Golden Sun: The Lost Age - Review

Solid Sequel, Promising Series
By: Michael Beckett

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 8
   Music & Sound 8
   Originality 5
   Story & Plot 6
   Localization 8
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 9
   Difficulty Easy
   Completion Time 35-45 Hours  

Djinni are nice, but the lack of difficulty makes them somewhat pointless.
Djinni are nice, but the lack of difficulty makes them somewhat pointless.
Golden Sun: The Lost Age

   Arguably the most anticipated sequel on the GBA to date, Golden Sun: The Lost Age is a puzzler's dream. It takes the best aspects of the original Golden Sun and improves upon them - enemies are tougher, spells are more varied and unique, and the puzzles have been made considerably more difficult. It pushes the GBA to heights of graphic style not seen before now. The Lost Age also does a decent job of characterization and character development, a section which the original Golden Sun could have used a great deal of work. Of course, it's far from perfect, with a slow, near meaningless plot and unnecessary Djinn system.

   Although the turn-based system is still basically the same as it was, small changes go some way towards refreshing a system so, er, well used. Combinations of different elemental Djinni now produce multi-elemental summons such as Eclipse and Charon. Also available are a host of new Djinni - a whopping 72. However, the whole Djinni system comes off as being an unnecessary appendix to a system that was already fairly complex. Most normal battles only last one or two rounds, the foes being easily dispatched by physical attacks and Psynergy, and in more serious battles, unleashing enough Djinni to summon anything very powerful is a serious mistake because of the stat losses unleashing a Djinn temporarily saddles the character with. The use of Djinni to implement a Class system was intriguing and quite original, but the designer's acceptance of such low difficulty in normal fights means the Djinni are almost useless in battle.

   The inclusion of the four main characters from Golden Sun in addition to the four from The Lost Age must have posed something of a challenge for the designers. How does one have an eight person party in combat without overwhelming the player? Apparently taking a page from Final Fantasy X, characters can be switched in and out of battle almost at a whim. Control in general is very solid, with no part of the interface falling into insensibility. It would have been nice to separate the 'Confirm' and 'Menu' buttons, but that's the only real problem to be found.

   With a composer like Motoi Sakuraba (Valkyrie Profile, Star Ocean 3: 'Till the End of Time), Golden Sun had a real gem of a soundtrack. The Lost Age has an almost entirely new soundtrack, with a few choice tracks returning from the original. Standout tracks like the Gold Temple and Doom Dragon help set a sophisticated, energetic tone for The Lost Age. It's definitely a good idea to listen to The Lost Age through a pair of headphones, though - like the original, the GBA's little speaker just doesn't do justice for the work of this fine composer.

This is Alex.
This is Alex. "Snake" doesn't begin to cover it.

   Points have to be given to Golden Sun: The Lost Age for a unique (if somewhat unnecessary) Djinn system, its solid feel, and entertaining music. However, nothing in The Lost Age is particularly original. From the traditional turn-based combat system to a number of age-old clichés embedded in the story, The Lost Age doesn't do anything really new.

   Luckily, it does the old well. While the plot does contain a number of old clichés, its overall execution is such that the plot is quite enjoyable. There is a problem or two, however...the plot has a serious tendency to leave the player dangling with little or no direction as to where they should be heading. It also feels a little light in meaning and depth, and although I found the characters both very human and quite likable, I couldn't really find very much of a theme running through the plot. It did seem like one theme that wasn't quite followed through with enough was that of the huge part misunderstanding plays in human interaction. Misunderstanding and errors in translation play a big part in the side conflicts of The Lost Age, but nothing to do with the main one - Alex vs. Felix, and the proper use of Alchemy. Luckily, actual errors in Japanese-English translation are kept to a minimum, but in general, the plot could have used some work. It's an odd feeling coming from a game so deep in every other respect.

   The challenging puzzles of Golden Sun: The Lost Age will find wide appeal. Gamers who liked the Lufia and Wild Arms series in particular will enjoy the combination of Psynergy tools and unique natural puzzles. However, despite the inclusion of a handful of mini games, there's not much reason to replay The Lost Age through more than once or twice.

Complex puzzles form GS:TLA's main appeal.
Complex puzzles form GS:TLA's main appeal.

   The original Golden Sun was lauded for its advanced and realistic graphics, and The Lost Age pushes this even further. With some interesting new lighting and layering effects, The Lost Age pushes the GBA farther than it's ever been before. The graphics also have a serious style to them, cartoonish but not very, realistic but not really. From the earthy colors to the beautiful lighting effects, The Lost Age just oozes style and adult grace.

   Aside from a few very tricky puzzles, the difficulty for Golden Sun: The Lost Age is Easy. Despite this, players will probably need an FAQ or a Player's Guide to get through it, due to the aforementioned lack of direction and puzzles that could stump Deep Blue. Its length isn't anything overly long, coming in at 35 to 45 hours.

   Despite a plot mired in bizarre pacing and stagnating losses of direction, Golden Sun: The Lost Age manages to be a very deep and satisfying RPG, something the Game Boy Advance has been missing of late. An RPG with wide appeal and an ending almost as aggravating as Golden Sun's, The Lost Age is sure to please the current fan base and newcomers to the series alike. I desperately wanted Golden Sun: The Lost Age to be a truly great RPG, but I'll settle for the damn good one it is.

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