Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones

Like a lot of Americans I had never heard much about the Fire Emblem series until I played Super Smash Bros. Melee and was introduced to two characters from the franchise. Turns out that the series is hugely popular in Japan, and has had almost as many sequels as Final Fantasy.

Video of the tutorial mission.

Fire Emblem is a tactical strategy game that’s heavy on the story-telling. The story is nothing special, you take the last remaining heirs to the throne and assemble a rag-tag group of an army to overthrow the evil that is taking over the land. The story is mostly told in lengthy scenes between the battles featuring large portraits speaking with each other. Between these scenes you have battles, one of the defining aspects of the game. The flow is pretty simple: all of your guys move, then all of the enemy guys move. Generally it’s your goal to mow down all of the opposing forces, but there are some other chapters with slightly differing goals: reach a particular point on the map, keep someone alive for so many turns, and the like. You need to be somewhat of a tactician to maneuver your troops in such a way that the weaker units don’t get slaughtered. Unlike some other games of this type, once your guys fall on the battlefield, they’re dead forever. This can be especially devastating if you’ve invested a lot of time and resources into building up your guys, only to have them cut down due to a boneheaded move on your part.

During certain chapters various named characters will join the fracas. Some of these folks you can convince to join you if you manage to take the right character up to them and manage to talk to them before you kill them off.

One problem I had with the game is that there are far more characters available than I had the time and resources to build up. The difficulty of the game ramps up considerably, and I kept a team of about a dozen units fairly well buffed-up. I had another dozen or so units that were woefully underlevelled, and didn’t see much playtime.

The thing is, your units can support each other in the battlefield. Pair up certain units enough times and they will eventually give you the option to have them speak to each other. This both rounds out the characters significantly and makes them more effective in the long run. If you want to see them all and have the best units you can, it would behoove you to play through the game multiple times.

While I wouldn’t be opposed to playing through the game a second or third time (I understand you unlock some of the game’s secrets if you finish it multiple times) that first time took me nearly 30 hours, not including all of the time I lost after restarting a mission due to a miscalculation that led to the death of one on my units. I was eventually able to finish the entire game while keeping everyone alive to the end, and it was very gratifying. I would recommend anyone with a passing interest in ’stragery’ give it a look.

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