renamed Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones for regions outside Japan.
Fire Emblem: Seima no Kouseki, which roughly translates into Fire Emblem: The Holy Demon Stone, is the eighth game in Nintendo’s popular fantasy tactics series. The story begins in the kingdom of Lunes under attack from the powerful Grad empire. The situation looks grim for the country, but Princess Eirik manages to make a quick escape out of her country. In the beginning of the game you’ll be in control of the princess who is on a search for her twin brother Ephraim. The two remaining members of the Lunes dynasty go off in search of the demon stones. These stones contained sealed evil forces from the days when demons roamed the continent of Magi Varl. These stones are now sought out by the Grad empire.
Fire Emblem: Seima no Kouseki plays very similarly to Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken (just called Fire Emblem in the US). The game is all about battles and using tactics to win. Battles are turned based, meaning you’ll get a chance to make all of your moves then your enemy gets a chance to attack you back. Attacks have different ranges, which means you’ll have to move your melee fighters to the front line to attack. After you move around you can select for your characters to fight and an animated sequence will take place to show you what happened. The game has a built in rocks-paper-scissors system for weapons. Swords are stronger than axes, lances are stronger than swords and axes beat lances. So if you want to make the most of your attack you need to select the right weapon. The bonuses for choosing the correct type in the weapons triangle is that you lower the chance of the enemy counterattacking and you might even deal out extra hits. Magic has a similar system where elemental magic is more powerful than light magic, light magic stomps on dark magic and dark magic can best elemental magic. The balanced system makes sure that no character ever has a complete advantage over another. Instead, it forces players to think about what strategy they want to go for and favors diverse parties.
Besides planning your attack strategy, you’ll need to think about where you move. Out in the open grassy plains your character will take more damage than if he or she was hiding in the middle of the forest. There are forts that you can move into that can provide some extra protection and recover precious HP at the end of the round. Also characters can enter towns in hope of finding tips, weapons and occasionally a hidden ally. How you progress through the battle is also important because you’ll have to make choices like should you move slowly through the mountains or rush the enemy in the open battlefield. If there isn’t enough fighting to be done in the battle you can enter the special arenas found in some areas. Arenas have you pick a character to continually fight, the more battles they win the more money you get. You’re going to need to get a lot of money to purchase weapons and supplies. Weapons break after so many uses and spells fizzle after casting them one too many times.
New to Fire Emblem: Seima no Kouseki is an upgraded class change system. After your characters move up in level and you find rare items you’ll be able to upgrade their class. Instead of having just one upgrade for each class you’ll be given two choices. This means instead of having a knight automatically change into a paladin you can chose great knight. An archer usually becomes a sniper, but now you have the choice to change him or her into a forest knight. All of these options mean that there are a bunch of new classes in Fire Emblem: Seima no Kouseki. The other major change is that there is a limited world map that you can move around on. At the end of a battle you’re brought to a map where you can choose your next mission. The map, an idea from the Advance Wars series, is a good idea and allows more gameplay options than forcing players to enter battle after battle.
Seima no Kouseki has slightly improved graphics than Rekka no Ken. Many of the graphics on the maps look exactly the same, like the town, mountains and forest sprites. The major difference is seen in the new classes, which look pretty spiffy. Some of the old classes have a few changes to the way they look making them look slightly better than the last game. In general the battle animations look better than Rekka no Ken, too. Although, this improvement is only a slight improvement and it isn’t really pushing the GBA hardware at all. The music score in Fire Emblem is the same typical fantasy, medieval inspired fanfare found in the series. There is new background music that fits this type of game well.
Overall, Fire Emblem: Seima no Kouseki gives fans of the series more of what they want. The tweaks that Nintendo and Intelligent Systems made to the series are for the better and make this Fire Emblem a little more interesting than the previous installments. The main complaint about the game is that it is only twenty-two missions long, meaning its shorter than the last game. There is a new EX mode to play through the game over and find every hidden character, but there really should have been more levels to play through.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 5
You’d better know all of the kanji, hiragana and katakana just to play through the battles. The valuable information that the townsfolk give, knowing which new weapons to purchase and what attacks to use require a deep understand of Japanese. You may be able to play through the game with the aid of a really good FAQ, but you’ll still miss out on the story.
Fire Emblem’s critical acclaim and high sales mean that there is a good possiblity that this will come over to the US.
+ Pros: A few tweaks to the already solid Fire Emblem formula.
– Cons: Only 22 missions long, makes this a short game.
Overall: Fire Emblem: Seima no Kouseki is a hallmark tactical RPG that is sure to please fans of the series and those who like the genre.
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