Golden Sun - Review

Tradition With A 3D Twist

By: Jade Falcon

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 7
   Music/Sound 3
   Originality 4
   Plot 6
   Localization 4
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 10
   Difficulty Very Easy
   Time to Complete

20-30 hours


Golden Sun

   With the advent of a new, more powerful portable system begins an era of worthy RPGs to take on a long road trip. Sure, there were many good GBC RPGs, but the 8-bit graphics were beginning to fall behind the processing power of the console systems. In addition, games developed for this new system will give "modern" gamers a good look at old-school games. Golden Sun is the first portable RPG that can be truly compared to the old-school games and can stand up to the quality of the SNES RPGs.

   Let's get the worst part of the game out of the way: the localization/translation. Different from more modern games, but on par with old-school games, the developers at Camelot decided to axe many scenes, causing several parts of the game to be perceived only with a simple scratch of the head. Once again, the main character has very few lines, but for some reason, the characters enjoy following this mute. Despite these shortfalls, the localization is not terrible; it is just not as quality as the more recent translations have been.

   The first thing noticed when beginning the game is the splendid graphics. Each area of the world comes with a distinct palette of shapes, colors, and people. In one area of the game, there are lighted and dimmed areas through which the characters have to sneak. The characters look 3-D despite being sprites. Battle graphics are especially awesome. Bosses, especially the final boss, look tremendous compared to the characters, and the spell graphics dwarf even the greatest accomplishments on the Super Nintendo.

Eat My Arrows!
A Beautiful summon, Atalanta  

   A general turn-based battle system graces Golden Sun. The order in which the characters attack is determined by their agility rating. As the game progresses, more and more of the enemies act before your characters, and some planning is necessary when those enemies appear. The main addition to the battle system is the Djinni. These are little creatures found around the world which boost stats. When unleashed, the stat bonus disappears, but either a defensive, curative, or attack spell is cast for no consumption of magic points. When used, multiple Djinni can be used to summon a creature to cause massive damage. Different Djinni combinations allow for different classes for the characters as well as different spells, but the best combination seems to be having one person control all Djinni of one type. There are also "area" attacks which damage enemies, but with decreasing effectiveness as the distance increases from the main blast. Though seen in previous games, the system is utilized in a much more effective manner. Added to the system is a two-line text box at the bottom which scrolls the battle damage and statistics in lieu of displaying them directly on the character.

   Unfortunately, I am not moved by the music. The tunes just do not feel distinctive enough to merit attention. There is only one overworld theme and one regular battle theme, and those get quite repetitive after the third listen. The game only uses a small variety of sound effects. I estimate only around twenty or so effects were used for everything in the game. The characters make "noise" when talking, sounding more like chipmunks than people talking. Thankfully there is an option to turn off the voice sound in the options menu.

   The plot presented in Golden Sun starts off with a bang at the beginning, but after the chase after the bad guys begin, it turns into more of wandering around from town to town, solving everybody's problems. For most of the game, the party is out of contact with the enemy. Though the little side stories can draw a person in, he or she is left thinking, "What does this have to do with beating the bad guys?" which is exactly what I thought as I played through.

By Fire, I Join With You!
Finding a New Mars Djinn  

   Controls in Golden Sun leave something to be desired. The A button becomes the all-purpose button. It opens up the menu, performs actions, talks to people, searches boxes, flips switches, confirms selections, among other tasks. Any button can be used to scroll through text. The arrow buttons also enjoy scrolling twice with only one button press. Everything would have been much nicer if every button had one specific set of purposes.

   Let's face it: The game was made for a portable system. It was not designed to be the longest game on the market. However, for a portable system, this is one of the longest, most intensive games that can be found. The game also will not cause anybody to pull his or her hair out because even what look like to be massive, complex puzzles have simple solutions. With correctly-used Djinni, the game becomes ever less and less difficult.

   In terms of comparison with all RPGs, every aspect of this game is stolen from other games, save for the aforementioned Djinni. Though there are many shortfalls in Golden Sun, the game is just plain fun to play for some reason. Any RPGamer with a GBA should have this in his or her library.

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