Review by Bkstunt_31
"Alchemy for everyone."
When I first started playing this game, there weren't many RPG's out for the gameboy advance (that I was aware of), so I was pretty excited to find this one. Fortunately for me, I feel it lived up to what I expected of it: a classic, interesting RPG with a good story and addictive gameplay.
The story starts off with you controlling Issac, the silent protagonist, as his parents wake him up in the middle of the night, telling him to follow them, as a big storm is raging in their small town of Vale. They race out of the house towards the town center, while the villagers, and his parents, try to stop a huge boulder from destroying their town. While they can't hold on to it for very long, it comes crashing down, taking a few people with it. Issac and his friend Garret discover that this storm resulted from some mysterious people trying to break into the Sol Sanctum, where alchemy originated from. With the help of their alchemy teacher, Kraden, they travel to the sanctum themselves to make sure everything is alright.
That is how the story starts out. If there's one thing I can say about this story, its that it is definitely rememberable. Throughout the game you are constantly being asked for your opinion (well you are the leader of your group!). More often than not, though, the storyline will remain the same no matter what answer you give. The characters help make the story interesting in the ways that they express themselves. Each has their own personality, even though your main character can't seem to do anything besides nod his head. It did seem like the story was rather short, but you have to remember that the story in Golden Sun is not actually completed as it is continued in its direct sequel, Golden Sun: The Lost age.
The game centers around the concept of alchemy. The four alchemic powers (water, earth, wind, and fire) make up everything in the known world. Issac is an earth adept, meaning he can use the powers of the earth. As you progress through the game, you will come across new party members, who are each an adept of a different alchemic power. These powers (also known in the game as psyenergy) are what you will be using as magic. The game starts off with a very cliche story, "save the world!", but as you progress through the game, and the series, you will encounter many plot twists that make the story more original and memorable.
The gameplay in Golden Sun is very addictive. I already mentioned psyenergy in the story, since it is directly related to it, but we will look at it further here. Each of your four party members (as seen on the cover) have different powers, according to the four elements. However, this is not the only thing that dictates what powers you can use. Throughout the game you will also discover little creatures known as Djinn, who when equipped will grant you special abilities. There are four types of Djinn (again, according to the elements) you can equip, however any party member can equip any type of Djinn. By doing this, you can mix and match abilities to fit your playing style. There are also certain items any party member can equip that will grant you special types of psyenergy. You will have to use your psyenergy not only in battle, but to solve various puzzles as well. Some of the puzzles in the later dungeons can be quite challenging, and may make some younger gamers lose interest in the game.
The Djinn are a two-edged sword, however! Equipping Djinn will not only let you use new skills, but they also up your stats significantly, as well as change your "title". Also, you will soon learn about summoning Djinn. By summoning Djinn you have used in battle as skills, you can unleash different degrees of, well, destruction on your enemies. Sounds good, right? Well, as soon as your summoning is done, you won't be able to use those Djinn for awhile, which means none of those skills will be available and your stats take a dive.
The gameplay style is very similar to any old school RPG you may have played before. Each character takes a turn to attack, and the order of attack depends on who has the highest agility, or speed. Be careful, though, as your party will do exactly as you tell them to. For example, if there's two enemies on the screen, and you tell everyone to attack the first one (otherwise known as repeatedly pressing "A"), they will, and after 2 attacks the first enemy will die. This makes your next two party members automatically defend, instead of attacking, since their target is dead. Very similar to the original Final Fantasy in that regard. Psyenergy is a little bit different though, as each spell targets enemies differently. Some spells only target one enemy, so you are in danger of losing the characters action if that enemy dies before you can cast it, while other spells can target groups of enemies.
Each party member is suited towards a particular role. Garret, for example, has the ability to equip axes and other high damage weapons while Mia can only equip light weapons and has the ability to heal people. This definitely limits how much effective customization you can do with your characters, since the equipment they can equip and wear is limited. Because of this, most people who play Golden Sun will keep each character intact with the element they were meant to be, rarely experimenting with all of the different combinations of psyenergy and classes the game has to offer, which is a shame.
The graphics in Golden Sun are all very nice. All of the towns seem to have a regional lifestyle thing going on, which the graphics illustrate very well. They also make good use of various lighting effects to set different moods, and the characters are also displayed as being full of emotion and energy. In battle, the graphics are pretty standard, but shine when an enemy uses a special move, or when your character uses psyenergy or summoning. Each psyenergy looks great and the summons look fantastic! Some of the more advanced summons are especially well done. There are also some times when a character will acquire a weapon that unleashes its own special skill randomly. These skills are often very eye-pleasing. Most of the time, when an important character is talking, their picture will be displayed over their dialogue, which is nice to keep track of who is saying what.
The character designs are really well done, and each character looks fantastic. Whenever you equip a different type of weapon it shows in battle. It's too bad they couldn't do that for the armor, too. The enemies are all designed really well, and they put some thought in too each one too since each of their special skills reflects on what kind of enemy they are. The makers are guilty of re-using sprites later in the game, though, as different enemies appear that looked very similar to earlier enemies. Overall, you shouldn't have anything to complain about the graphics, as they are above-average for the gameboy advance.
Music & Sound effects: 7/10
One word comes to mind here: Average. Nothing too rememberable, nothing too terrible. The only piece of music I even remotely remember is the dungeon music. The sound effects can pretty much be labeled as average, also. Everything sounds good, and is right where you would expect it. Apparently psyenergy makes it's own unique sound whenever you use it outside of battle. It really doesn't matter who is using it or what kind of psyenergy it is, either. Whenever characters are talking, you will hear a scribbling noise as the text box for that character pops up on the screen.
Re-playability & Extra Features: 8/10
There are not many reasons to replay this game, unless you missed a Djinn that you wanted (for all those completionists out there). The game does feature a few optional bosses and side-quests, which are always a welcome addition, as well as an optional area to explore. When you are done with all of that and go on to finish the game, you are given the option to save your data in the form of a password. This password will let you transfer your characters over to Golden Sun: The Lost age. The passwords can be long or short, depending on how much you want to transfer. This is an excellent feature that really rewards how well you play, as well as rewarding you in the sequel by keeping everything you have gained, and makes playing this game all the more worthwhile.
There is also a multi-player option where you can fight against a friend, although I never got a chance to challenge anyone so I don't know exactly how to do it. This extra function doesn't effect the story or gameplay of the game at all, so it is ok if you miss out on it.
I would recommend this game, and series, to any role-playing game fan who owns a gameboy advance. Since this game is quite old by now, I would try to find it used at your local game store, it should be fairly inexpensive. Overall a great game. Have fun & keep playing! Later...
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/20/07
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