Volechek - Easily Forgiven despot or desperate ruler pushed to the edge by unrestrainedFantastic Racism? You be the judge. Despot Imprisons Hou Ju and then continues to hold her after repulsing Sana from Morgal. He also imprisons Eoleo for piracy, but you can't begrudge the latter. Then sets both up to be boiled alive ala cruel and unusual punishment on the full moon festival (which ran the risk of souring any potential future peace with Sana and Champa) until the Eclipse Tower rises from beneath the city. Understands that he knows jack shit about why it was offline or what its true purpose even is in the first place. Goes along with the Tuaparang's plans to recommission it anyway without even so much as evacuating his people just in case. It is also never implied that he feels even remotely bad for what he put Hou Ju through despite her having never done anything to him or his people. His reason for wanting to activate Luna Tower was because he thought it was a weapon that he could use on Sana and Bilibin. He does genuinely regret all of the death and destruction that he caused in his own country, but he doesn't back down on the fact that he wanted to use the tower against other countries. As for the executions, conversations with NPCs in Belinsk indicate that he wasn't just threatening Hou Ju and Eoleo's execution as an ultimatum for Luna Tower's activation. He supposedly has public executions at every full moon festival. Desperate Fantastic Racism as a start, he had to chase out Sana (led by warmongering Emperor Ko at the time) in a bloody campaign to ensure the Morgal beastmen their own kingdom, only for Bilibin to march in during their moment of weakness, forcing him to close the border and put that dispute at a stalemate. Had no clue the Eclipse Tower would unleash a neverending monster-empowering night and trigger a body count like none other. Clearly regrets the ensuing massacre and his role in unleashing it. Knowing well that the Eclipse's end would be his as well due to the Tuaparang's "augmentation", takes his sister's place in firing the Apollo Lens and dies to fix the problem his actions sparked. Even the public executions are described to be a method of venting the populace's frustrations and preventing riots when the full moon screws with their heads and makes them unusually violent.
Angst? What Angst?: Amiti gets over learning he wasn't born thanks to his mother being an incredibly powerful Adept giving herself a virgin birth (she had no powers whatsover, his father was the Adept) very fast.
When you were a kid or a teenager, did you ever want to run away from home after something unpleasant happened? Now think about Amiti's sudden urge to go adventuring after learning the truth about his conception...
Annoying Video Game Helper: Isaac, when he joins your party for a while in Tanglewood, will very frequently tell you use Djinn and summons to get an advantage over your enemies. While this can be helpful for players new to the Golden Sun series, veteran players or people who are playing through the game again will find Isaac's constant nagging on what to do in battle annoying since almost every enemy at that point can be killed in a few hits with weapons or Psynergy.
The game also has quite a few points where the characters have whole conversations about what to do next, when the answer should be patently obvious.
There are instances where Amiti is scripted to use Insight to point out a puzzle you've already solved. Most annoying is the one to unlock the secret entrance to the Ouroboros, which is the same "empty the basin" puzzle you solved in every other room in Barai Temple, when Amiti was accompanying you as an NPC (so he's seen you solve that one already!).
The Dual Boss of the Belinsk Ruins. For all they're built up in the story, Blados and Chalis aren't nearly as hard as Saturos and Menardi, or even Agatio and Karst. You are also given a powerful party member moments after entering said dungeon, making the fight a lot easier.
As far as a Bonus Boss goes, the Ogre Titans are pathetic. They are weak to Mars, the element of the Sol Blade needed to unlock the place, start the battle slowly to give you ample buff time, no annoying gimmick and only use physical attacks (easily reduced to minimal damage with a defense buff). Thanks to the game's system of resetting a buff's expiration based on the last cast (even if the cast did nothing because you already hit the increase cap), the battle is largely one sided (though long, as they have a massive HP pool between the 5 of them).
Awesome: Video Game Levels: Can anyone deny that the Belinsk Ruins and Apollo Sanctum are pretty amazing? Especially the astronomy-themed portion of the Belinsk Ruins where you align the planet spheres and slapping the Sun.
Just any mention about this game's difficulty in Golden Sun forums will generate a lot of heat within the fans. Even when there are some parts that are legitimately difficult (especially in the beginning and at the very end), and the unexpected points of no return making many players miss a lot of Djinn, summon tablets and equipments, further adding the stress.
The 3D graphics for the summon sequences are either good for its time or Special Effect Failure for those who thought that the 2D summons in the GBA games are better in comparison.
