivations of his true enemies were more complex than simply wanting to conquer the world or invade a kingdom. Well I guess to each his own.
Same here. I replayed both games several, serveral times. Not only just my favorite FE games but they rank among the top tier strategy RPGs ever made. Up there with Shining Force 3 and Dragon Force.
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