Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (GBA)

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lopez
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Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (GBA)

Postby lopez » Sun Jan 18, 2015 2:21 pm

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Story:

Magvel, the continent which this game takes place, has been living a fairly peaceful existence since the last great battle that nearly destroyed the world. Not long ago 5 Legendary Heroes sealed away an ancient evil that threatened their very way of life. Now a few hundred years later this same evil is stirring and the once peaceful kingdom of Grado is on a path of destruction, engulfing the lands around it. It's up to Eirika, her twin brother Ephraim and a diverse army of fighters, mages and healers to save the world.

Overall, this is the same rehashed "save the world" trope we've seen before. Let's go over the list:

Prince/Princess/Royalty - check, and extra points for trying to hide them in plain sight.
Ancient Evil threatening to destroy the world - check
Power hungry warmonger antagonist - check
Collecting artifacts - check
Recruiting a team of diverse but stereotypic troops - check

There really isn't anything remotely new or original here. What's here is ok, but it's severely underdeveloped. The antagonist's motives are just as weak and flimsy as the protagonists'. The story and most of the characters could use more depth and flavor. Most of the characters are fairly flat and bland. Some of the characters do have depth, but they come off way too eccentric and I'm not even talking about the steotypically eccentric villains.

The support conversations (read: unlockable character interactions) are fairly lackluster as a whole. Some of them are as simple and uneventful as agreeing to train together or being friends. There are a couple that do add depth to the individual character's personalities and life, but they're few and far between.

Score: 6.5/10

Graphics:

The game is split between 2D talking head portraits and 2D sprites on a map.

The portraits are appealing and anime-esque in appearance.

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The 2D battle sprites are still fairly attractive, given how old the game is.

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The battle animations are fairly good, though they could be a bit more fluid in execution. Some of the more flashy moves are a bit too choppy, though I guess one could argue it's due to the characters moving so fast that they flash around the screen.

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Overall, the imagery is good, though the sprites are starting to show their age.

Score: 8/10

Gameplay:

This is the same tried & true formula used in most grid-based SRPGs. Players move sprite-based units around on a map while following objectives like "kill X units", "survive X turns", "kill/protect X" or "seize X." If you've played anything like Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea or Tactics Ogre before, then you'll know what to expect. The main differences in Fire Emblem are:

1. There's a Rock-Paper-Scissors weapon triangle in-place. Weapons like Axes are strong against Lances and weak to Swords and vice versa. What this means is that using a weapon that's weak against another type will result in a drop in accuracy, critical hit rate and damage, whereas using a weapon that's stronger than another will result in the opposite. This and the permadeath system (I'll mention next) really challenge the player to think through their moves and weigh the risks vs. reward for each move. This is probably the closest thing to a game of chess, without obviously being a game of chess.

2. Permadeath means that once a character falls in battle that they're gone forever. No resurrection spells, no phoenix downs, once they're dead that's it. There're good and bad sides to this. On the one hand, this adds alot of challenge to the gameplay, makes the player think through every move and adds a sense of connection and attachment to the individual units. For most players, the thought of losing a character usually makes them reset the game and redo the level again, no matter the length/challenge. This can lead to alot of gamer rage because many times these deaths can happen at the worst times, like near the end of a mission, due to a critical hit or due to Fog of War and/or unforeseen reinforcements. Unless the player is quite skilled at their movements and actions and/or they're really patient, then they'll usually lose a couple characters throughout the game, especially near the end when the difficulty spikes.

3. There's no MP gauge and weapons have a usage counter. Mages use tomes and staves to attack, whereas melee characters use swords, lances and axes, among a few other types, to attack. With each successful attack the weapon loses a point in usage. After a certain set point these weapons break and the character must use a new weapon. This adds more complexity to battles and stresses resource management. Each character only has 6 spots in their personal inventory for items, so at times it can be quite hard to decide which items to bring along and which ones to sacrifice, depending on the situation and fight.

There are three different difficulty settings to choose from, ranging from easy to hard. Easy is probably the best bet for most gamers, whereas hard really tests the player's mettle.

The game has a total of 20 main story missions with about 5 uniques maps per path. This may not seem like a lot, but most stages are fairly long and filled with enemies and reinforcements. There are also 2 unlockable multi-tiered "dungeons" to fight through. Also at random points throughout the game random enemies will appear on the world map, for grinding purposes.

For the most part the player doesn't need to grind levels, until they reach the end-game story battles and the extra dungeons. The last couple stages can be quite tough if the player isn't prepared.

Overall, this is a fun SRPG that really challenges the player to carefully think through their moves and anticipate the enemies moves as well.

Score: 8.5/10

Sound:

The music is quite good, for what it is and for being produced for a GBA. This is the typical classical music setup from other RPGs like Final Fantasy amd the like. Most of the tunes are pretty catchy and match the given themes quite well. I wish this music could be remixed with live instrumentation because it feels like it'd be so much better.

There is no VA and the sound effects are mostly recycled from the previous GBA Fire Emblem games. The sound effects are good, but I still think Sword of Seals (the 1st GBA title) has the better sound effects (which oddly enough were replaced in the latter titles.

Score: 8/10

Replayability:

The game is fairly linear, with a single-playthrough running about 20 hours. At a certain point in the game the player is able to choose between two paths. Each path follows a different route for the story and also includes a few maps that are different from the other route. After awhile these routes merge and follow a linear path toward the game's conclusion.

There are two extra "dungeons" that pop up throughout the story. These new areas add extra challenges for the player and a new means of grinding levels for the characters. Upon clearing the game the player is given the option to delve deeper into these dungeons and recruit secret characters. These dungeons grow move challenging as the floors increase and actually theh rival the end-game story battles in intensity.

There's also a Link Arena that is a precursor to the streetpass system in Awakening. Players can select a team of characters to either challenge the CPU or another player, if they have the game and a link cable.

Overall, the game is worth one-playthrough and YMMV with all the extras. The extras are there for players who really enjoy a good challenge and like the battle system.

Score: 7.5/10

Final Score: 7.5/10
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Re: Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (GBA)

Postby Byzantian-Fandango » Thu Jan 29, 2015 6:00 pm

Oh wow. I totally killed a month playing this game years ago. My first taste of the Fire Emblem series. I've always loved Strategy RPGs like this the most out of all the different RPG classes. Shining Force was my entry series into this Genre, and I've loved it since, mainly for its concept of having a LOT of people in your party.

Yeah, I was pretty intimidated by the perma-death trait this game had. But with enough work, I was able to get through the game with no casualties.

Favorite character: Lute. Just for the sake of bringing it up.

I'd agree with your score, too. Good review.
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Re: Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (GBA)

Postby PerryComo » Thu Nov 16, 2017 9:07 pm

A mysterious message coming from nowhere...


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