Monday, May 12, 2014

First Hour Impressions #3

I've not posted one of these first hour impressions posts in a while now. I meant to do quite a few of them and keep this 'column' going. I actually played through a couple games and took the notes that would allow to write some more of these, but for a good few months now, they have just been sitting in my notebook awaiting animation into written internet-word-chunks.

This one was from 31/12/13, so actually just before we headed out for my brother's birthday meal and some drinks to celebrate the New Year Bells. So the story behind this one. I have only a little experience with the Fire Emblem series, and this is a game I have both in cart form on the GBA and on the 3DS as a downloadable title (Ambassador for the 3DS, woohoo!) I have only played FE7 and Awakening but really enjoyed both of them. I think this is a series I really enjoy. Fairly deep strategy, the nailbiting nature of permadeath, political intrigue, war on a continent or even world-spanning scale. Very solid RPG series from what I can see. The games are quite hard to find though. I never see them in shops here, and online you have to pay a quite high price for these games.

Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones (GBA)

Started 5:22pm, 31/12/13

  • I started this game up on Normal mode, not too concerned about the long term difficulty, as this will more or less just be the first hour. If I pick this game up again, I'd probably start a new game anyway. But the level of challenge would probably be ok on Normal I thought.
  • I'm immediately thrown into a story about the Kingdom or continent of Magvel, with five seperate countries or factions. I predict some conflict and invasions...
  • Graphically and musically the game seems really good. For a GBA game, the colours, sprites and character designs are really smooth and well done.
  • There is approximately 10 minutes of story-building and dialogue until we find ourselves in the first "tutorial" battle. But because I chose Normal difficulty, apparantely they don't tell me anything about the game actually works. Good thing I've played FE7 and Awakening so know the ins and outs of the gameplay.
  • Eirika and Seth carve their way through the first stage of the game fairly easily.
  • The second battle has some more units that join us, and the simple mechanics shine, with more weapons and enemies adding just a bit more depth and different match ups. The weapon tree is present as always, and these rock-paper-scissors mechanics in trpgs and strategy games.
  • The battles look really good, with the animations and nicely coloured sprites on the battle field really bringing the tactical battlefield view to life in a nice way.
  • Into the next chapter after 31 minutes of total gameplay time, and things are getting quite engrossing so far. The story is really picking up, and without spoiling in any way, some major happenings occur due to the war between the two kingdoms. (How is that for vague!) I should say, one chapter is usually equivalent to one battle and some exposition either side of the battle. The battles can be quite lengthy from what I remember from the other games I've played in the series.
  • We get more characters and a look at the different objectives and gameplay mechanics that we might be experiencing further into the game. 
  • It is slightly odd with the lack of tutorials or hints, but I can actually find them in the Guide menu. Thankfully I remember enough of the gameplay mechanics and tricks from when I played Fire Emblem 7 on the GBA only a few months previously.
  • TRPGs are really going to enjoy the gameplay of this one. The game is challenging on Normal, and in fact, I fell foul of something that has always bugged me in the other games. I got all the way to the end of the first battle in chapter 2, had beat the boss and thought I was done. I just needed to finish off the last enemy with one of my characters critically low on HP, and I didn't move them far enough away, so when my other character's attack on the enemy missed, the enemy had it's turn, moved in and killed off my wounded Pegasus Knight. There you have it, permadeath-Fire Emblem's greatest and at times worst aspect

And there my notes end, rather climactically. From what I remember, that was around the hour mark, so that was about an hour of Fire Emblem Sacred Stones on the GBA. It is a fun strategy RPG, and I really want to get back into this and play some more. Even doing this blog post was really fun. On the topic of permadeath, it is one of Fire Emblem's main characteristics, and it can lead to some really frustrating situations if you are like me, and REALLY don't want to permanently lose characters. It adds a whole different level of strategy to the game, and an interesting risk/reward mechanic. Is it worth sending that character in to attack if they only have a 60% chance to hit and kill the opponent? Perhaps if they can kill that opponent if they hit, or perhaps if they are safe from the opponent's counterattack, but if they are vulnerable (weak to the opponent's weapon type) or low on HP and will not survive a counterattack. These are just some of the typical situations that will come up often in Fire Emblem games.
I'd definitely recommend this game, or the other GBA title that we got as a starting point for newcomers to the series. Or even better still, Fire Emblem Awakening is very accessible to newcomers, as there are different options for difficulty and even the choice to turn off permadeath if it doesn't sound like your thing...I won't judge you....
Much... :p

1 comment:

Trigger7 said...

Ever since I played Final Fantasy Tactics when I was a kid I have been intrigued by tactical RPGs. I played Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones years ago and remember really enjoying it. The split story following Eirika and Ephraim hooked me and the gameplay was challenging (I had to restart many battles when my favourite characters died). I played Awakening recently and that was fantastic as well. Nice post mate!