Review by Sirius
"After sleeping for 7 years, is the sun still bright enough to dispel the darkness?"
Pardon the pun, but I couldn't help it. I'm pretty sure that's the question we are all asking ourselves though. How does it fare, seven years later? How much has changed? How much has remained the same? Is it a disappointment? Or is it a masterpiece? Well, that all depends on what you are expecting from this game.
Let's start with the gameplay and its mechanics. Nothing has changed. Golden Sun : Dark Dawn is still a traditional RPG, the monsters are invisible on the world map, battles start randomly. You'll level up as you advance through the game and gain new spells, abilities, weapons. Battles are still turned-based, and the only thing that was changed was to fix this already archaic system that was used back in the previous game, that is: if an enemy targeted by two or more party members dies, the remaining turns will be lost. In this game, as in every other RPG that exists today, the party members will automatically attack something else.
Now, the uniqueness of the battles in Golden Sun were the Djinn. Those little elemental beings that could be used and summoned in battle. Once again, nothing has changed here. Equipping Djinn raises your stats and gives you more psynergy; mixing different types on one character changes its class and thus its abilities. This gives you the opportunity of trying different things and personalizing your party. Using Djinn in battle will unleash some special attack, defense or healing powers. That used Djinn will now become un-equipped, lowering the stats of the character that used it. That Djinn, on the flip side, can now be summoned and the more Djinn un-equipped at once, the greater the summon that can be summoned. Once summoned, Djinn enter a recovery state, rendering them unusable for a while until they re-equip themselves automatically. This is interesting because it forces you to make decisions sometimes, as to whether you should use the special powers of a Djinn or not.
Weapon unleashes are still present, and equipping a certain type of weapon fills an experience bar that will be present every time you equip a weapon of that type. Weapon unleashes are unleashed randomly throughout battle and act either like critical hits (which don't exist here) or magic spells. Yes, there has been minor changes to the battles (no more double / triple attacks, balancing issues), but essentially, it's the same as it was before.
Now, Golden Sun is what I like to call an RPPG (Role Playing Puzzle Game). The amount of puzzles in this game is astounding! The whole game is built around them. You have psynergy that you can use as you walk through areas. Psynergy will let you meddle with the environment, or rather the objects that are preventing you from moving forward or reach that chest behind that wall. Obstacles will block your path, and it'll be up to you to figure a way through. You'll be pushing logs, moving things from afar, making vines grow, filling buckets of water, freezing puddles, breaking rocks, climbing up and down, falling through holes, sliding on ice, using wind to navigate rafts, jumping on lilies, finding secret passageways, slapping statues, and even smelling odors! That was probably the most unique thing about Golden Sun back then, and it's still here as strong as it ever was, with some new psynergy added to the mix. None of the puzzles are particularly difficult, but it's always fun to have to stop and look at the screen a few seconds or even a few minutes to figure out a puzzle. If you weren't charmed or absorbed by the puzzles back then, you probably won't like them now. For the rest of us, this is what I consider to be the meat of the game, and Camelot probably thinks so too. In dungeons for example, the battle encounter rate is incredibly low. I sure don't like to be interrupted by a battle when I'm moving around, thinking about what psynergy I have to use next and where I have to go. I guess Camelot understood that because you'll seldom be bothered when you're thinking. On the world map though, be prepared to fight much more often.
The story is interesting enough. The new protagonists (Muuto, Karis, Terry and Crown) are all descendants of the cast from the previous games. After Terry crashes with a flying machine (Garet's kid, go figure), it's up to our new heroes to go find a feather required to repair it. Since the "golden sun phenomenon" caused by Issac and company 30 years earlier though, many things were destroyed and black holes started appearing throughout the land. They absorb that new energy now freely flowing through the world (that will automatically replenish your EP throughout the entire game by the way), but their existence remains mysterious. As you'll advance through the game, things will come to light, new problems will arise, new allies will join you and you will learn more about the cast from the previous games.
The main protagonist, Muuto, is silent, but sometimes you'll have the choice to answer from 4 different emoticons (Happy, Sad, Angry, Fun!), though I don't think your answer changes much beside the immediate response of your allies. There'll also be the occasional "Yes/No" choice of answer. The story might not be on par with that of TLA's, but I thought it was good enough to make me want to move forward, despite some plot details revealed later on that were already pretty obvious. Still, there were also some surprises and some details that are sure to titillate gamers familiar with the previous games.
The music is good, if not particularly outstanding. There were some tunes I enjoyed a lot, but nothing caught my ears like the previous games had done before. At least there are no bad tunes. Nothing that made me want to turn off the volume. It's consistent. You'll also find remixes from the previous games, which is always good for us nostalgic people. And yes, that "squirrel" voice for the characters is back.
The graphics are pretty nice. Yes, they changed the style, but I really liked it. Especially when walking around on the world map, I thought everything looked kind of lustered, and I found it pretty. The emoticons that appear over the character's heads are all back, as well as more direct representations of emotions through face color changes.
The game should last you at least 25 hours, (though it'll probably be more like 30) so it's not too short of an adventure.
All in all, Golden Sun hasn't changed one bit in its long absence. And since I loved the old games, to me that's a good thing. I enjoyed it thoroughly and throughout, and any fan of the series should play this one. If you haven't played the previous games, you have to ask yourself if you like traditional RPGs, and if you don't mind missing out on obvious and pretty important references.
So, why 8? Why not higher? Why not lower?
Eight for giving me a very good Golden Sun game. A very similar replica of the games I played many years ago. There was nothing new to 'wow' me or to really impress me though, so giving it a higher score would feel a bit dishonest. But giving it a seven or less would also feel unfair and not representative of the quality present here. It is exactly what it says it is. Golden Sun. Solid, fun, addicting... and just what I wanted.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/05/10
Game Release: Ougon no Taiyou: Shikkokunaru Yoake (JP, 10/28/10)
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