Golden Sun - Review

This Sun Truly Shines

By: Shinichi Kudo

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 7
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 8
   Plot 6
   Localization 9
   Replay Value 4
   Visuals 10
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

20-40 hours


Title Screen

   Shortly before the Game Boy Advance was released, a little gem by the name of Golden Sun was announced for the system. Many RPG gamers were awestruck by its beautiful graphics and original gameplay. Now, after a long wait that couldn’t have come too soon, Camelot and Nintendo have released this highly anticipated RPG stateside. The question is, does it live up to its expectations? In one word: absolutely!

   The battle system is standard RPG fare, until you discover the Djinn system. In the world of Golden Sun, there are deities based upon the four elements of nature, called Djinn. These mythical creatures can be persuaded to join your party, and once they join you, you can equip, or ‘set’, these Djinn to your characters. Each Djinni has a different effect on different characters. While one Djinni might change a character’s class from a ‘Seer’ to a ‘Shaman’, the same one will change another character’s class from a ‘Knight’ to a ‘Ninja’. Each class also has its own multitude of spells, and the only way to unlock all the classes is to collect all 28 Djinn. This creates a battle system that is surprisingly deep, even though it all sounds relatively simple.

Mia’s very se…. uh … well-endowed…I mean … never mind!
Mia’s very se…. uh … well-endowed…I mean … never mind!  

   The interface, unfortunately, still annoys me after over 40 hours of playing this game. Since the button used to examine objects or talk to people is the same button that is used to open up the menu, you must be positioned properly to examine something or talk to someone. This makes for many accidental and frustrating trips to the menu screen, and after a while, it becomes incredibly annoying. Outside of this minor gripe that I have, though, everything else about the interface is perfectly fine.

   Music in Golden Sun is incredibly well done. While you won’t find yourself humming them to yourself while your doing your homework, each and every tune in the game suits its situation perfectly. From the exciting battle music to the mystical magical tower music, Golden Sun has its share of awesome music that you’ll never grow tired of. As good as the music is, though, the sound effects are quite plain. The sound of impact of a sword makes the same sound as an enemy jabbing you with its fist, so the sound quality is quite low.

   The plot for this game is quite plain. As young Isaac, you guide him through a vast world to stop the forces of evil. As you proceed, new friends with the same goals as you decide to travel with you to defeat your enemy from unleashing the ‘ultimate power.’ Though the story may be unoriginal, it’s how the plot unfolds that makes Golden Sun’s story truly shine. The plot twists that are in the game make you keep playing, just to see what will happen next. However, things tend to drag during the later half of the game. It seemed like Camelot tried to make the game time longer by adding quests that have nothing to do with your main objective. Add to that an ending that is VERY annoying, and you have a somewhat disappointing storyline. Just prepare to be left hanging at the end.

Fear my Final Fantasy style summons!
Fear my Final Fantasy style summons!  

   However disappointing the story may be, the localization for this game is top-notch. Though not really Final Fantasy IX calibur, I’ve never seen a translation on a handheld RPG come out this well. Not once did I see a misspelled word or a misplaced comma. Unfortunately, character conversations sometimes suffer from awkward moments during the dialogue. Though not as bad as the translation for Legend of Dragoon, these moments still detract slightly from the overall story.

   The greatest aspect of this game is obviously its graphics. Rotating battlefields, beautiful looking summons, and gorgeous spell effects kept me casting each and every spell I had just to see what they looked like. The overworld is just as beautiful, with bright, lush graddlands, and peaceful and healthy forests, not to mention the great looking towns and dungeons made me almost forget I was playing on a handheld. Before playing Golden Sun, I never knew graphics like this were possible on a handheld.

   Many people tout this game as being an epic 40-hour quest. However, I finished it in less than 20 hours with the best equipment and all the Djinn in the game. However, if the average player wants to unlock every single spell in the game, he’ll need to play for over 30 hours, as you can finish the game at under level 30 and you have to be over level 50 to get the last spell. After that, though, there’s not much incentive to even replay the game, as you’ve probably choked all of the gameplay out of it already.

I wish all of these things were as easy to get.
I wish all of these things were as easy to get.  

Even though I’ve clocked in over 50 hours on this game, I still haven’t gotten bored of it. The characters are loveable, the story is great, and the graphics are excellent. If you’re an RPG fan, go out and buy this. Buy it right now. If you don’t have a Game Boy Advance, buy on just for the sake of playing this game. It’s that good. But the disappointing ending will probably leave a bad taste in your mouth, like it did in mine.

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