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Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones

by Lasse Pallesen - May 29, 2005, 12:25 pm EDT


Intelligent Systems has once again made a great turn-based strategy game.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that The Sacred Stones has a lot in common with its predecessor.

This can be seen as a compliment. After all, the original GBA Fire Emblem turned out to be brilliant turn-based strategy game with a complex, engaging story that genuinely made you care about its characters, as well as a deceptively deep battle system that required a lot of strategic thinking from the player. Still, the high level of similarity might encourage people to argue that The Sacred Stones isn’t really a true sequel but rather a subtle extension of an already established game. Any way you cut it, the game is certainly well worth purchasing.

One of the most interesting aspects of the series has always been the degree of attachment that you feel for your characters. The Sacred Stones is no exception. The characters are far from anonymous and generic. Each of them has his or her own name, class, background, and personality, which are vividly portrayed throughout the story. This is done by means an extensive amount of dialogues. They reveal so many details on the characters’ developments that they genuinely make you feel a sense of loss when one of your characters dies in battle and is unable to ever return again.

In order to avoid these tragic deaths you’ll obviously need to master the game’s battle system. As in previous installments, it is incredibly deep, although it seems so simple at first. Basically, axes beat lances, lances beat swords, and swords beat axes. Magic attacks follow a similar pattern. There are plenty of other conditions to take into consideration, though. For example, archers do massive damage on flying creatures; some weapons are more likely to inflict a critical hit; forests provide extra cover; an injured unit can be healed in forts etc. Like its predecessor, the battle system constantly encourages strategic thinking and, in turn, punishes reckless decisions.

Sometimes you do get punished unfairly, though. Like its predecessor, this problem mostly occurs in the “Fog of War” levels, in which you have a limited view of the battle field. Here, you might suddenly get killed by a powerful hidden enemy, even though you’re at full health and everything seemed to go well. Unless you’ve played the level before, it’s impossible to know when and where these situations will occur, which can be frustrating.

From a graphical standpoint, the game closely resembles its predecessor. In other words, it doesn’t rely on flashy particle and lightning effects, but it doesn’t really have to. The functional look suits this type of game well. It makes it easy to identify the different characters on-screen. The animations are creatively designed and look as solid as in the previous version.

Not everything about The Sacred Stones looks familiar, though. The most prominent new feature is the inclusion of a world map. It allows you to go back and revisit levels to stock up on weapon and item supplies. At times monsters (yes, monsters play a big part in this installment) will even spawn in previously visited areas, giving you the choice of going into battle with them or instead move on with the story. In this way, the new system gives the player a greater sense of freedom.

This is also the case with another new addition, which comes into play when changing class. As always, you have to be at least on level ten and have a special item in order to change class, but this time around you get to choose between which class to turn into. For example, an archer can become a sniper or a forest knight. Each class has its strengths and weaknesses, so you need to consider which class best fits your existing squad.

The last notable addition is that you can now choose between three difficulty settings. There’s great difference between them. The easiest setting starts off with an in-depth tutorial, while “hard” quickly proves challenging even for Fire Emblem veterans, since you’ll meet more foes, who are stronger too. On “hard” the single-player campaign easily takes more than 15 hours to complete, which doesn’t feel too short at all.

Ultimately, all of these new additions are welcome. They don’t really alter the core gameplay. The Sacred Stones still looks, sounds, and plays very much like its predecessor, so if you liked that game, you really cannot go wrong with this one.


Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
7.5 7.5 9.5 8.5 8 8.5

Don’t expect mind-blowing graphical effects. The game looks simple and functional, sporting an interesting art direction and pretty animation to boot.


While not as epic as the original GBA Fire Emblem, the score sets the mood nicely. Sound effects are pleasing, especially the one accompanying a critical hit.


Beginners can turn on an in-depth tutorial at the beginning of the game, but there’s little need to do that. Navigating menus and controlling characters couldn’t be simpler and more logical.


Compared to the original, not much has changed. There’s still a lot of text that drives a complex story, and the battle system still works brilliantly. The new additions are: a world map, new monsters, an upgraded class system, as well as different difficulty settings. These are all welcome features and will hopefully be present in future installments as well. What hopefully won’t be included is the trial-and-error nature of some levels.


Easily lasting more than fifteen hours on hard mode, the single-player campaign is sufficiently long, despite having fewer levels than its predecessor. This is partly because you can spend a lot of time backtracking to fend off monsters constantly appearing in pre-visited areas.


Although the developers at Intelligent Systems haven’t propelled the series to new heights, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones is still a great turn-based strategy game. It goes to show just how well the existing formula works.


  • Battle system still incredibly deep
  • Generally feels a lot like its predecessor
  • Solid animation
  • The inclusion of a world map
  • Three difficulty levels from the get-go
  • Upgraded class change system
  • Can be unfair
  • Generally feels a lot like its predecessor
Review Page 2: Conclusion

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Genre Strategy
Developer Intelligent Systems
Players1 - 4

Worldwide Releases

na: Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
Release May 23, 2005
jpn: Fire Emblem: Seima no Kōseki
Release Oct 07, 2004
RatingAll Ages
eu: Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
Release Nov 04, 2005
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