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Sacred Stones is the eighth game in the Fire Emblem series, the third released for the GBA, and the second released in America. In this game, war has suddenly enveloped the continent of Magvel, and the royal twins of Renais must raise an army to defeat the Grado Empire and the ancient evil behind its invasion. Although not an original plot, the story's strength is in not shying away from the enemy's humanity. Recruiting enemy units to the player's army is standard for Fire Emblem, but even many NPC Grado characters are good and sympathetic people, and their deaths at the heroes' hands are treated as tragedies. That said, Eirika's dissertations on the awfulness of war can border on insulting the player's intelligence.
Once again, the Support System is one of the best features of the game, allowing every player units from the normal campaign to grow into fleshed-out, likable, and memorable characters through their developing relationships and subplots, and the character designs are well varied and appealing. The addition of allowing units to choose between two different classes when promoted also adds a greatly appreciated layer of customization to otherwise linear character growth.
The best addition to Sacred Stones is the Creature Campaign: a post-game feature where the player may continue to play with their victorious army against random battles on the map, or in two guantlet-style dungeons, the latter of which unlocks playable versions of various NPCs from the normal campaign. It's hard to convey just how welcome the ability to continue playing with the same army the player has grown, guided, and developed over the course of the normal game past The End is to someone who hasn't experienced having to abandon that army in other entries in the series first-hand.
Other improvements from previous games include the supply convoy being linked through the main lord instead of a vulnerable non-combat unit, the ability to revisit equipment and item stores from previous chapters, the ability to buy basic weapons on the pre-battle screen, and increased ease of raising Support Levels thanks to random encounters and the Tower of Valni. On the other hand, these features also take away some of the challenge of previous games, so Your Mileage May Vary.
Sacred Stones is a worthy addition to the series, and highly recommended.
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