Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
|Name:||Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones|
(Japanese: Fire Emblem: Seima no Kōseki (ファイアーエムブレム 聖魔の光石, lit Fire Emblem: Holy Stones of Light and Darkness))
|Abbreviation(s):||FE8, SnK, FE:SS|
|Country of Origin:||Japan, United States|
|External Links:||Official Site, Official Japanese Site|
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Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones was the eighth game in the series and the second game released in the United States.
The story centers on twin protagonists Eirika and Ephraim as they fight to reclaim their fallen homeland of Renais while defeating a miasma of evil that threatens to destroy the continent of Magvel. The first act focuses on Eirika's escape and her journey to reunite with her brother, and after a brief interlude the player is given the choice of whether to follow Eirika or Ephraim:
- Eirika's path follows her and the rest of the player's units sans Ephraim through Carcino, the mountain range of Caer Pelyn, and the desert of Jehanna as they seek to warn neighboring territories of the danger Magvel faces.
- Ephraim's path follows the army's march into Grado, Renais's ally-turned-enemy who is responsible for its fall. Ephraim intends to face the emperor head-on and demand to know the reason for Grado's actions.
When the twins reunite following the fall of Jehanna, they have learned that their childhood friend Lyon is reportedly behind the war, and soon realize that he is being corrupted by the ancient Demon King. The only way to save their world is to end Lyon's life, which causes a great deal of emotional stress to the twins.
Sacred Stones revisits many elements from the then-obscure Fire Emblem Gaiden, including the ability to traverse the world map and the inclusion of monster enemies. Ephraim and Eirika's route split also pays homage to Alm and Celica's, though unlike Gaiden eventually allowing you to control both armies, you only controlled one twin until their reunion.
The game also introduced promotion branching, where the player could choose what a character would upgrade to upon reaching level 20. Additionally, three "trainee" units were introduced: The journeyman Ross, recruit Amelia, and pupil Ewan. These three characters started off especially weak and fragile, but at level 10 they had special dialogue before the next map followed by thicker promotion trees for each one. While some players didn't bother, others went out of their way to show how weak trainees could turn into absolute monsters on the battlefield. After completing both Ephraim and Eirka's routes, the game unlocks the option to make "super trainees," aka keeping Ross, Amelia, and Ewan as their base classes even as they gained higher stats.
Post-game, the player can access the Creature Campaign as well as many bosses or NPCs as bonus units. This mode has no connection to the story and is just a fun bonus for the player.
Like Blazing Sword, The Sacred Stones was many a Fire Emblem fan's gateway to the series due to it being the second localized and markedly easier compared to its predecessors. However, the easy playability was a double edged sword, as many players criticized the game for being too easy overall. Thanks to the ability to level-grind between chapters, just about any unit in the game can be ridiculously overpowered, even making the final bosses a joke. This was even more egregious in the post-game, as Secret Shops were accessible from the map and sold every possible stat booster (save for the movement-increasing Swiftsole) as well as hard-to-find weapons.
Compared to the heated debates and arguments in Blazing Sword or the Tellius duology's fandoms, Sacred Stones's faction was mostly quiet and flew under the radar until roughly around 2010, when harsh criticisms of certain characters became the norm. Eirika in particular was a target of such criticisms, as fans found her gentle nature and naivete irritating or unrelatable. A scene later in the game on her route involved her falling for a lie told by a possessed Lyon, causing the destruction of the Sacred Stone of Renais. Fans either blamed "sexist writing" for the female protagonist making such a mistake, or were unsatisfied that the other characters and the narrative didn't chastise her harshly enough for it. Some fans even considered her less of a True Protagonist compared to her brother Ephraim.
Gender politics in Fire Emblem fandom as whole seemed to begin with the Sacred Stones fandom, with fans counting each territory's number of female characters and guessing the gender dynamics based on said numbers.
Lyon, the main antagonist, also garnered much criticism from fans who found him "weak" or "pathetic" due to his desperate actions causing the plot of the game in the first place. Lyon had sought the power of the Demon King's magic to revive his deceased father, only to fall under the sway of the darkness due to his insecurities and frail physical health. His differing portrayals on both routes were often discussed, fans wondering who the "true" Lyon was.
The fandom prided itself on being small, wearing the game's relative obscurity like a badge of honor.
Like Blazing Sword, the game allows units to build supports with one another, forming or strengthening relationships. In addition to many possible romantic relationships, several platonic friendships and familial relationships can have double endings; certain endings carried a few hints of subtext as well, lending themselves to ships.
Ephraim and Eirika shared a very close relationship, with moments that many fans saw as twincest subtext. The ship was one of the most beloved pre-localization.
The only major shipping war to date revolves around Princess Eirika. Seth/Eirika was at one time the most popular het pairing in Sacred Stones fandom, with its fans bashing Prince Innes (whom they found obnoxious and controlling) and Prince Lyon (whose unrequited love for Eirika they decried as pathetic and whiny). Innes/Eirika fans soon fought back, decrying Seth as sexist and creepy.
Popular ships in the fandom include:
When a future localization of Seima no Kouseki was announced not long after the game's release, a portion of the fandom became pre-emptively angry at the possibility of anything being changed. Most of this anger came from their dissatisfaction of Blazing Sword's localization; players feared the game would be "dumbed down" in terms of difficulty, and story fans feared characters' personalities would be "ruined." Ephraim/Eirika shippers were especially afraid their pet pairing would be toned down to nothing, and yaoi fans worried Lyon's complicated feelings for Ephraim would be removed entirely.
The actual release of the localization was met with some fan disapproval, but some of those who had complained previously were relieved to discover not too much had been altered from the Japanese version.