Review by JordanM
"Golden RPG for the GameBoy Advance"
Golden Sun (Ougon no Taiyou in Japan) was released in the United States of America on November 11, 2001 by Camelot through Nintendo. It was the first role playing game on the GameBoy Advance and has been thought to have been one of the greatest for the system even to this day. Many people have played it and either hated it or fallen in love with it. I, personally, have fallen in love with it. But my taste doesn't match everybody else's on this planet, so in this review, I'm going to try and describe the game the best I can so that you can make your decision about buying the game.
Being the first game in it's series and also the first role playing game on the GameBoy Advance, the game had to establish a brand new storyline. This was no easy task, but the writers pulled it off perfectly! The game starts out in a village called Vale. Your character (named Isaac by default) is awakened in the night by his mother. She tells him that the Mt. Aleph boulder is about to fall. While heading to the town plaza, Isaac sees that his friend Felix is in trouble. He has fallen into the raging river! Isaac goes to find help, but he's too late. Just as he gets back the boulder falls from the mountain and kills his dad, Felix, and Felix's parents. In an attempt to find more help, he is stopped by strange people. He fights them, but to no avail.
From here, the game skips forward to three years later. Isaac, Garret (a friend of Isaac's), and Jenna (Felix's sister) go into the mysterious Sol Sanctum with their personal mentor Kraden. They find the elemental stars that contain the power of all alchemy and suddenly find themselves in a sticky situation. They have been followed into Sol Sanctum by the same strange people that they saw on that night three years ago. They demand that they are given the elemental stars. In exchange, they reveal that a masked man with them is really Felix! They claim to have saved him and that he has traveled with them ever since that night. They take Jenna and Kraden hostage to motivate Isaac and Garrett to cooperate. Three of the four stars are handed over, but the volcano begins to erupt before the other one is handed over. Everybody flees the volcano and the hostages are taken in hopes that Isaac and Garett will follow. They are told by the great healer that they must prevent the elemental lighthouses from being lit, so they begin their quest to save Jenna and Kraden, find out what happened with Felix, and stop the world from destruction!
This is probably one of the most detailed storylines I have ever seen in a game. And it's not just detailed, it's interesting. There are several cutscenes where you will find yourself absorbed in reading the game's script. Some of the cutscenes; however, are rather boring and stretched out. Long cutscenes are too frequent in the game, as well. For the most part; however, you will find yourself spellbound. Believe it or not, that small part above was just the first half hour! Throughout the game, many jaw-dropping revelations are made about the events that occur at this point in the game that build even more on to this wonderful plot!
The gameplay in this game is fantastic! The battle system is very rich and complex. Your characters have special abilities called Psyenergy that they can use to will things to happen with their minds. This power is used to solve many interesting puzzles throughout the game. These puzzles can be very complex at times and you may find your self not only frustrated, but looking through an FAQ as well.
The battle system also includes special creatures called Dijinn. These creatures boost your characters' power and can be used individually in battle. Each one has a special power. "Mixing and matching" this Dijinn also changes around your characters' classes which grants them different Psyenergy abilities. Once a Dijini has been used in battle, one or more of them in "standby" can be summoned to use some INCREDIBLE attacks. Some of the attacks go as far as releasing Tribulation-like judgments on the earth aimed at your foes. Overall, I would have to say that the battles can be too frequent in the game. The final boss battle can also be somewhat annoying. The puzzles are one of the game's big plus points.
There are tons of weapons in the game that you can use in battle. They range from a short stick to swords with mystical powers. Some items are found in shops while others are found by battling. Sometimes enemies drop them when you defeat them in battle. In fact, this is the only way to find some of the items in the game.
The world on the game is very detailed and vast. You'll find that it almost feels like traveling between two real cities to get between two villages on the game. This is okay if you're patient, but if you don't like walking around a lot in a game, you won't like this! If I had to give a rough guess as to how many areas there are on the game, I would say about 30. Each area, for the most part, is unique and unlike other areas. I will say that the game probably could have done without 2 deserts, though. But even these two deserts are uniquely different from one another. There are two continents on the game. They are named Angara and Gondowan.
If you enjoy the battle system in the game, there is a challenge where you see how many consecutive battles that you can win. As you get farther in the game, these battles also get harder and it can provide you with many challenges. Aside from the battle marathon part of the game, you can also team up against your friends with a GameBoy Advance link cable. The game has room for three save files, but you need one for saving your clear data at the end of the game (used to continue to the next game).
The graphics in the game are unique. They don't get repetitive and they really set the mood in some parts. The game takes full advantage of the many colors that the GameBoy Advance can produce. The art style is almost (in my opinion) like Anime, but in a more subtle way. The characters are all detailed even for a small screen-oriented game. Rarely does anything look choppy. Some battle moves (especially ones involving "blasts") are sometimes choppy, but all in good taste.
The music is something else! The composer that wrote the music for this game is probably the only one that I've found that can rival Koji Kondo in the "wow" factor. In a lot of places, the game uses a full symphony orchestra - a rarity in handheld games. The song for one of the final areas in the game is particularly memorable in my opinion. The music ranges in style from "crystal" sounding futuristic music to upbeat jazz-like music. This variety is enough to keep anybody pleased!
A first-time-through play of the game usually takes about 24-30 hours depending on the problem-solving skills of the person playing. It feels like a very long game compared to other ones that I've played, but it never really feels overly long. The game is fairly replayable. There are so many things to do in it that you'll probably go through and think "I never noticed that before!" Once you've worked through the game, you can always go back and level up your characters and learn new skills. And there's almost always some treasure left to uncover. In fact, there's a hidden area with lots of different treasures and an optional boss that will keep you busy for at least an hour! Also, after you have finished the game, you can send the data from it to Golden Sun: The Lost Age (GBA) via code or cable transfer. This allows you to transfer your leveled up characters and all their items to the next game in the series.
Wow! 1750 words is a lot! In fact, I never realize how much it is... But we're finally here. My final recommendation:
If you enjoy role playing games of any kind, you'll like this game. But only if you enjoy in-depth storylines. If you're the type of person who can't sit through a cutscene, you'll hate this game. But if you can stand all the in-detail parts, you'll grow addicted to this game. It is truly a classic and will remain so for a LONG time to come. The graphics, sound, and gameplay will give you one of the greatest impressions of the GameBoy Advance ever. The game really pushes it and makes itself known on the system. And I can honestly say that this game wouldn't be the same if it were on any other system.
I hope this review has influenced you to do what is best, even if it means not getting the game. I strongly recommend that you give it a try, though. Enjoy!
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/13/07, Updated 08/26/07
Game Release: Golden Sun (US, 11/11/01)
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