Ruining my childhood (Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones)

 WHAT ARE THEY DOING
Yeah. That's right. I'm talking about Fire Emblem. Again. Along with Might and Magic, it's probably one of my favorite game franchises. And really, I could make another 10 or so blogs simply about Fire Emblem, like how it's totally retarded how S hin Monshou no Nazo has yet to come to the US despite seeming like a better game than Shadow Dragon ever was in like... every capacity. It has support conversations, fewer characters with garbage growth rates, sidequests where the conditions actually make sense, decent writing and so on and so forth. WHAT ARE THEY DOING. IT CAME OUT IN JAPAN LIKE A YEAR AGO. Oh, and to top it all off, it even has a mode for pussies where your characters can't permanently die! That should expand the series' popularity, right?
 
Maybe "For Pussies" is a little strong. But still. Easy.
*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.
 
 Always pick Wyvern Knight. Always
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.
11 Comments
12 Comments
Posted by ArbitraryWater
 WHAT ARE THEY DOING
Yeah. That's right. I'm talking about Fire Emblem. Again. Along with Might and Magic, it's probably one of my favorite game franchises. And really, I could make another 10 or so blogs simply about Fire Emblem, like how it's totally retarded how S hin Monshou no Nazo has yet to come to the US despite seeming like a better game than Shadow Dragon ever was in like... every capacity. It has support conversations, fewer characters with garbage growth rates, sidequests where the conditions actually make sense, decent writing and so on and so forth. WHAT ARE THEY DOING. IT CAME OUT IN JAPAN LIKE A YEAR AGO. Oh, and to top it all off, it even has a mode for pussies where your characters can't permanently die! That should expand the series' popularity, right?
 
Maybe "For Pussies" is a little strong. But still. Easy.
*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.
 
 Always pick Wyvern Knight. Always
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.
Posted by TheFreeMan

Sacred Stones is still the only Fire Emblem game I've beaten. I really like the series, and I'm, like, two missions away from completing Path of Radiance, but that's mostly laziness than a difficulty barrier. I'm not very good at strategy games, and even I thought that Sacred Stones was easy as fuck. The only level that gave me trouble was one of the late game "defend for X turns" maps, and that's just cause I was acting dumb and putting my units in the wrong places repeatedly. 
 
I agree with this, though - despite some bizarre aspects and how much you can abuse it, I really liked Sacred Stones. Good write-up. I should play more Fire Emblem.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

I've got some sacred stones.

Oh, come on, I was practically obligated to make that bad joke.

I very nearly bought a Game Boy Advance for this game and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Handhelds at that point just weren't a viable option for me, though. I was in college, and I had to pay for my rum and Coke somehow, damn it. In any case, it's kind of neat to get a perspective on it from a fan of the series as a whole, especially from someone who is very obviously as into it as you are. I really do hope to see a new Fire Emblem game hit the US sometime.

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Posted by Video_Game_King

Ah, I remember The Sacred Stones. It was the first game I ever reviewed (how far I've come from then), and you pretty much said everything I was going to say. The features implemented feel incredibly against what Fire Emblem's about, like being able to grind (*growl*) and branching promotions (why is it that Fire Emblem games have generally been unsuccessful when it comes to class experimentation? Shadow Dragon had the same problem, although I still believe that it's mostly because they attached the feature to a pre-existing game). Oh, I almost forgot: where's Shin Monshou no Nazo? It's getting harder and harder to wait, especially seeing this. On that website. Should I just break out the " his story was lost to the world" music?

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Posted by ArbitraryWater
@TheFreeMan: Path of Radiance is a pretty good example of decent difficulty in a Fire Emblem game. Seriously, the only part of that game that is in any way "This is totally cheap and retarded" is the Black Knight battle, because it pretty much relies on Ike activating Aether several times. Probably my second favorite game in the series to reach the west. You should finish it, and if you feel up for it you should probably look out for either Radiant Dawn ( Despite the tongue lashing I gave it) or Shadow Dragon (despite a bunch of weird anachronistic things it does that reminds you that it was originally a NES game). My favorite is probably still the first one to come out in the west, but I'd imagine it'd be pretty hard to find nowadays. 
 
@Sparky_Buzzsaw: Yeah, Fire Emblem is pretty great. I think they should release another game over here....
 
