Review by Psalm51
"They don't get much better than this"
I am impressed, wholly impressed. Golden Sun is a very good game. No, I am not saying that after playing the game in 2001/2 when it was released but now, in 2008, seven years later. Sure, we have DS games a plenty to entertain us now but playing Golden Sun is still a worthwhile experience for any handheld gamer to try. To think that I picked the game up for £8/$16 here in Birmingham only this Summer is also astounding. GBA games have all but disappeared from the shelves of shops so you can imagine my joy at seeing Golden Sun there. It was money was well spent as playing Golden Sun was an almost perfect handheld gaming experience.
Introduction - Camelot Games have made solving spatial puzzles a pleasurable experience and that is saying something! Golden Sun is something of a hybrid game with turn based combat at its core and solving puzzles on the edge. In general, I don't get on with games that try to mix genre types together like this but I cut Golden Sun "some slack" and was rewarded for my effort. Sure, I used 2 FAQ's to help me progress through the game but using FAQ's are nothing like cheating, in my book. I regard the Fallout games as 2 (or is it 3?) of my favourites and I needed a FAQ to play Fallout 2 when I first attempted it. I went on to beat it twice, but using a FAQ in the first place helped me understand and enjoy the game. It is the same here with Golden Sun and my advice to anyone playing this game for the first time is, have a good FAQ close at hand. Visit Gamefaqs and save the FAQ to your PC; you won't regret it!
Gameplay - 9 out of 10. 3 aspects of the gameplay are not as good as they could have been, but all other facets are top notch. Random battle encounters were annoying in some places, but the game gives you 2 different ways to overcome this, so respect to Camelot Games. Although the game had a good "epic" style story, there was no indication (eg. a quest page) as to where you should go next. This was no problem while I used the FAQ to guide me, but others might have got annoyed at not knowing where to go to next. My last criticism is that some of the dialogue was long winded. For a handheld game, the characters had a lot to say for themselves! The long episodes of dialogue sometimes preceded boss battles so you had to be on your toes at all times. These are only niggles and easily forgiven seeing how well judged the rest of the game is.
Story - 8 out of 10. You could write a book on stories in games, you really could. Developers seem good at designing the game engine, graphics, sound and other aspects but they often fail to comprehend that we want a good story too. The story in Golden Sun is epic and well told. Occasionally it doesn't make sense but you are left feeling that it is your fault, no theirs! Job well done...
Graphics/Sound - 10 out of 10. Yes, 10 out of 10! The music in Golden Sun is simply top notch and makes the game worth playing, just for that alone. There are probably 10-15 different tunes and they are used to provide the atmosphere for the different locations. It works and works well. Graphics is a harder one to judge. The game includes a 3D world map, 2D location maps and a side on battle display for the fights. I guess that the 2D location maps are a little crude although rain and lightning effects are well used as the game starts. It has to be remembered that Golden Sun is a 2001/2 GBA game and even many PC games in 2001 weren't that great for graphics and sound. Gameplay rules, in my book.
Play Time/Replayability - 9 out of 10. The game is easily worth 2 play throughs, even though each one will take 30-40 hours each. There is a whole optional area of the game (Crossbone Island) for those who want to make the experience last longer or who want to "grind" their levels and stats a bit. The difficulty of the bosses seems perfectly judged as no grinding is needed to defeat them. A game to come back to if you are feeling a little nostalgic, methinks!
Final Recommendation - 9 out of 10. No, I haven't played the sequel yet but I would like to, on the basis of my experience with Golden Sun. Games like Golden Sun are games you remember in years to come. I have no idea what Camelot Games are doing now, but I wish them the best. They have added pleasure to my life and I want to say thanks. Thank you Camelot Games.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 09/25/08
Game Release: Golden Sun (EU, 02/22/02)
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