Golden Sun - Review

On its Way to Becoming a Premier Series

By: TheShroud13

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 7
   Music/Sound 7
   Originality 4
   Plot 5
   Localization 10
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 9
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

20 hours


Title Screen

    Golden Sun is easily one of the most anticipated games for the Game Boy Advance. Representing Camelot's first venture into the realm of RPGs, there is definitely some potential in this series to become one of the greater role-playing series' around, especially on handheld. While the game is not without its flaws, it remains an admirable first effort for a company taking its first step into this realm. Golden Sun is beautiful, fun, and probably worth the price of admission for most. Golden Sun is without a doubt, the best role-playing game to hit any handheld, however, there are some flaws to the game that may turn role-playing veterans away from the game. The game has old-school charm, but also suffers from the points that the OLD-school RPGs suffered from.

   When you first enter battle in Golden Sun, you will not be overly in awe. It seems just like a normal RPG battle system with fancy camera work. However, once you start meeting Djinn, you will really start enjoying the battle system. The battle system is operated from an icon-based system, but really is no different from a normal RPG, until as I said, you start meeting Djinn. The Djinn add a new dimension to the game's battle system. While it will seem like a normal summoning system when you meet your first Djinni, the care placed in this system will really show through once you get a greater quantity of these Djinn. There are two modes that you can put your Djinn in. These two modes are "Set" and "Standby". In the set mode, your players will meld the Djinn with their bodies, allowing them to improve their stats, and change their classes, or use the Djinni's power to activate powers including stronger attacks, and party stat boosts. The use of these powers, of course, is not free. The Djinni is released from your body and automatically placed in the "Standby" mode. In the Standby mode, the Djinn are standing by, preparing to be summoned. Based on the number of Djinn you have of a certain elemental, you can call spirits for four different levels of summons. Once you call a summon, the Djinn will enter a new mode, in which they spend a certain amount of turns (or time on the world map) recovering, so they can be set again. That's the Djinn system in a nutshell, and, although it may not seem like much, really adds a lot to the battle system. This is definitely one of the game's stronger points, and you are going to have to appreciate this system to enjoy this game.

hidden messages
Psyenergy in Action  

   The interface also provides some of the game's greatest joys, however, some of its frustrations cause the game to lose marks in this area. While the unique use of psynergy to help you solve the game's puzzles, there are also troubles with the system. The button used to open that would allow you to speak to people (the A-button) is also the button that opens the menu that will allow you to use psynergy, which creates some troubles when attempting to use psynergy around people, especially the mind read power. In order to go around this, there are two things you can do. You can assign shortcuts to the L & R shoulder buttons; however, this becomes troublesome if you ever forget what spells are assigned to what button. The other way is to use the much less convenient, alternate menu button (the Select button). While this is just nitpicking, it can really get troublesome if you accidentally hit the button to search for an item or talk to people when you wanted to use psynergy. If you can get around this, you will probably have no problem with the game's interface. I also like being able to make my characters run with the B button, although I wish there was a way I could just have it on perpetually. The game uses a puzzle system not too far removed from Lufia II, one of my favorite games of all time. The main difference is puzzle complexity. While the puzzles in Lufia II can really bend the mind at some points, the puzzles in Golden Sun are relatively elementary, even at the later levels. While there are some that will make you scratch your chin, there are no real mind benders, which can be a plus or a minus based on your views. To me, it is a minus. Whenever you use a system that is much different from the norm you take a risk, Camelot pulled it off, and I thank them for it.

   The music is one of the down points of the game. None of the songs in this game really fill me with the emotion that I usually expect from RPG music. While a lot of the points in this game can be sugar coated by saying "it was Camelot's first try" the music cannot, as the creation of music is generally solo effort, and done by a veteran composer. The battle themes are not adrenaline pumping, and the songs are just average at best. Sakuraba's work has been much better in other games, and Golden Sun's soundtrack is simply not up to par with other games of today, and yesterday. The sound effects are another story. They are magnificent in battle, good outside of battle, but abysmal when speaking. The annoying little blips heard during speech are annoying, and thankfully, can be turned off. However, the sounds heard when casting spells, summoning Djinn, attacking, and everything else is very crisp and pleasing. You will not be overwhelmed by the sound quality in this game, but it serves its purpose. The music not very good in this game, but it definitely adds to the game, and it doesn't annoy you greatly, but it just isn't as good as some game. Nonetheless, this is one cosmetic area that Golden Sun is very good at.

