Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones

released on Oct 07, 2004

In Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, you must help protect the nation of Renais from the invading Grado Empire. Plan your strategy, choose your units, and then lead your soldiers in to battle. The more experience your soldiers gain, the more you can upgrade their abilities. This time, your soldiers can gain experience by fighting new monsters in the Tower of Valni.

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Didn't think much of it at first, but a replay defo made me like it more than before.
For one, the story is pretty great and so are the characters.
Second, its pretty easy, but introducing branching classes really helped replayability, specially with trainees, and with how easy it is, breaking it is so fun, even more with the ability to grind.
Its not the best cause enemy phased centered FE my hated, but its still a great time.

Wanted to replay this before I finally ventured out with this franchise beyond the GBA. Still easily my favorite of the 3 on this system, the story and characters are leagues ahead of the other two. Both Eirika and Ephraim are solid lords but I nearly always pick the Ephraim route cause he's more fun to use and I like the way his story handles the Lyon dynamic better. Rest of the cast is aces too, they all get some great supports (most of which you will probably have to look up online but it's worth it) and the branching promotion paths with the reintroduction of skills let them all stand out among your army to fill whatever niche you're lacking. This was my first time playing on Hard mode with no grinding and most of the added difficulty comes from the latter. Sacred Stones has way less main story chapters (relative to 6 and 7) to make room for the grinding maps it presumes you will take advantage of, which meant I had to be a lot more economic in terms of EXP distrubution and weapon rank to go around. Feeling underpowered in this game was so alien at first but having to actually rely on the myraid of tools made available to you instead of just being a toybox to rift through for funsies gave me a new appreciation for maps that were no longer just pure slaughterfests and certain units whose usefulness I never fully considered until now. I couldn't have done it without you, Moulder.

This is one of my favorite Fire Emblem games so I might be biased with the rating, but this holds a special place in my heart. It's a fairly easy game and I found most of the characters memorable, especially that redhead swordsman merc from Jehanna.

Whether you like (Eirika) or don't like her, there's nothing you can do about her, because she's number one. Whether you like her or don't like her, there's nothing you can do about it, because she's number one
Thoroughly impressed with how there's really no dull moment in this game for me. Difficulty spikes hurt me irl a bit but that's not specific to this game. ( some of the romance options are fucking weird though <:V )

Pretty good in every way which makes it my favorite of the GBA Emblems. It's obviously known for being quite easy, but I didn't really mind that much since it's a pretty relaxing and fun distillation of Fire Emblem mechanics. Like, you can definitely brute force a lot of it if you want to but there still is an element of strategy to it and unique mechanics that I enjoyed messing around with more than in the other GBA games. You get a bunch of genuine growth units to raise up, including 3 trainees, a branching promotion system, a pretty wide variety of options in terms of army composition, etc. I'm not making my point well but basically I don't really mind this being too easy because it definitely feels more like a "sandbox" to me within a Fire Emblem framework. That being said, I think the map design in this game is just outright not good regardless of difficulty. There's two main issues I have with the maps usually
1. Lack of depth: Most of the maps lack any sort of interesting side objectives or reward you enough for making an effort for playing a certain way. There's only like a couple maps where you get a reward for saving some people or going out of your way for a village or chest. It's pretty easy to do basically all you need to do in terms of side objectives within your first few turns
2. Rout maps: I understand wanting to switch it up from Seize occasionally but the rout maps just play into the worst aspects of this game. It ends up being one of your best units tanking every trashmob to kill like 10 of them in one turn, on some of the most bland maps ever. There aren't a ton of these or anything but they feel pretty surprisingly weak and under designed.

I guess both of these probably read as difficulty complaints but I really wouldn't mind if the game was still easy, just make it more interesting at least! Side objectives aren't just to make things harder overall, it's a way of rewarding players in a very tangible and satisfying way for putting in extra work without alienating people who just want to finish the game. You can have rout maps that reward you for splitting up your group more and getting the most out of each unit type (the desert map is a good example of this). This is a lot of complaining for something that doesn't ruin the game for me, but it sticks out a lot more in a game that does everything else well. They had the groundwork laid already and less chapters to make than the other GBA emblems so it's a shame it feels so phoned in. I guess I can't blame them much since this game was made in like a year, but it is what it is. At least I prefer easy bad maps over FE6 bad maps.

I do think the rest easily outshines the other GBA FEs. For one, the cast is just way more interesting and fun. Maybe the bar is lower for me after an entire game of just Roy talking to Merlinus, but it feels like there was extra effort put into making the characters unique in design and personality. L'Arachel is the obvious highlight and steals every scene but I just enjoy how much more we get to see characters (even villains) talk about things that aren't just how to harness evil magic or something. I guess it's probably the benefit of having so many characters already know each other/be related.

The story isn't anything crazy but definitely a step above as well. Even though it falls into some of the same tropes, there's a fresh perspective offered through Lyon that feels much more well developed and interesting. Magvel is a peaceful place generally, and there's nothing happy or triumphant about this war. Both their dialogue and the interspersed flashbacks give a good idea of how difficult this is for Eirika and Ephraim to be doing. There's just an overall sense of tragedy to the conflict that I enjoy, ultimately these are people that they care about who were corrupted despite having good intentions. And I appreciate that there are multiple bosses that are genuinely sad to have to fight. Despite that I appreciate that it ends on an optimistic note, hammering in a simple but effective theme about relying on your friends and loved ones to move forward. I think there were a lot more ways they could've expanded on this stuff and sold it but it works well overall. But I guess this is the way FE8 is as a whole; a simple but effective twist on the formula that does exactly what it sets out to do. Nothing more, nothing less.