Reviews: Golden Sun

The best handhelds I've ever played

I've been a fan of RPG's since before I can remember, having played the original Legend of Zelda on my cousin's NES when I couldn't even read yet. However, I did not discover Golden Sun until much, much later ...three years after The Lost Age came out, actually. To top it all off, I found TLA first, only to discover it was really Golden Sun: Book 2 (as the opening so blatantly states.) That didn't stop me from buying and beating the first game, and the second, and replaying both many, many times even in the days when it looked like they'd never have a sequel. It made me sad. I had found this series in a truly dark age, when the fandom had all but lost hope of ever getting another. Even so, the story was good enough for me to say they were fine as they were, no matter how amazing a sequel would be. Just when I was going for 100 percent completion of the two games (and finding myself forced to wiki the information needed to go about finding all the items) news of Dark Dawn was first released. The feeling was awesome, and I was on enough of a happiness high that the wait did not even feel that long. Despite what others have to say about the third one, I actually liked it quite a lot. It's story isn't quite as cool as TLA's, but then again... few are. The revelations gained about halfway through TLA are what make this series truly profound for me. Heck, few novels take on a plot twist like that one. It turns the entire first game on it's head. I still love Dark Dawn as well, the graphics have improved a lot from the GBA games. (Though, for GBA, GS has some of the best graphics I've seen for the platform.) I'm a huge fan of handhelds, and I have to say... Golden Sun are by far my favorites in that category. Yes. That's right. I even like them better than the handheld Zelda games, which is a tough thing for me to admit since Zelda has the honor of being my long-time favorite series ever. It's a shame the fanbase is so small, but I guess we make up for it by being devoted. I always tell new RPG loving friends about it, because these are truly games that no RPG fan should go without playing at least once.

Forget Final Fantasy

Golden Sun is an exceptional series that you won't regret picking up. It's just received it's long-awaited third entry on the DS, and it is a welcome addition to the family.

To clarify, Golden Sun is a turn-based RPG series in the same vein as Dragon Quest and many of the FF titles that began on the Nintendo Gameboy Advance. However, the games have one major distinction to them, The Djin. Like pokemon, these little creatures are plentiful, and are probably one of the most interesting features in the series. From altering a character's class and stats, to being needed to summoning epic and awe-inspiring monsters, the Djin will have players spending hours combing the world for each and every single one just be sure to check some guides for extra help!. Of course, it does take some work to find out the best strategies for enemies and their weaknesses, but combat is still a blast and probably one of the most amazing things ever seen on handheld.

The story of the series follow your typical Save the world formula, but feature a cast that are often more intelligent than your typical RPG hero/heroine (though that's not to say there aren't the standard Idiot Ball carriers) who each have something useful to say and contribute to the story. The locations are varied, and their characters are distinct, each with their secrets to discover.

If you love RP Gs, then pick up this series. Though the first two games came out almost ten years ago, they're still worth it to experiencing probably two of the best games ever made for the Game Boy Advance.

An Elemental Example of an Eastern RPG

The first Golden Sun was one of the Gameboy Advance's launch titles. As such, it was an instant hit and has a strong fanbase years later. The series is a textbook example of old-school JRP Gs: the four elements, Mineral Macguffins, teenaged heroes and ancient civilizations are the core of the plot, and the core appeal as well.

The first game, subtitled "The Broken Seal" in Japan, is the story of a world where a number of people posses a power called Psynergy that allows them to manipulate the elements of fire, water, earth and wind. On a dark and stormy night, the town of Vale is struck by tragedy when a massive boulder crashes through the town, killing protagonist Isaac's father and the family of one of his friends. The event was caused by two mysterious figures who return three years later to the Sol Sanctum above the village, only to abscond with hostages and three sacred Elemental Stars, keys to unleashing the forbidden power of Alchemy. Isaac and his friend Garet take the remaining treasure and set off in pursuit. And that's just the first game.

The games are old-school JRPG and thus have random encounters, a point-based magic system and turn-based battles. A few things set the games apart. Psynergy is useful for more than your elemental spells; Move, Mind Read, Frost, and Teleport are among the powers that come up regularly outside of combat.

Creatures called "Djinn" (physical incarnations of the four elements) add a "Gotta catch 'em all" feel to the game. Having them gives the player class changes, stat boosts, summons, powers and eventually, an extra dungeon. They're hidden all over, so finding all of them might take time and backtracking.

I like these games because of the clever puzzles and the setting. Exploration and and experimentation are encouraged by the djinni hiding everywhere, and offering additional flavor text accessible by mind reading. Combat is rarely difficult, and most of the games' length is solely because of how large the games are.

Final verdict: The Golden Sun saga is a reconstruction of the Super Nintendo RPG. Those who enjoy these kinds of games, or who want strong RP Gs without much difficulty or heavy moralizing will like it. Those who dislike puzzles or turn based combat will not. Highly recommended.

Golden Sun - And The Lost Age

Both games do seem a little generic compared to a lot of games, especially if you look at those on consoles and on P Cs, but you really need to consider that these are handheld games. Not only that, but they were on a very new format, and the developers spent twelve to eighteen months developing it, and that was considered a lot of work for a Handheld game. It actually does show considering its presentation.

Even though the games may have been a tad hard to see on a standard Game Boy Advance screen due to the dark colours, the amount of detail programmed in is almost 32-bit Scenery Porn. Despite it's pixellation, they look quite detailed, especially for the time they were released in. It also helped when you got to explore so many areas in the second game, which all had their own background themes. Even if the first game seemed almost like a Standard fantasy setting plus Psychic Powers instead of Magic, it made sense when you considered that it was actually set in not even half of the whole world.

These games are not perfect, however. There exists some balance issues within them all. A lot of them are not bad, but you just might find yourself not using them that much except for clearing out mooks because summons, djinn, and physical attacks deal more damage. They are far from useless; as you get Aura and Wish. Some of the summons meanwhile also don't become very practical because of the way Djinn work and wind up crippling you while the Djinn are recharging. That is the tradeoff of using them, though, since they do have abilities that you can't use with psyenergy but you can't spam them the way you can Ragnarok.

Another flaw I feel is a part of the second game. The second game is a lot more non-linear than the first game is. While this in itself is not a bad thing, it just is a tad too easy to get lost or forget where you were going unless you have a walkthrough out and check off the stuff you finished.

The games also suffer from a couple Guide Dang It moments, which are clarified on the main page as well as the Guide Dang It article.

But that aside, they are both solid games, with perhaps the best soundtrack ever on the Game Boy Advance. It does not even sound very techno-ey, like most Game Boy Advance music did. It is a shame that more games did not take advantage of that.