Golden Sun - Reader Retroview  

Not an Entire Sun – Still Some Gases to Condense
by JuMeSyn

~25 hours


Rating definitions 

   Camelot’s RPG career was mostly centered upon Sega systems through the days of the Saturn. Sega’s dropping of the Saturn was felt by Camelot to be unwarranted, and Camelot looked for another system to host its titles. Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance fit the situation although Camelot would go on to develop a few Nintendo sports titles for the Gamecube also. It is on the Game Boy Advance that Camelot has created its (as of August 2006) most recent pure RPG efforts: the two Golden Sun titles. These two games properly should be combined into one cartridge as they are two parts of the same story; unfortunately the first part is inferior to its continuation.

   Golden Sun transpires on the world of Weyard, where a small village called Vale’s residents guard the power known as Alchemy. This power is sought for unknown reasons by two antagonists known as Saturos and Menardi. Isaac and Garet, two residents of Vale, are enlisted to track down Saturos and Menardi after they apparently abduct Jenna, sister of Felix who is apparently dead, and abscond with the secrets of Alchemy. Isaac and Garet will shortly meet up with Ivan and Mia, two other persons with unusual powers who have reason to fight alongside them. If at this point the cliché meter has not risen high enough for an experience RPGamer, it can probably be attributed to my odd story telling methods. Suffice it to say that story is not the reason to play the first Golden Sun – because it isn’t terribly engaging. One very annoying facet of the story is the presence of very long, impossible-to-skip text segments before certain battles.

Your own, Personal, Jesus.  Someone to hear your prayers, someone who cares. Your own, Personal, Jesus. Someone to hear your prayers, someone who cares.

   The eye will not soon be tempted to look away from Golden Sun however. Visuals in Golden Sun are probably at the zenith of RPG capabilities on the GBA, with quite impressive spell effects and summons. There are enough of them to assure a player will not see the same animations too often. Music is composed by the great Motoi Sakuraba, who has placed some fine tracks within this cartridge. There are enough not to be overly repetitious and the battle theme, per Sakuraba standards, is not grating.

   The battle system of Golden Sun is rather engaging, as such things go. This is thanks to the main innovation of the title: Djinni. Found in a variety of settings, Djinni will attach themselves to one of the four characters. They are living creatures that have been released thanks to Saturos and Menardi’s actions in Vale, and their properties mirror one of the four elements (wind, water, earth, fire). What effect a Djinni will have depends upon which character it attaches to and what Djinni company it keeps on the character. The simplest system is probably to stick earth Djinni upon Isaac, the earth talent, wind Djinni upon Ivan, the wind talent, and so on. But mixing up the Djinni a character has attached can and will produce some wildly divergent character classes. The spell listings of each character have very few items that are unchanging and mixing and matching Djinni will produce a fantastic variety of potential character types to fight with.

   Djinni also have a role to play in battle. Their latent state boosts the statistics of the characters significantly and adds spells, but using a Djinni in battle will produce a number of effects usefully detailed in the Djinni’s battle description. Upon using a Djinni it will be ready to summon, or it can be replaced in the next round. Up to four Djinni of any one type can be readied at one time for more powerful summoning. The risk inherent to using Djinni in this fashion is that the weakened characters are more susceptible to death from the enemy.

The Chia Pet fad hit Japan as well.  Only the Japanese weren’t satisfied with their pets just sitting around. The Chia Pet fad hit Japan as well. Only the Japanese weren’t satisfied with their pets just sitting around.

   Outside of battle Djinni have effects also, in the spells they enable the characters to wield. Magic is entitled Psynergy in Golden Sun, and certain Psynergy techniques affect the environment. Many of these are essential to progress any distance. Psynergy will unveil hidden aspects to the environment, move things around, freeze pools of water into usable platforms, blow away weeds that obscure areas, lift objects out of the way, grow plants into something of helpful stature, and more. Some Psynergy is enabled by items, others are enabled by having the proper Djinni equipped. Equipping of items and weapons and armor is handled efficiently and without fuss thanks to a rather good shop and menu interface, although trading Djinni around can take a bit longer than the player may have intended.

   Golden Sun possesses some reasonably threatening foes but overall is not commensurate with the player seeking a difficult title. Measured Djinni usage will affect the difficulty, naturally. Replay is a tricky thing to quantify here; the main quest does not take much time to dispatch, but a number of smaller quests are to be found along the way and can significantly stretch out the playing time. Completion of these side quests will frequently manifest in Golden Sun: The Lost Age, so a player wishing to play the two titles back-to-back (as is highly recommended) would find a powerful incentive to play Golden Sun well so as to influence Golden Sun 2.

   Golden Sun is best viewed not as a single game but part of a greater story. In conjunction with Golden Sun: The Lost Age this is one of the finer RPG experiences on the GBA. Every aspect of Golden Sun will be equaled or improved in Golden Sun: The Lost Age, so judging the complete tale based on the opening installment is unfair. If such a judgment is forced upon the player however, Golden Sun cannot be judged exceptional.

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