"Little sister manages just fine."

When Fire emblem finally came overseas and released on the GBA it had truly brought with a unique and new kind of gameplay that only it could offer by mixing rpg and turned based strategy together into a nice game flow. Fire emblem sacred stones does the exact same thing; in fact it nearly imitates the last game in almost every way gameplay wise. But despite this Intelligent systems delivers another solid title with a new and excellently written story and that is sure to please both fans and newcomers.

Gameplay

As stated above this game follows the exact same build as the previous title which is really a good thing and a bad thing, though more of good thing. Like most strategies for the system battles are turned based, and players must utilize certain unit types and terrain in order to gain the upper hand in battle, once an enemy in distance of engagement a short and confrontation displayed by very well animated character sprites and the character is rewarded with experience according to the enemy type and unit level just like any other rpg; and in order to better utilize this a map with random encounters called “skirmishes” can be taken advantage of in order to level up certain characters and balance your units out, also you'll need to use this map in order to go around different shops and armories in order to purchase the necessary items to succeed. Excluding the element of experience gaining and other rpg features by the look of the screenshots many will be reminded of another strategy by the name of Advance wars, and although indeed similar are actually pretty different for two main reasons: Fire emblem is much richer in story telling and character development while Advance wars takes a path more towards action and strategic deployment of units, being so those who are looking for similar gameplay closer to Advance wars should heed this warning: The extensive amount of story telling can be quite taxing to those accustomed to the more action like feeling of Advance wars and may want to keep their distance from this game.

But for those who enjoy a good story are really in for a treat, for the presentation and unique cast of characters is sure to delight, as well as develop an attachment to the characters in your forces. Unfortunately though once your characters are defeated they are gone for good, and losing them can truly be heart breaking to an extent, so the choice comes to you whether you wish to start a chapter over in order to make it through with your units intact (which can take a lot of time to so.) or leave them behind. Now while being more realistic and challenging, it can easily come to the matter that you will barely survive a battle and have to begin the next chapter with very little units or even possibly no units besides your main character which is obviously not enough to get you by, so the only solution is to start the entire game over again; thankfully this can generally be avoided if units are properly managed. However there is one problem that can be quite glaring in this games case: the difficulty is not very high. The main reason for this is the imbalances of many of your units and the enemy units. For example: one of the main characters that you receive from the beginning easily becomes invincible to the most of the enemies you'll encounter, and on top of that thanks to the low level he starts out on he will level up on the weak enemies very quickly, making him indestructible therefore winning a battle can in many cases just be a matter of sending your invincible units charging at the front lines to effortlessly clear out any troops, then to worsen this many of the enemy troops you can persuade to defect to your side are often unbeatable as well, clearly cutting down a lot of challenge to the game. Eventually the difficulty does pickup and wiser use of units and the promoting of unit classes will have to be taken into consideration, but even still by the time it finally does your still likely not going to have too much of a hard time.

Visuals

As mentioned before, the battle sprite are excellently detailed and wonderfully animated and don't really get wear out all that much despite being used so much, although many of the enemy units can often look very similar, if not the same as yours which may be a little off putting. And to add to this tons of very well designed characters can be obtained throughout the game with very nice art to go along with them. The only thing that is a little shaky are the maps and backgrounds that the battles takes place in, which are rather bland a washed out, but really this is a small problem and really shouldn't be a bother.

Audio

For the most part the music is very well composed and very fitting to the game's theme with only a couple instances where it can be a little underwhelming during some battles. But once again, these issues are small enough that it really shouldn't be problem to anyone and with a soundtrack this nice, headphones are justified.

Overall

In the end this game most definitely succeeds, despite having some rather problematic flaws. The main things that compensate for the proverbial flies in the ointment are the strong character development and top notch story telling that is present through the whole game, plus to add replay value the two main characters will eventually split up forcing you to choose which one to accompany through the rest of the game, so to see the events of the other character and get a more complete understanding of the story you can go back and play through the one you missed. After you beat the game you and your friends can train you units to face off in an arena matches and keep you occupied for awhile or to train you troops a tower filled with monsters can always be accessed and grows harder with each cleared floor. It's quite clear that if you a re tactics fan or would like an excellent story to play through Fire emblem sacred stones is a great choice.

Score: 8.7

Pros
+ Excellent story and characters
+ Very impressive graphics and sound
+Branching paths adds replay value
Cons
-Rather easy due to imbalanced units


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 05/31/05


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