@Video_Game_King: ...Oh shit. Project Rainfall has noted it? We're doomed. If those guys are pushing for it, that means it's never going to come out. I mean, I get that Nintendo wants to push the 3DS as much as humanely possible, but I'm sure every Fire Emblem game has managed to make money. It's not like localization costs that much, right? RIGHT? Man, literally every part of Shin Monshou no Nazo seems like a marked improvement over Shadow Dragon, mostly due to the part where they're actually trying to make it a modern game instead of just prettying up the NES game and giving Wolf and Sedgar insane growth rates (which, to be fair, is one of my favorite things about that game. Inexplicably). Oh yeah, right. Sacred Stones. Do you get the feeling that this was their last real push at endearing themselves to the western market? Or was Path of Radiance that? In any case, it's clear that by Radiant Dawn they figured that they weren't going to attract any more newcomers and decided that the niche fanbase was ready to take the game... mostly unerfed. Let's be honest, having permanent mid-battle saves makes the game better.
Posted by Mento

Oh yeah, I totally said I was going to play Fire Emblem at some point. That might still be a thing I might do at some point.

I got burned out on Mount & Blade. It doesn't help that I basically screwed myself by agreeing to join a claimant without establishing a base of allegiance in their homeland first. It's pretty hard raising an army to take out castles without other Lords.

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Posted by Video_Game_King
@Mento said:

Oh yeah, I totally said I was going to play Fire Emblem at some point. That might still be a thing I might do at some point.

That point better be "now."
 
@ArbitraryWater
 
Actually, those early Fire Emblem games were how I got into the series, and since they served their purpose, I'd say that they did a good job. Now they just need to get back on Shin Monshou no Nazo. Seriously, what the hell? I'm not even sure that the localization would be that hard; the fact that it's using the same engine that Shadow Dragon used (and the fact that the gameplay doesn't seem very fragile to something like a translation) should balance out the fact that it has the most text of any Fire Emblem game. Hell, there's already a fan translation in the works. Get to it, Nintendo.
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Posted by ArbitraryWater
@Mento: Yeah, I couldn't help but notice that M&B doesn't really hold your hand. At all. While this is sort of refreshing, it also becomes a pain once you get in over your head, mostly because the penalty for losing a battle is pretty steep. Eh, it's fun enough, and even the multiplayer is dumb enough. I'll probably write something up about it eventually. 
 
@Video_Game_King: They did do a good job. Looking back however, some of the more pander-y aspects are more evident. Like the tactician player character who also played a similar role in the first Advance Wars game. And all of Lyn's story, which I somewhat conspiratorially believe to have been added when they knew it was going to have a western release. No, Sacred Stones and Path of Radiance should at least be commended for only having a few tutorial chapters. 
 
Well, at least there's a fan translation in the works for that worst case scenario. Will it be overly literal and kind of stilted as a result? Maybe. But I'll take that over no translation if I have to.
Posted by BoG

Speaking as a series noob, I loved Sacred Stones. It's the first game in the series I've played, of...uh... two. I played Path of Radiance. I didn't feel the latter was so much more difficult, honestly. I just found it a lot more bland than Sacred Stones, mostly due to the graphics. I personally think branching classes is freaking cool. Perhaps it's unbalanced, but that's no reason to write off the idea. Well... that's all I've got.
Posted by ArbitraryWater
@BoG: Well, yeah. Path of Radiance is rather poor in the actual 3D graphics part, but doesn't everyone turn off battle animations at some point anyways? I still like Sacred Stones, for what it is, but what it is is an experiment/throwback that doesn't entirely work as a Fire Emblem game. Nice to see you around and posting again though.
Posted by TekZero

This is one of the few GBA games I have.  In fact, i may break out my GBA and play some fire emblem tonight.  I never did finish the game. 

Posted by BoG
@ArbitraryWater said:
@BoG: Well, yeah. Path of Radiance is rather poor in the actual 3D graphics part, but doesn't everyone turn off battle animations at some point anyways? I still like Sacred Stones, for what it is, but what it is is an experiment/throwback that doesn't entirely work as a Fire Emblem game. Nice to see you around and posting again though.
 
Noe to prove my noobness: I had no idea I could turn those off. Thanks for the tip!  
I think I can, to some tiny degree, understand a bit of the lack of love. The only older game I have experience with is Seisen no Keifu, which I've been playing this past week (I'm only on chapter 2, though). Comparing the two games up to this point, Sacred Swords feels small and shallow.