   Originality is strong for Golden Sun in some points, absolutely dreadful in others. The interface, and battle systems are both very good systems, and are pretty much original. While they are not as original as some systems, they are definitely much more original than the average game we are served up. The originality in the plot, however, is dreadful. The entire game is spent chasing the game's main villains, and there are a few twists that have not been seen in RPGs before, but this game is hard pressed to find any originality in the plot department. Once you get into a locale that you've seen in a game before, you can pretty much predict what is going to happen, without any leads toward it. Even though this game was not designed to be original, I can't help but be disappointed by the lacking originality. The only saving grace in this area is its battle system and interface, which provide just the right amount of originality this game so desperately needed.

hidden thoughts
Meeting a mars djinni.  

   The plot is definitely the weakest point for Golden Sun. If someone told you what happened in the first few hours of the game, you would have little to no trouble predicting the rest of the game. It is a by the numbers fantasy plot with few twists, side-quests, or really anything to put it above the average RPG plot. I guarantee anyone who has played at least one other fantasy RPG will recognize Golden Sun's plot. While there are some very good moments in the plot, on average, the plot disappoints, and in a big way. To add insult to injury, the dialogue in golden sun is absolutely terrible. It is not a result of poor English; the dialogue is just not arranged in a pleasing, or creative way. On top of that, this game features the worst inter-party bickering I've seen in any game, but at least the characters are developed. In fact, the characters are the strongest point of this game, and are the only actual merit to the plot. They are good characters, and if there is one thing that I liked about the game in this area, it is the characters. The dialogue in this game is clunky, and doesn't help you forget about the game's very weak, predictable plot. The plot is the dumb man's Final Fantasy IV.

   The game has been localized to America very well, thankfully. I don't know how much of Golden Sun's dialogue I could have handled if it was in poor English. The game feels like it was made in America all along. I have yet to see a typo, a dose of awful grammar, or anything that degrades from the game in this area. Camelot performed remarkably for their localization of Golden Sun.

   The game is also pretty good in the replay value department. After all, it is probably the best handheld RPG you have in your collection, so that alone stands for something. The game's battle arena, allowing consecutive battles against monsters you've faced, as well as participating in linked battles with your friends also adds to the replay. On the other hand, the total lack of side quests makes it very difficult for you to really find anything new on your second trip through the game very unlikely, and you will probably spend all of your time in either Tolbi, or the game's battle arena. The game is also short enough to play through again without much time wasted, so it is a pretty good game for replaying. You will not spend much more than 20 hours playing this game. Since there are very few side quests, the time will vary mostly depending on how much time you spend raising the levels of your characters.

   Another wonderful aspect of Golden Sun is its visual appeal. For a handheld game, Golden Sun is absolutely beautiful. The layouts are great; the sprites are good, the summons are grand and beautiful. While they aren't quite good enough to merit buying the game just for the visuals, this is still a beautiful game to behold, and it is one of the most beautiful 2-D RPGs to date.

   Golden Sun is not a game that is going to challenge many people a great deal. The puzzles are quite simplistic compared to the puzzles of some games, and most of the battles are quite easy. Although things can get quite hairy at times, you are going to probably breeze through this game, especially if you have RPG experience.

hypnotic, aren't they?
One of your many fearsome summons.  

   Overall, Golden Sun is a pretty good first effort by Camelot. While it excels more in the cosmetic areas than the real meat, the game play of the game remains pretty good. Granted being a Game Boy Advance game restricts it, but one of the greatest challenges of creating a good handheld RPG, is that it is handheld. While Golden Sun is not worth all the hype it is getting, it is definitely worth some of it. This is the greatest pure-RPG created on a handheld yet, and is definitely worth a try. This is a nostalgic trip back to the days of the late SNES RPGs. TheShroud13's Bottom Line: This is the greatest pure-RPG available for a handheld today, period. If you're traveling person that wants an RPG for the road, this is the game to get. While it isn't quite as good as the action-RPG, Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, it is still a wonderful game. If you're still skeptical, rent it instead, you can probably get it finished in the time you have it for.

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