By ArbitraryWater 12 Comments
*Ahem* Speaking of "for people who suck at video games/are too OCD to accept the loss of a character no matter how inconsequential" I present to you: The Sacred Stones. The second Fire Emblem game to be released in the west, and the 8th overall. Generally speaking, it's not looked upon very well by members of the Fire Emblem fan community, assuming the english speaking branch of that community still exists and isn't hiding in a cave or something. Why? Because, as I'm going to reiterate to you time and time again in this blog: it's hella easy, and for some members of the Fire Emblem community, that's damning enough on its own. But let's be fair; the Fire Emblem community, even when I was aware of its existence and participated within it, was a weird confederation of ultra-hardcore ultra-elitist strategy nuts, anime fappers, and occasional post lurkers such as myself (No wonder that the forum I frequented went under in the most spectacular fashion possible). By any other standard, The Sacred Stones is only sorta easy, and I'd also like to confirm that it almost gets hard near the end in hard mode, where the game finally starts throwing promoted units at you en masse.
But let's back up a bit. Clearly, this Fire Emblem game has a plot, correct? Yes. And it's actually pretty alright. Starring the twin lords Ephraim and Erika ( who have a hilariously incestuous support conversation tree It's literally the first one in the FAQ) it mostly deals with them fighting an evil empire, and then realizing that there's actually a dark power behind said evil empire and then defeating said dark power while leveling up and pathos-ing all the way. So it's a Fire Emblem game. That's not to say the localization team didn't do a great job, but generally speaking I found the writing in this game to not be quite as good as that of Fire Emblem (which I will resist calling Rekka no Ken because that makes me sound like an elitist). There are certainly plenty standouts in terms of characters and situations (Ephraim even manages to break out of the bland and inoffensive dandy archetype that hounds the main characters of the series), and it tells its story effectively enough for what it is. But I'm not entirely sure if I come to this series at all for story at this point. In any case, it was decent enough to keep me engaged, especially since there are certain aspects of the plot that are different depending on if you go with Erika or Ephraim early on.
Enough story talk or whatever. Despite the core Fire Emblem gameplay still being great, Sacred Stones has some problems, a lot of them stemming from the game's attempt to be a throwback to Fire Emblem Gaiden, a fact that literally no one who lives in the west should know unless they're stupid into Fire Emblem. Like me. The most evident and obvious of these many design differences includes the overworld map, with access to random monster battles as well as The Tower of Valni, which not coincidentally is the reason why this game is so easy. Perhaps the developers misunderstood how easily the first floor of the tower could be abused, over and over again for great justice. Since the boss of that first level always gives 100 XP to unpromoted units (and a surprising amount to promoted units), it only takes a few runs to get them to 20, and by that point the only things that limit you from total world dominance are the general scarcity of promotion items. If this game had a Path of Radiance style promotion system, the fanbase probably would've disowned this game entirely. Then, another cool but not necessarily well implemented feature is branched promotions. Being able to choose between different things in any game is always cool, except generally speaking there's always a better promotion for any given choice. Do I upgrade my Pegasus Knight to a Wyvern Knight; having better caps, better promotion gains and the chance to ignore enemy defense or do I upgrade them to Falcoknight which gives me... Swords. That is pretty much how every other promotion goes. Not that it really matters though, as even without the factor of infinite grinding the general strength of enemy units is pretty low, and everyone in your army has amazing growth rates. You roll your eyes at me? With the exception of maybe one or two stinkers, literally everyone in your army is a killing machine and most of them are fast enough to double until the end when the game actually starts sending promoted enemies after you... on the 3rd to last chapter. And then it goes back to monsters for the last two (another thing borrowed from FE Gaiden), who are all easily dispatched because of how slow they are as well as their general vulnerability to legendary weapons and bishops, which you will probably have plenty of by the end. And of course, to top it all off, the final boss is quite easily and quickly dispatched. Because your legendary weapons and bishops do double damage to him. And you can attack him with like... 6 units at once. So yeah. Easy.
And really, easy is all to be said in the negative for Sacred Stones. It's still a well paced Fire Emblem game with lots of cool units you can use with plenty of reason to replay (the other sibling's route) and even a postgame creature campaign... that involves fighting monsters and unlocking generally crappy bonus characters consisting mostly of all the bosses you fought. But still! Even if it has the opposite problem from Radiant Dawn, I still can't help but like The Sacred Stones. I wouldn't recommend it as a first entry in the series because of the general difficulty, but still it's something that I appreciated going through again, and will probably go through a second time for Erika's route. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some Mount and Blade to play.