Complacent Gaming Syndrome: Dark Dawn really went its way to promote Sveta as highlight of the gameplay to the point of making many many enemies and bosses weak to Jupiter, giving her a physical attack that targets multiple enemies, at least three powerful Sol Blade-tier weapons long before said sword can be obtained and rendering non-EPA offensive Psynergies obsolete once again, so that players will use her.
Complete Monster: Though Golden Sun has a villainous roster comprised by mostly villains with redeeming qualities, this cannot be said for Dark Dawn's Blados and Chalis. Agents of the military country Tuaparang, Blados starts by kidnapping a child and isolating him from his master, while Chalis secretly manipulates Kaocho's king from behind the scenes. The two partake in a scheme to activate the Grave Eclipse, shrouding most of the continent in darkness and unleashing dark beasts on the innocent populace, leading to the death of thousands. Once at the Apollo Lens, Blados and Chalis waste no time in betraying the other Big Bad, Alex, and seizing the Apollo Lens for themselves. They proceed to turn Volechek (the brother of playable character Sveta) into a horrific beast and attempt to use him to fire the Apollo Lens on their own allies, killing Volechek in the process. Both are nasty in their own right, with Blados doing it for fun, and Chalis seeking more personal motives, up to betraying her own partner. Cunning, manipulative, and seeing the deaths of thousands as a mere side-effect of the plan, Blados and Chalis are two of the worst villains Golden Sun has.
Crosses the Line Twice: It is the perfect time to test out your kids' knowledge of Psynergy when your best friend's son is in danger of dying. Sure, let's drag the kids along through the deadly forest, and keep making them do all the work despite how dangerous this could get! Also who cares if you didn't actually have anything to do with breaking the glider, get out of the house and don't come back until you can fix it. Adventures build character! Lampshaded thoroughly by Garet, Karis, and Matthew himself, none of whom think Isaac has hit the second line yet... Of course, depending on your decisions, Matthew has no qualms with it whatsoever.
Demonic Spiders: After the Grave Eclipse is activated, players can start encountering shadow monsters whenever they venture into the shadow of the eclipse. If you haven't been leveling properly, these things can knock you senseless within a few turns. They also have a much higher Random Encounter rate compared to non shadow enemies of the same strength until you start leveling up past the 40s, and like to hit you with annoying status effects. Some even have One-Hit Kill moves. On the other hand, if you're high enough level to deal with them, they're quite good for Level Grinding, as they give the second highest experience for randomly encountered monsters (the highest experience monsters don't appear until right before the final boss).
Draco in Leather Pants: Averted in the case of Blados and Chalis, thanks to a kill count easily in the thousands, including at least one well-beloved character, via the Eclipse, played straight for Arcanus.
Karis is popular for her charming and unique design, thus avoiding the Generation Xerox affecting Matthew, Tyrell and Rief. She is quite decent in combat, able to perform many roles; offensive, status buffs and healing to name a few. The Lady of War impression she gives in her 3D model helps a lot too.
Fan-Preferred Couple: Just like the first two games, the Ship Tease at the end of the game is loved by the majority of the fanbase, this time involving Matthew and Sveta on the peak of the Apollo Sanctum. While Matthew is generally disliked for many things, his role as Sveta's pair is surprisingly well-received.
The shadow soldiers you fight as a Random Encounter before the Final Boss. They give between 20,000 to 50,000 EXP points per fight, which is enough to level up the party in a very short amount of time in order to make the final fight less difficult. On top of this, they ALWAYS drop a Water of Life (an item that revives downed allies). If you fight these guys for several minutes, your levels will be so high and you will have so many Water of Life that you can't lose the Final Battle.
Karis's cheap multiheal, the Fresh Breeze series, is often seen this way because it doesn't require any set Djinn and only a relatively small amount of PP to cast. To the point of making Rief, a pure healer, basically useless.
Any of the damage reducing djinn are game breakers, even in the original Golden Sun duology, but they're more notable here - purely because you don't have to wait for most of the game to get them. Chasm can be found in the Belinsk Ruins, which while it is near the end of the second third of the game, it completely trivializes anything past that, due to its effect. Chasm reduces all damage to the party by 90%, and will always go first in the battle unless another priority move is used. This doesn't seem too bad, until you realize that there are two other djinn, Bark & Shell which reduce damage by 50% and 60% respectively. You can remove all remaining difficulty from the game by having one character use Chasm on the first turn, then set it on the second, with another character using Shell/Bark on the second turn. You can then repeat this for the whole fight, which predictably turns the game into a joke.
