Review by JGuarneri
"The first GBA RPG is a must-buy for the handheld!"
It would be easy to understand if anyone would be a bit skeptical, or hopeful, at how good GBA's first RPG could be. I myself had been extremely hopeful that this game would be an awesome experience the first time I read about it, and I was not let down.
One thing that you will notice right away when you plug in Golden Sun is the incredible graphics. As far as sprite-based games go, this is one of the best I've seen, and it's on a handheld to boot. From the towns to the Mode-7 world map, the game shines with graphic beauty, but the games best graphics are most certainly found in the game's battles.
During the random battles that occur in dungeons and on the World Map, the developers used some awesome looking effects. Everything from the powerful spells to even basic attacks are well animated with splashy particle effects and slow-motion during some of the cooler looking spells. The game's best graphics, however, are seen when you use your Djinn, or summon a powerful beast after placing enough of them in reserve. The summons in particular showcase some of the best graphics I've seen on the handheld to date. The game also heightens the graphic power by using camera rotations to give certain spells a more dramatic and dynamic appeal. As far as graphical masterpieces go, this game takes the handheld crown.
This game has a fair number of menus to cycle through, though managing your Djinn and sorting your items can be a little confusing at first. After a while, though, how to manage the menus becomes quite familiar. On the field, you can set your Djinn to reserve, swap Djinn between your party members, sort and use items, equip characters, and cast magic, among other things. In battle, controls are easy to handle, but the one gripe I have is that your characters will automatically defend if the enemy they had targeted dies, rather than attacking the next enemy. Also, it can be a bit confusing when you need to use a certain spell to advance in a dungeon. However, the control is solid enough to not make the game frustrating.
Yet another shining point of the game. The music has wonderfully done pieces that are worth plugging headphones into your GBA for. The sound effects in battle, whether from attacks, magic, summons, or anything, are excellent. While the music in dungeons can get repetitive after a while, I find the music complements the already wonderful experience this game delivers nicely.
As always, the focal point of my reviews. I was hoping for an RPG would be a blast to play through, and this game definitely delivered. The towns are fun to explore, and each town is different (Vale, the first town, is HUGE as far as the rest of the towns go). The different locales can yield extra items and Djinn if you look hard enough. The dungeons aren't simply Point A to Point B in order to clear them; there are plenty of side paths, as well as dead ends, to reach, plenty of treasure and Djinn to uncover. Random battles, while a nuisance in most games, don't occur with the incredibly annoying frequency as some games have, though the battle screen will still pop up at times when you don't want it to. The game does reward exploration, however, and while the dungeons seemed a bit short at times, they are at least of decent length.
The battles in Golden Sun are surprisingly fun, and the Djinn system is fun to use and adds a bit of a spin on combat. The difficulty in battles is not too high, as long as you keep your party properly equipped. Your characters can learn new spells and change classes by equipping different Djinn to them, and there are plenty of rare items to find, which can be bought back if you want them (a major plus). Each character can hold up to 15 kinds of items, and carry up to 30 of each of the 15 types they carry.
The overall difficulty of Golden Sun is not too high, and though it can be easy at times aside from a few major, it's always fun to play through. It is a bit annoying that all your character says is ''Yes'' or ''No'' whenever those questions pop up, and the story seems to pick up 50,000 side quests and gets diverted at times, but I haven't had any problems with it so far. The game has a few fun little mini-games, and tons of towns and dungeons to explore. A game this good, not only for its price but also its gameplay, is one experience you shouldn't miss.
Nintendo and Camelot did and excellent job here, and I hope they have a sequel lined up in the near future. This game is definitely one for any RPG lover's must-buy list.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/10/02, Updated 01/10/02
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