another “official” platform first: finishing my first GBA game (although i’ve been playing several others for quite some time). the honor goes to the “sickeningly” addictive strategy RPG fire emblem: the sacred stones. i have to confess here that this was another one of those games that had me uber-obsessed, fighting monsters and levelling up characters in my head throughout the day and itching to get home to beat the next chapter. and when i say “sickeningly” addictive i mean it: the marathon gaming sessions i had last week while home sick combined with the feverish nighttime dreams of beating the game during the same period has left me a bit nauseated when contemplating the game now i’m mostly recovered (from both game and illness). but if i can get over those less-than-ideal associations i can laud the game for what it is: a whole lotta obsessive fun.
the game has all those elements that flip those obsessive switches in your brain: characters that you have to level up before promoting to a different class (with the added geeky thrill of getting to choose between two different classes), endless debates about which characters are the best, and a pretty decent epic fantasy storyline. what was most surprising for me though was the way the game is designed to make you care about your characters. for one, the design feature that a character once slain is gone forever is central (although definitely not without its frustrations), and def. adds to the game’s difficulty. second, and this was quite surprising to me, is that if you have characters stand next to each other for a certain number of turns they have a “support conversation” which means they basically become closer friends and gain stat bonuses when near each other in battle. each character can have one major (level A) friend by the end, and during the epilogue pairs often get married or become friends for life. i found the support conversations to be highly entertaining, and although i went for mostly obvious choices my first time around, i’ll def. be checking out the others next time through. and of course there will have to be a second time what with the branch in the middle (what a ploy! this is the second game this year i’ve been suckered by this!).
the character images above, taken from this site, are just the characters whose personalities i liked and that i ended up using the most. the characterization is pretty well done, and there’s just something so hot about pink, green, and blue hair. uh, or is that just me …
i didn’t find the game to be as blindingly easy as some suggested, but i think most of it had to do with the way i played. like pokemon you can promote your character early on or wait twice as long and end up w/ a stronger character. so for a long while i had an entirely unpromoted cast, but once i promoted the rest of the game was pretty straightforward. there are also def. other ways to make the game harder for yourself. for example, i almost never use stat-boosting items in pokemon and i didn’t here either. next time i’ll also focus on different, perhaps weaker characters, like some of the characters that already come promoted.
this is my first fire emblem game, and perhaps like many others i first got interested in the series through the hidden characters from the series who appeared in the still awesome super smash bros. melee. i’m really making my way through the smash bros. cast. once i play a star fox game i should be pretty well caught up.
i was somewhat surprised that although this is the 8th release in japan this is only the second one that made it over stateside. it would be fantastic if they’d rerelease all the previous ones a la the final fantasy games, but i don’t think anyone’s holding their breath on that one. anyway, all in all this was a great, albeit incredibly time-sucking game (and i still have the ruins to finish!). the most common complaint is that the game is much too close to the first fire emblem game (the one on GBA w/ no subtitle) that came out in the US (which i just bought even though i prob. won’t be playing it for a good while). despite that i’m def. looking forward to playing that, the gamecube installment, and the very first games as well.
oh and one other thing. in a previous post about nintendo translator bill trinen there’s a link to an article where trinen mentions that fire emblem games are particularly tricky to translate b/c of the archaic japanese language used. so i have to give a thumbs up on the great job they did on this game. rawk.
– wikipedia has a mostly spoiler-free section on which characters have level A support endings. i can’t believe rennac, moulder, and knoll don’t have any level A support endings. how sad!
– fire emblem: sanctuary of strategy: lots of great stuff, inc. some sprites, wallpapers, and official artwork; a table that lists all the bonuses from supports; and the text of all the support level A endings.
– fire emblem online has some good stuff too, including all the awesome epilogue artwork and a 4-page comic prologue to the game.
– this promotion chart is indispensible.
– ign has a decent, although somewhat barebones, guide.
– ign also has a good FAQ.
– this FAQ at gamefaqs is about FE7, but it has a lot of good info about game mechanics that’s directly relevant.
– this is a good walkthrough, also at ign.
– just came across this character guide, also at ign, that looks pretty cool.