Good Bad Bugs: Warning: This becomes a Game-Breaking Bug if saved over your main file, unless you can use it to get back to Tonfon, because the trip from the Endless Wall is one-way. Use a spare file. Anyway, there's a bug accessible very late in the game (look up "Endless Wall glitch" on YouTube; it's better to see how it's done because it's hard to describe) that involves saving the game at the part of the Endless Wall where it forks between the entrance to Apollo Sanctum and and a dead end that basically functions as a one-way walk-through-walls code without an Action Replay or similar device needed. The beginning parts of the game and Morgal can be accessed with it as well as... Bilibin? Well, only the Bilibin side of the Border Town can be accessed (and bizarrely enough, going into it from the Bilibin side results in Matthew entering that side instead of defaulting to the Morgal side accessible during normal gameplay; could Camelot have Dummied Out a Bilibin plotline involving Border Town?); nothing else in Bilibin is in the game, and the Bilibin side of Border Town is devoid of NPCs. Still, it's nice to be able to say, "Screw you, Point of No Return!" for once.
It's Easy, so It Sucks: Many of the reviews made mention of the game's relatively low difficulty level, and the absence of a Hard Mode like TLA had didn't help.
To put this into perspective, the Grave Eclipse and its sudden swarm of shadow monsters are a noticeable Difficulty Spike from what you encounter prior — but all that really means is they've stopped scratching you for negligible damage and bothered stepping up to what the first two games considered par for the course throughout. Unfortunately, realizing this can kill the moment's tension somewhat. This doesn't apply to the first encounter with the Tuaparang soldiers and the bonus dungeon, however.
In general, the game's difficulty seems to be on par with the previous games up to the Konpa Ruins and the aforementioned battle with the Tuaparang. After that, both the puzzles and the battles take a nosedive in difficulty until the Belinsk ruins and the Grave Eclipse bring it back up.
Nothing has changed in the battle system, mages still suffer in the attacking department, the classes are still unbalanced (Mercury adepts gets this the worst) while warriors are broken and Jupiter is still on the top of the elemental tier no matter what the game tried to convince you-which leads to a severe case of Tier-Induced Scrappy below.
Moral Event Horizon: Blados and Chalis soared right over it when they orchestrate the activation of Eclipse Tower, starting a Grave Eclipse that would lead to thousands of innocent people's deaths. And even in the fickle fandom of Golden Sun, it doesn't look like there's anybody ready to forgive them for it anytime soon (being Obviously Evil probably helps, though).
Nightmare Fuel: In the third quarter of the game, after you trigger the Grave Eclipse, you start seeing dead bodies in plain sight. This is especially jarring when you visit Kaocho and Champa, where the bodies are decaying, especially in the former where you visited it in the past even talked to several of the now-dead people. To make matters worse, Spirit Sense can be used to read the minds of these corpses, so you can see what their last thoughts were before they died.
And the music in a certain way doesn't help either. In the affected parts by the Grave Eclipse in the overworld, the music is very somber, as if a monster would attack to you in any moment (the only part that has a different music is when you walk across the Endless Wall), the battle music indicates that you're fighting with evil monsters that appears from the nothing (but it's an awesome track, by the way), and even worse, the music used in Kaocho is really dark and depressing (the karma by their actions really affected them), and all that complemented by the things previously mentioned. The only possible exception is the music used in the affected cities (other than Kaocho), which evokes a sad feeling instead. Motoi Sakuraba really showed his musical abilities there.
While not nearly as bad as the Eclipse-related horrors, this one deserves a mention: you know the Djinn? Those cute little things that help you out in battle and otherwise seem to be silly, adorable cuckoolanders (although that might just be Flint and Pewter)? Some of them are, quite honestly, terrifying. Like Chasm, for instance, a Venus Djinni with a miniature black hole in the middle of its horribly gaping, misshapen mouth that takes up almost the entire front of its body. Which it sucks enemies into. Another one is Fury, who looks fairly normal and cute... until you read its description and realize that it attacks enemies by summoning up the souls of those who died in anger.
Nightmare Retardant: The dead bodies you can read the spirits of lampshade everything and seem more or less okay.
Padding: Just like in The Lost Age, the introduction sequence can be very grating due to how long and slow it is.
Replacement Scrappy: A common criticism aimed at Matthew, Tyrell, and Rief is that, due to the Generation Xerox, they come off as less interesting knockoffs of their parents. Karis has mostly avoided it, probably due to being more markedly different from her parent than the others, both in design and personality.
Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: In The Lost Age, Levatine is a strong weapon but often ignored for weapons with stronger unleashes such as the Excalibur and Tisiphone Edge. Here, due to the changes to the unleash system Levatine has skyrocketed into the second-best weapon after the Sol Blade due to Radiant Fire now hitting multiple enemies at once as well as getting Centurion (a Jupiter-aligned unleash with x2.4 damage multiplier, in a game where many tough bosses are weak to Jupiter). As if that isn't enough, both unleashes may ignore half of the target's defense. It also has only three unleashes while most end-game weapons get four, making it more likely to get its best unleashes. Other weapons with Centurion (Sol Blade and Phaeton's Blade) are also made better because of it.
The Scrappy: Some players have rather a lot of ire for Ryu Kou. In case you have to ask why, he's a constant jerkass to the player party while you're working in Te Rya, grabs up the Magma Orb from inside the Mountain Roc (even though this is what you-know-who wants) without even trying to concoct a countermeasure, and uses it to restart Eclipse Tower without an ounce of hesitation (he probably would have done it unrestrained even without Alex's intervention). The only time he changes his behavior is when he gets Hou Ju out of prison, but it doesn't really kick in until Hou Zan saves both of their lives at the Icicle Outpost at the cost of his own. He may be a stealth Take That at the old Friend or Idol Decision and Always Save the Girl, but damn if he doesn't rub people the wrong way for not even attempting a Plan C.
God DAMMIT, Djinn are STILL hiding on the overworld.
And let's not get into the whole problem people are having with the points of no return, which permanently block off a fair number of Djinn and summons if you didn't get them already. The official Nintendo-backed game guide explicitly reminds players to "go back and get all the Djinn" before they hit the final dungeons.
Briggs, sails his ship to Belinsk to pick up Eoleo and your party after you rescue Eoleo. However, the Grave Eclipse occurs, and monsters attack him, killing him. Eoleo then buries him at sea and vows vengeance on the ones who caused the situation to occur. (On the plus side, he isn't alone when he does finally get back at them since he gained some allies after this happened. It helps that one of them, Matthew, happens to be the nephew of Briggs's old enemy, Felix, from his first appearance in The Lost Age.)
And even before that, there's Crystallux, the chandelier dragon of the opera house who loves music. The girl who brings him food every night tries to protect him from the monsters, who then kill her. Her last words are to protect him and let him help your party to save the world.
The very end of the game. Volechek, who has been corrupted by the Dark Psynergy and will likely die once the Apollo Lens activates, stops his sister from sacrificing herself in activating the Apollo Lens, taking her place instead. His last words are a goodbye to his sister.
That One Attack: Djinn Burp from Dim Dragon Plus comes way too early to be a threat, but it's the first in a line of Djinn screws. The Chaos Chimera can use Djinn Blast, and it's lost no power since its last incarnation, while the Star Magician's Ghoul Balls can deny recovery by eating your Djinn, by the way, they're gluttons, too. And let's not forget that Dullahan can use Djinn Storm, the souped version of Djinn Blast.
Dullahan now has the Crucible technique used by Valukar in The Lost Age. Crucible is the power to use your Djinn to launch your summons into your face. Dullahan also gets the Charon summon for free, and his attack pattern means that he usually follows that with Djinn Storm, which is its own That One Attack.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Poor Himi. She joins as an Eleventh Hour Ranger at a point in the game where she can only really participate in the bonus dungeons and the final boss, so there isn't much main plot left for her to have a part in by the time she joins up. Despite being the daughter of two characters from the previous game who already didn't get much screentime, Himi's only significance is to act as a Plot Coupon to help get the group where they need to go. She also barely has enough lines in the game to fill a single page. Despite having an interesting class design as the first Venus Adept mage character, Himi is the worst of the worst when it comes to being a Flat Character in this game.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Psynergy Vortexes. They completely disappear after the Konpa Ruins without the characters ever mentioning them again. Until the stinger. Which probably means that most of the game was just a distraction to keep the team from their real mission long enough for some bad guy to act unhindered...
The high-tier end has Sveta, who is a tremendously powerful Lightning Bruiser and is the highest in the elemental tier. She has access to Sol Blade-tier weapons way earlier than Matthew and her generally high luck stat ensures constant spam of weapon unleashes, even without the unleash rate-boosting items.
On the low-tier end, Rief is too overspecialized into his mother's healing role, while Karis can also heal and assigned to other support tasks and Amiti has better physical options. In a game where weapon unleashes reign supreme Rief has it the worst since his high-tier options (Atropos' Rod, Lachesis' Rule and Vajra Mace) are either rare drops or post-game content or both. To make matters worse the RNG method in the GBA games cannot be applied in Dark Dawn, making rare drops almost impossible, even with the Dark Panther method. Note If you defeat an enemy with an Attack Djinn of the element they are weak to, the chance of an item drop increases 4X, and the experience and gold they drop increases substantially as well.
