Game Review: Fire Emblem The Sacred Stones

Ah, yes. The Black Sheep of the Fire Emblem Games.

Interestingly, Fire Emblem The Sacred Stones (called Fire Emblem 8: Seima no Kouseki in Japan) is one of only two Fire Emblem games (the other being Thracia 776, a Japan-only game) released that isn’t connected to another Fire Emblem game. Kinda like Namco’s Tales of games in that way. For those unfaimilar with either the Fire Emblem games (next year will make it 10 years since Fire Emblem came to the US) or this one specifically, I’ll give you the rundown on both in the next three paragraphs.

The first Fire Emblem was released in 1990 on the Famicom (Japan’s version of the NES). The US did not get its first Fire Emblem game until 2003, Fire Emblem: The Blazing Sword (or Fire Emblem: Rekka No Ken in Japan) on the Game Boy Advance, but just called Fire Emblem in the US to avoid confusion I guess. I presume many of you have since found this out but Marth, who is featured in both Melee and Brawl is from the first Fire Emblem. His game has ported twice: On the SNES (Japan Only) and more recently on the DS. Roy is from Fire Emblem: The Sword of Seals (or Funin No Tsurugi in Romanji), which was supposed to get a US release before the one we got but never was.

You can imagine the disappointment many people not as knowledgable of Fire Emblem’s history (no offense intended if you fall in that category) felt when Sacred Stones was released and they quickly figured out it wasn’t connected to the previous game. Interestingly, Fire Emblem 6 is the SEQUEL to Blazing Sword and yes, Roy is the son of Eliwood, one of the three heroes of Blazing Sword (The other two being Lyn and Hector).

Anyway, what makes the Fire Emblem games unique is when someone falls in battle, they’re gone forever. On top of that it’s instant game over if the game’s hero or heroes dies. The storyline will also change to acknowledge those who die. Unlike its predecessor there is no grace period. Even if Seth dies on the prologue chapter you must carry on without him for the rest of the game. Given the stressed emphasis on stratedgy in this series, obviously you can’t exactly afford to lose people. Another interesting difference of note is all weapons, tomes and staves have a limited number of uses. The more powerful the weapon the less uses you get out of it. There is a Staff that can reset a weapon’s durability–the Hammerene Staff–but dpn’t get too excited: It only has 3 uses. Once a weapon/tome/staff’s durability drops to zero it will break, disappearing from the character’s inventory. One must decide when and where to use certain weapons to ensure you’re not a sitting duck without the ability to defend yourself.

Now that we’ve had our introductions, let’s get the the review ^_^

Favoritism earned this game a perfect 10. Subtracting that bias it has an 8/10.

Ok, look. There’s a few reasons this game is looked upon as the Black Sheep of the family. The MAIN reason is by many standards, no matter the difficulty the game is considered by many to be the easiest of them all. Why? The Tower of Valni and the Lagdou Ruins. Unlike arena battles the chance of death is pretty low while one could realistically solo whole floors (providing all your equippable weapons/tomes aren’t gone by then). I disagree with that assessment. In fact, I wouldn’t exactly call The Lagdou Ruins “easy”. Thing is, you HAVE to clear it five times if you want to unlock Lyon post-game as a playable character. If you can do it, Lyon comes with Naglfar, an S-Level Dark Tome only he can use with INFINITE uses. Considering the 10th and final level of the Ruins contains TWELVE Draco Zombies…easy? Yeah right.

Sacred Stones is unique from all other Fire Emblem games that have come before and after it (so far) in that the storyline splits after the 8th Chapter. You will be given the choice of finishing the game with Eirika or her twin brother Ephraim. Depending on which Lord of Renais you finish the game with certain people are recruited either at different times or differently altogether. In the case of Joshua and his connection to Jehanna, I would reccommend trying Eirika’s Route. If you want to find out why Gheb is so popular in some circles, take Ephraim’s Route. You have 3 Save Slots so you’ll be able to try both if you want.

Promotions are a bit interesting in this game. Once a character is level 10+ you can use a promotion item (Guiding Ring, Knight Crest, Master Seal, etc.) to change class. Unlike the other games you have the choice of what class you want to promote to. For example if you’re a Mage you can promote to Sage (Light Magic and Staves added) or Mage Knight (Staves added) or if you’re a Myrmidon you can promote to Swordmaster of Assassin (has Silencer Skill, which has a 50% chance of a 1-hit KO during critical hits).

Wait, there’s more: Sacred Stones is also the only game in the series with trainee classes. Ross (Journeyman), Ewan (Pupil) and Amelia (Recruit) are the pre-classes to 6 different possible classes to promote to combined.  Will you make Ross a Fighter like his father or a Pirate? Will Ewan be a Mage and follow in his Master’s footsteps or embrace Dark Magic as a Druid? Will Amelia follow her love interest and become a Cavelier or will she focus on the defensive strength of a Knight? If you’ve cleared the game with Eirika and Ephraim already, you can even create a unique Super Trainee Class with your 3rd save slot.

This is just scratching the surface, of course but now you can begin to understand why I have this game a personal 10 or 8 non-biased. If you want to find the GBA cartridge try Amazon or a retro game store. The game was released as a part of Nintendo’s Ambassador program last summer and if history is to be believed, I’m expecting the rest of you to get it when the 3DS Fire Emblem game is released.

For more detailed info on all things Fire Emblem, check out Serenes Forest =D

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