Review by Walker Boh Ohmsford
"The first or one of the first RPG's for Game Boy Advance."
I was first introduced to the RPG genre of games with Dragon Warrior, just like most of us. From that moment I was hooked. After the Dragon Warrior games came Final Fantasy, and I was even more hooked. The genre has changed a lot since the days of Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy, but in a lot of ways it's still basically the same. You gather companions, fight enemies to gain experience and collect items as you prepare for a final battle. Battles are usually turn-based, which for those that don't know, means that at the beginning of a battle you choose what each of your characters does, then battle is joined. They're usually divided into rounds where you and your enemies take turns attacking. Whichever party survives is the winner. In this review, I'll be reviewing one of if not the first RPG for Game Boy Advance, Golden Sun. Golden Sun came out in about 2001 or so and was said to be really popular. Being the RPG freak that I am, I had to try it. So I bought a copy. After much fiddling around, I finally found time to actually play the game for a while. It's definitely well worth the money I spent on it. The gameplay and story are interesting, and the music---what I've heard of it, is excellent. Read on to learn more.
Gameplay 10-10. The thing that sells this game---or one of them at any rate, is the new Magic system. Magic in this game is called Psynergy, which is basically the power of the mind, telekinesis. You can move objects and things like that, and one of the characters has the ability to read people's minds. Psynergy can also be used in battle, where it does all the usual stuff (y'know, healing and attacking). There's also a Pokemon element thrown into this game. Thrown in no doubt because of the success of Pokemon (I'm not counted among its many fans), are creatures called Djinni. Each Djin has different abilities and can affect the stats of your characters. Fortunately, it doesn't seem nearly so complicated as Pokemon, where each one has like sixty different forms. You don't even have to catch them in any kind of Pokeball or anything. A few Djinni will just join you with no strings attached. Most though, you have to defeat in battle before they'll join you. These creatures---some of them at least, actually talk. The first one you get will give you a little bit of a laugh if you say No when he asks to join you. He'll ultimately resort to begging and finally just invite himself along anyway. SO there's none of that ''pika pika!'' crap (sorry Poke fans).
Control 10-10. The controls are nice and simple. A, Select and Start all bring up the menu screen. A also talks to people if you're close enough to one. You know how to move (duhh). Either L or R, I forget which specifically, can act as a hotkey for a frequently used Psynergy ability.
Audio 10-10. The music is some of the best I've heard in a while, although you can't appreciate it on the GBA's tiny speakers. You just can't. You either need a really good quality pair of headphones or, do what I did. Buy a Game Boy Player and a Home Theater or a stereo with that capability. Hook your Cube up through that, put Golden Sun into the GB player, attach it to your Cube and insert the little startup disk. You need really good speakers to get the most out of GBA sound, and the GBA unit itself unfortunately doesn't have what it takes. Anyway, I like the music in this game, a lot. Particular favorites of mine include the battle theme, victory fanfare and the theme for the two villains, Saturos and Mendari. And yes, her proper name is Mendari, not Menardi. Menardi was probably a typo or a translationo as the case may be. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that, in my opinion at least, the music is great.
The SFX aren't top notch, but you can believe me when I say I've heard a lot worse. I won't name any games specifically because that's not why I'm here. Golden Sun's SFX are a mix of older Game Boy sound and more sophisticated GBA sound. It gets the job done well, so I'm not complainin'. Like I said, I've heard much worse. Hydlide comes to mind extremely quickly (there I go naming games again), with possibly the worse SFX ever on the NES aside from Fist of the North Star. Fortunately, Golden Sun doesn't suffer from that syndrome. Others may not agree, but I'm satisfied. And I'm not gonna tell you to ignore all the other sugar-coated reviews. The fact is, no review is completely unbiased. Anyway, on with the review.
Story 10-10. It's generic to be sure, but again, I've had worse. Isaac, the silent main character, is awakened by his mother during a nasty storm over the town of Vale. She warns Isaac to get to the town plaza. A giant boulder is going to crush the town, and only the plaza is safe. Isaac leaves, stopping to pick up his buddy Garrett. On the way to the plaza, they see a young boy drowning. Everyone else just stands around watching because they're out of Psynergy. Guess who gets to save the day? Isaac! He finds a few folks willing to lend a hand, but by the time they arrive they're too late. A boulder falls and the boy is drowned... Returning from the tragic scene, Isaac encounters two strange people, Saturos and Mendari (though they don't introduce themselves yet). They seem to be discussing the boulder that's crushing the town. It and its fellows were unleashed using the power of Alchemy, and it must be theirs. Then Isaac is spotted. Saturos and Mendari attack and easily defeat Isaac. Three years later, the adventure begins in earnest. You and your companions must attempt to stop Saturos and Mendari from lighting the four lighthouses of Venus, Mars, Mercury and Jupiter and unleashing the power of Alchemy, which would destroy the world. It even gives you a sort of cliffhanger ending, so ya have to play the sequel if ya want the full story. I can't say I've ever seen this in any other game. This doesn't mean it hasn't happened, but...Anyway, the story is generic save the world from evil, but it's cool. Like I mentioned, I've had far worse. Don't even get me started on that or we'll be here forever.
Overall 10-10. As far as I'm concerned, Golden Sun is an excellent game. I've read reviews before, not necessarily for this game, where the writer tells you to ignore all the other reviews that either bash or praise a game. I'm not gonna do that. Don't ignore all the other reviews. I don't know that I'd base my decision whether or not to try a game entirely on the reviews for it, but they'll be helpful. One thing's for certain. If you try this game and beat it, you have to try the second one...if you want the rest of the story, that is. Anyway, try Golden Sun, before buying it if possible. Then if ya like it, go ahead and by it. If ya don't, don't. There's nothing more frustrating than spending a lot of money on a game only to discover ya hated it. Fortunately, this has happened to me very rarely. Then again, I'm probably a bit more accepting than a lot of people. Anyway, if you want to try this game, do it. If you don't, then don't. You won't know for sure whether you like it or not without playing it at least for a while. Personally, if asked whether one should rent or buy this game (can you even rent GBA games?) I'd say buy it, but there's no guarantee that the person's gonna like it. In short, try before you buy if at all possible. Then if ya like it, get yourself a copy! The gameplay's fun, the story's good (even if it's not the most spectacular one ever), and the music is excellent. Just make sure you have a better speaker system than the GBA's. That one's really quite bad. Fortunately though, there are headphones and things like that so you can appreciate the music and sound. Now let's just see if the story and other stuff grabs you like it did me. And who knows, maybe you'll even want to write your own review and let others know what you think. Given the number of reviews already posted here though, some of you may find the task of coming up with enough words to be daunting. It's not exactly easy for me, but I've done my best and hopefully stayed on topic enough. Anyway, I'll leave it with the statement I always make. Whether you ultimately decide to get really involved in the game and its sequel is your decision. If you decide not to, it's also your choice, but you might pass up a really enjoyable gaming experience .
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 02/01/04
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