Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones will be released in just a few short days, so soon enough we Fire Emblem fans will have ample opportunity to go charging out into the battlefield once more. Before then, though, we here at GameSpot have had a chance to play this upcoming strategy game, and there are plenty of elements you'll recognize from the previous Game Boy Advance title, as well as some new features.
First of all, know that this game isn't related at all to the previous Fire Emblem, storywise. (Yes, the first game was a prequel to another game that came out in Japan. We still don't have that game over here, and we haven't heard about any plans to release it.) The story this time around revolves around a new realm called Magvel, which is split into a number of different kingdoms. Hundreds of years ago, this world was plagued by an evil being called the Demon King. Through the efforts of five heroes wielding artifacts known as the sacred stones, the Demon King was sealed away, and peace was restored to the land. Up until the present day, that is, when the usually benevolent emperor of Grado launches a surprise invasion of his neighbors in the kingdom of Renais, rolling over the capital and taking it as his own. The prince and princess of Renais, Ephraim and Eirika, are separated during the takeover, and must now fight independently to reunite with each other, win their lands back, and solve the mystery of Grado's sudden military aggression.
The game is a turn-based strategy much like its predecessor; you'll form up a group of units of various types from the multitudes of people that will join you, head out into a battlefield with grid movement, and accomplish your objectives to win the day. You'll have familiar unit types like thieves, archers, pegasus knights, mounted cavaliers, mages, and priests. Once these characters have reached a certain level and you've acquired a class-specific special item, you'll be able to change their character class into a more powerful form. One of the major changes in this game is that you'll have a choice of classes to evolve into in some instances. For example, a bow-wielding archer can change into either a ranger, which is a class that can use both swords and bows, or a sniper, which is a specialist ranged class that can only use bows.
You'll be able to recruit a number of personalities as you go along on your quest, though you'll have to safeguard them, as a unit that falls in battle is gone for the rest of the game. While you'll still have to make sure you level up your characters during the course of the mandated story battles to ensure they're strong enough to keep surviving, you'll also have a chance to revisit past battle locations as well. That's because there's an overworld map system in this game that lets you freely roam from point to point between fights, so you can choose to forgo a story battle location (marked with a red flag--you'll need to clear those stages to progress) to hit up enemies or shops at other points on the map.
We'll have more news on Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones in our full review, so be sure to keep watching this gamespace for the latest developments. The game is currently scheduled for release on the GBA platform on May 23.