Review by Fanha
"Look on the GBA! Is it another Shining Force? Is it Lufia III? No, better, it's Golden Sun!"
Background - Before you read my opinions, you'll probably want to know what type of gamer I am so you know if I can relate. Well, I've been an RPG fan since FF6 and Secret of Mana, and particularly of the SNES RPGs among them like Lufia. I like the traditional RPG style, with innovative, strategic battle systems without being so out there that they seem unrealistic. So now that you have a little background on how I judge games, let's get this review going.
Graphics - 10/10 - Well, I had to start somewhere. This game's graphics, put simply, are gorgeous. The development team really went all-out; this game's graphics are what the classic SNES RPG gamer dreams about. The battles boast an amazing panning effect during combat which makes it much more exciting, and EVERY attack from the simple attacks to the major summons is maxed in graphical content, with sparkling and exploding and flashing all over the place while keeping it within reason and easy to follow. Outside of battle, the graphics are rich and colorful, the backgrounds and landscapes are detailed and equally colorful, and the characters are nicely drawn, move around smoothly, and express themselves well with little ''bubble-faces''.
Sound - 10/10 - Considering this was on the GBA, I couldn't help give this a 10. The music made you completely forget you're on a handheld; the variety of instruments from flutes to light strings to heavy percussion were everything a player could want. It not only had the solid all-around music like all great RPGs have, but it has the really great ones too like the Saturos battle theme (the 4th GameSpot movie has a fair sample of it running during the battle). The sound effects were extremely varied, and I never found myself thinking a sound effect didn't match an event well. Combined with the graphics, it's a marvel they could fit all of this on such a small cart.
Gameplay - 9/10 - This game's controls, once you get used to them, are very easy to master. They made full use of the GBA controller, including the very handy hotkeying of field spells on L and R buttons. The shop system is the same as the Shining Force series (an obvious hint to the background of the programmers) with some nice features like offering to buy back old equipment; it's very easy. The battle system is menu-based, and things are fairly well organized and quick to access. The only reason this doesn't get a 10 is because the Djinn system (similar to several FF ''altering attachment'' systems while still completely unique) might drive players away early because its Set/Standby/Summon setup is quite odd, though once you've worked with it it's a very easy system while granting a HUGE variety of character customization and pros/cons to each strategy (for example, you could put all your Djinn on Standby and cast all your most powerful summons at the beginning of battle, but your characters would be so weak that they'd die before the Djinn could recharge and power their stats up upon reattaching). Try mixing up Djinn later in the game, and you'll see how radically you can change characters from healers to supporters to offensive casters and anything in between.
Story/Game Flow/Difficulty - 10/10 - This game did a perfect job of moving the game along well. The game's story is easy to follow but leaves a lot for the player to think about (it's not shallow) especially regarding the motives of characters. The end is a bigtime cliffhanger, and it begs for the sequel that has to come. The game flows smoothly from place to place, with enemies/equipment/characters/settings changing all the time, but not so often that you'll get dizzy. You shouldn't need to ''stay back and train'' much in this RPG; the experience-to-power flow is great and means you can truly focus on your quest. The difficulty also steadily increases, as enemies get proportionately better than you, though not so hard that you'll want to smash the game to bits. The final boss was the only battle I found at ALL ''frustrating'' in the game, and when I had lost a few times and mixed around my Djinn a bit and went back better prepared with a battle plan, it worked perfectly.
The game ends rather abruptly in the plot line, but it ties things up well enough to not be offensive to the gamer; it sets a clear stage for the sequel's beginning. The length of the game is nice, 20-30 hours depending on how much time you spend searching for Djinns and such (to my surprise I even ran into a Djinn in a random overworld battle).
Rent/Buy/Pass - At $30, you have very little to lose buying this game and a lot to gain. This game is one of the best RPGs ever; if you are at all an RPG fan (especially of the Lufia series; the gameplay feel is much similar as far as battle mechanics and overworld puzzle style), buy it as soon as you have the means to. If you're looking for a game to get hooked on, buy. If you want a game worth replaying through to master its secrets, buy. If you just like gaming in general, I'd say this is the best GBA game out there overall in many respects, so I'd say it's a buy. Who cares who you are, just buy the game now, it's worth it!
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/26/01, Updated 11/26/01
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