Himi has the worst attack stat in her base class, associated with the least effective element in-game and too much of a latecomer to be used easily. Though she doesn't had it so bad since she has access to Ninja, Apprentice and Crusader class series which gives her a high attack boost. It also helps that Himi has access to powerful light blades before the post-game.
It should be noted that these can be somewhat mitigated by taking some time to play with the Class and Level System, but the alternate class options for Himi and Rief mostly sucked (Himi has it better but Matthew and Sveta are generally more useful). Low-tiers also tend to get saddled with all the unwanted Djinn, making them even more scrappy when you do have to call on them to save everybody's behind.
They Changed It, Now It Sucks: Many fans do not appreciate the change to the easily exploitable RNG system in the first two games since obtaining end-game equipments and some forgeable materials via Rare Drops are nigh-impossible without it.
While this is a problem that already started in the second game, one has to wonder if Camelot has something against the Venus(Earth) element in general due to their adepts getting the shaft in characterizationnote Sveta suddenly become important at the end of the game while others, especially Matthew and Himi did not get their chance to shine. In Matthew's case he actually does at the end but Sveta still upstaged him unfortunately, lacking a clan backstorynote Jupiter Clan Anemos is at least mentioned and four Jupiter Adepts(so far) are descended from said clan, Mercury Clan is both in Imil and Lemuria while the antagonists from the duology are from the Fire Clan Prox, being the weakest in the elemental tiernote almost all enemies on land, many bosses especially the Final Boss are highly resistant to Venus-based offenses while being weak to Jupiter since darkness and death are included in Venus' power scope for some reason and getting their lighthouse the wrong color in the GBA games.
Gameplay wise it's probably meant to balance the fact that Venus-elemental gets otherwise the best stuff (the strongest unleash in the game, the best attacking djinni in the game, the second strongest summon in the game, the strongest attack psynergy by a country mile for what it's worth, the fact that Game Breaker Sveta is actually much more Venus aligned on offence with her EPA and majority of her weapon unleashes being earth-elemental).
Mages always get the shortest end of the stick in this series combat-wise, since their main offense method (attack Psynergy) only deal scratch damage since all enemies and bosses have tons of HP and elemental resistances while warriors get the best equipments, best weapon unleashes(the most practical offense method in Golden Sun, but only if the RNG likes you) and get Psynergies that are influenced by their naturally high attack stat. This is even worse for Himi(notice a pattern here?), since her primary element is resisted by many enemies and bosses that using her is a huge liability for the entire team.
Rief/Crown as well, which wasn't at all helped by his initial unveiling not using any gender specific language and the masculine English name. He was seemingly confirmed to be female with this trailer due to female Voice Grunting, but on further examination, an extremely similar pitch was used for male children in the first two games. Rief has since been confirmed to be a guy, although a girly one. Becomes a weird sort of Fridge Brilliance and Hilarious in Hindsight when it's revealed that Rief and Amiti are second-cousins.
Woolseyism: The European version makes a few pragmatic changes from the US one, from minor things like changing "mom" to "mum", but it's most noticeable during the finale. The American release mentions that "Arcanus" sounds like the most important card in the tarot deck, but no such card exists. The line makes more sense in Japanese where Ace really is one of the most important cards in the deck. The European version changes the dialogue completely to imply that Alex chose the name "Arcanus" because it refers to the entire deck. Karis theorises that he'd chosen the name because "(he's) holding all the cards". They took out the Symbol Swearing though. WHYYYYYYYYY??!
Wording is important here. Kraden doesn't say that "Arcanus" sounds like the most important card in the deck, he says it sounds like the most important cards. Multiple. Specifically, he means that "Arcanus" sounds like "Arcana". Tarot has two sets of cards. The Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana are the strongest cards in the deck, but even the Minor Arcana would be egotistical, since it implies control over Swords and Cups (Blados and Chalis), as well as Wands and Pentacles.
The player character Crown was probably renamed Rief in English-language versions to avoid confusion with the change of the villains' Theme Naming from playing cards to the Tarot (the suit of Pentacles is sometimes called Crowns). His sister Noble was probably changed to Nowell for the sake of consistency (and possibly Foreshadowing for her specialties; her name refers to a winter holiday, and Kraden indicates in a cutscene that she can use Frost/Cold Snap/equivalent).