Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones is a tactical Role-Playing Game, developed by Intelligent Systems and first published by Nintendo for the Game Boy Advance in 2004. It is the eighth entry in the Fire Emblem series and the second to be released outside of Japan.
Set in a different continuity to earlier Fire Emblem games, The Sacred Stones is set on the fictional continent of Magvel, which is divided into five separate nations, each built around a magical stone that is linked to the imprisonment of an ancient demon. When The Grado Empire – one of the five nations – begins invading the others, and destroying some of the stones, two protagonists – Eirika and Ephraim of the Renais royal family – set out to gather allies to halt Grado’s conquest, and to find out their reasons for starting the war.
The world of Magvel can be explored via an overworld map and battles occur depending on the route taken. Combat is turn-based, with each side moving and attacking via a grid-based system that shows the playfield from overhead.
In addition to story-related dungeons, there are also optional battle maps than can be unlocked that allow extra experience to be earned for units that participate. Each unit that earns 100 Experience Points (EXP) will gain a level and their attributes will randomly increase. All characters can progress up to a level twenty cap, and when they reach level ten they have the option to evolve with a specific class item.
Units that share a particular affinity can support each other in battle – usually after a conversation – as long as they are close to each other, and this can happen three times during the same battle.
Units that die during battle are subject to permanent death, meaning that they are removed from the rest of the campaign unless the player re-starts the game from a previous save file.
In addition to the single-player campaign, The Sacred Stones also features a local multiplayer option where four players can take chosen units into the ‘Link Arena’ to fight against each other. The last group standing is pronounced the winner. Permanent death is disabled in the Link Arena.
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones is a classic tactical, turn-based RPG on the GBA, still worth playing today, and is similar (and arguably even better) than Intelligent Systems‘ other tactical turn-based GBA hit, Advance Wars. The Sacred Stones sold very well, with a quarter of a million physical copies sold in 2004 alone, before its North American release in 2005 (where it also sold well).