intelligent systems

Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones (2005)

Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones (2005)

Many classic RPGs play their storyline cards close to their chest, going to great lengths to craft and sustain a visceral sense of mystery and wonder while you attempt to discover your identity, separate friend from foe, and seek out your destiny. This allows for a journey filled with revelations and plot twists, and leaves you always wanting to learn more.

Fire Emblem: the Sacred Stones takes a different approach. Upon hitting the START-button, Sacred Stones spits out an intricate world history that reads like a two-sheet synopsis of a 600-page Game of Thrones novel. Leading with a narrative infodump seemed like an odd way of trying to hook a player. Sadly, odd design abounds in Sacred Stones, as I was about to find out.

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Posted by ChronoCritic in Retrospectives
Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising (2003)

Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising (2003)

Have you ever seen the box art that Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising shipped with? It features a towering figure whose countenance is encapsulated by a bizarre crossover between a samurai mask and a police hat – the combination of which is strangely reminiscent of Darth Vader’s breathing apparatus. It’s a little peculiar that this imitator should feature so prominently on the packaging, too, for he is at best the game’s invisible shadow puppeteer, not main-stage villain.

Anyway, Black Hole Rising is the second instalment in the now-dormant Advance Wars series. It retained its prequel’s kindergarten-depth, cookie-cutter story to glue together a few dozen hours of toony, tactical war-themed gameplay – and then took that gameplay and cranked up the difficulty to 11. For novelty a new unit type was thrown in and the roster of Commanding Officers (or COs) enlarged with fresh faces. Otherwise, though, Advance Wars 2 (AW2) played it exceptionally safe. Normally, I’d withhold brownie points for a failure to innovate on an established formula, but given how well both AW1 and AW2 played and the poor design choices evident from NDS Dual Strike onwards, that sameness may be a blessing in disguise.

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Posted by ChronoCritic in Retrospectives