Another entry into the Fire Emblem series, unrelated to the past games, but still taking place in the same swords and sorcery type setting. It stars Ephraim and Eirika, twins and royalty from the Kingdom of Renais. Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones retains the strategy RPG gameplay and the disputed "permanent death" system of the series.
In order to make the game somewhat more accessible to people, Intelligent Systems added and removed things in the game to accommodate those who might have found Fire Emblem: The Blazing Sword to be too hard, even if it is one of the easier games in the Fire Emblem series.
- Revisiting Levels - The game now features an overworld map, where your team can move from point to point. This enables you to access shops & armories in previous maps in between chapter battles.
- Random Encounters - Much like Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, there are now visible random encounters in the overworld map. These encounters consist of zombies, spiders, centaurs, and other types of monsters that were let loose by the Demon King. This gives players a way to train up as high as they want before proceeding to the next chapter battle.
- Easier Legendary Weapons - Whereas in the previous Fire Emblem game, you had to fight a special Chapter Battle to earn your legendary weapon, the sacred weapons in the game are basically given to you in cut scenes throughout the last handful of chapters.
- Class Progression Paths - You now can change which class to progress to when you change a characters class. This includes new classes. For example, Social knights can change to Paladins or the brand new (and slower) Great Knights.
- Trainee Characters - Early in the game, you will encounter and recruit 3 young kids into your army. These kids are trainee class characters - One an axe wielder, another a mage, and finally a lance wielder. They are an entire class below everyone else, before they can become basic classes. This not only means they have to be trained much more, but it means that they can gain many more stats. Normal characters can get up to 40 levels, these characters will gain fifty. If trained enough, they will become obscenely strong.
Unlike the last game, you are not an active character. You are not a tactician that follows the group around while the characters talk to you. The main characters are Eirika and her twin brother Ephraim, though Eirika is featured more. While Ephraim was away with his knights fighting the war, their Kingdom, Renais, was being conquered by the Kingdom of Grado. Grado's forces overwhelmed them, and Eirika was forced to flee with the loyal paladin, Seth.
|This section contains spoilers! Content within this section may reveal significant parts of a game(s) story.|
Eirika, Seth, and others attempt to go to Frelia to seek help. Eventually, Eirika and Ephraim are reunited. Both sides have been gradually building up their forces, which includes a mysterious dragon girl named Myrrh and the former General of Grado, Duessel. As it turns out, Grado is acting weird. Prince Lyon, who was a kind person and childhood friend of both Eirika & Ephraim, is behind everything. He appointed 3 generals to replace Grado's who were more willing to do his evil deeds.
They have a flashback where they remember Lyon telling Eirika & Ephraim that he was experimenting with the Sacred Stone of Grado. He believed it had great healing potential and wanted to use it to save lives. As it turns out, the Sacred Stones, all of them (Each one belonged to a different kingdom) were actually used to seal the Demon King away after he was defeated in Darkling Woods by Myrrh's dragon people. By experimenting with the stone, Lyon's body was inhabited by the spirit of the Demon King, who brought about the war to obtain all the Sacred Stones and destroy them. Once they are destroyed, his body will be revived.
The game (whole series, in fact) bears many similarities to the other GBA turn-based strategy fest known as Advance Wars. This is because both games come from the same developer, Intelligent Systems. However, instead of faceless units, sent off as sacrifices for the cause, the game has characters, each with their own personality and (unlockable) backstory. These backstories are unlocked by intitating "Support Conversations", exchanges between characters in-battle that occur when characters have spent a certain number of turns near each other. Support Conversations also give significant stat bonuses to these characters. They render once dimensionless characters like Wil the Archer with more reason to care if he gets killed.
Speaking of which, death is permanent in the game. While this is a problem for many potential players, it gives the game an added layer of difficulty and attachment. Everything else about the gameplay follows standard Strategy RPG procedure. Your team & the enemies teams take turns moving everyone at once, your characters move on a grid, different terrain offers defense bonuses, etc.
One aspect where it once again departs from tradition is with its weapon and equipment system. Each character has 5 item slots for equipment & items. Instead of equipping different weapons on a character like in a standard RPG, you are to decide which item you use to attack whenever you choose an "attack" command in battle. This character can only choose from the weapons you have given him before the battle. Choosing the right weapon is integral to winning a map. This is mostly due to the Rock-Paper-Scissors style of weapons & spells. Swords beat Axes, Axes beat Lances, and Lances beat Swords. The same goes for Magic spells. Dark Magic beats Anima (Elemental) Magic, Anima beats Light Magic and Light Magic beats Dark Magic. These aren't the only things to consider when attacking an enemy. There are "Reaver" weapons that reverse the triangle (Lancereavers, Swordreavers), and weapons that have other benefits (Longer range, increased chance of critical hit, status effects) A type of damage system includes bow users and the *new* special ability Slayer. Bows do more damage to flying units (Pegasus Knights, FalcoKnights, Wyvern Lords, Wyvern Knights) and a newly created skill, Slayer (used ONLY by the Bishop class), increases the damage done to Monsters.
There are about twenty chapters (battles) to play through, although you can play each chapter at your pace. You can also train at the "Lagdou Ruins" or "Tower of Valni", which are gauntlet style dungeons that can be quit at any time, to extend playing time. When you beat the game, you can play again on Eirika or Ephraim's path (You have to choose who to follow in the middle of the game and reunite near the end). You can also unlock enemy characters in the after-game.
Creature Campaign is a unique gameplay and one-time-only for the Fire Emblem series. This allows players who finish the game to max out their characters. After reaching the -Epilogue- stage, a new option, Map, appears under the Extras section. Selecting the Epilogue will overwrite the Epilogue save and rename it Creature Campaign. On Creature Campaign the player can now access Secret Shops, Tower of Valni, and the Lagdou Ruins.