Review by RPGOverlord
"A fun little adventure that misses key RPG elements..."
When Golden Sun was released in November 2001, it became one of the Game Boy Advance’s first AAA titles, alongside Advance Wars. This was the first game to really show off the technological capabilities of the GBA, and on top of that it was a really fun RPG. Unfortunately, Golden Sun is missing a few RPG elements, tarnishing it just a little bit. Hopefully, these were made up for in the making of GS2, but nonetheless, here is my review for Golden Sun.
Wow. This game is full of eye candy, no mistake about that. If you want to see what the GBA is capable of, look at this game. At first, it will look like a sort of juiced-up SNES game. In fact its graphical style outside of battle is very similar to the one in FF6 (3 in America). You have your 2D sprites, and your overhead view, and that’s that, right? Wrong, because unlike FF6, Golden Sun does not retain that graphical style in battle.
You will forget that you are playing on a 2 ½ by 1 ½ inch screen, and you will start to think you’re playing on a PSX because once you’re in battle, Camelot throws in everything it has at you. There will be ‘ooh’s and ‘aah’s and ‘wow!’s and ‘dear God!’s. When you see Ragnarok for the first time, you will gasp in amazement. When you see Judgement for the first time, you will think you have died and gone to heaven. These battles have explosions, ground shaking effects, pretty much the whole 3D thing. The only thing it doesn’t have is cinematic camera angles, and let me remind you once again folks, that this is on a 2 ½ by 1 ½ inch screen. What you see here is all that you can expect from the GBA and much more.
Also not bad, considering the GBA’s lousy sound capabilities. Lots of catchy tunes, but nothing at all that really stands out. I really remember that I enjoyed the music, but I can’t for the life of me remember any songs. Truly great soundtracks will have you remembering something, and this game falls a little bit short.
The only thing here I don’t like is the sound effect that comes when you run into a random encounter, and that’s just because it scares the crap out of me.
Pretty well done. Of course, the directional pad moves, the A button selects and talks, B button cancels. Nothing really special except for the L and R psynergy shortcuts, and the A/Select button menu, which are pretty nice touches. Again, not much else to say.
Here’s mainly where this game is lacking.
3 years ago, in a town called Vale, a boulder came crashing down from Mount Aleph. The town elders used all the Psynergy (fancy word for magic) that they could to hold it back, but in the end, there was nothing they could do. Apart from destroying the whole town, the boulder also killed the father of Isaac (the main character), along with the father, mother, and brother of his friend Jenna. Afterwards, Isaac and his friend Garet overhear two odd looking people talking about how they had triggered the defense mechanism of Sol Sanctum (i.e., the boulder) when they tried to break in. The two villains catch our heroes spying on them and quickly knock them unconscious.
Today, after three years of rebuilding Vale, things are normal again. Isaac, Garet, and Jenna have been training as Adepts (masters of Psynergy) under Kraden, the typical old, wise, teacher-type. In one particular lesson, Isaac and Co. sneak into Sol Sanctum, a holy temple. Inside, they find a portal, meet up with the two villains from three years earlier, find the Elemental Stars (fancy for pretty magic rocks), and get Jenna and Kraden kidnapped. When all of this cliché-ness is over you are asked by the Wise One (who just so happens to be a giant eyeball), to embark on a noble quest yada yada yada…
And now the story (or lack of one) begins. As you can tell, this story is extremely cliché. The bad guys, Saturos and Menardi, have no motivation except to rule the world, and your only motivation is to stop them and get your friends back. There’s no character development whatsoever, and barely an attempt at it.
Your main character is silent, which was a big mistake. Don’t get me wrong, some games can do the silent protagonist very well. Chrono Trigger comes to mind, but that only works because Crono has no back story. Also, you can judge his character by seeing the emotions of the others in response to him. In Golden Sun, there is no emotion, even with those weird smiley faces that pop over their heads from time to time.
Some characters don’t suffer from this as much as others, but Isaac takes the cake. His silence makes him nothing short of faceless. Who wants to hear the sorrows of a character that doesn’t even talk about them, or anything for that matter? They had a great opportunity to put some character in the game by talking about Isaac’s feelings of his father’s death, and they didn’t. Also, even though the game has a boring storyline, it wastes your time with countless dialogue scenes that take forever. I’ll give this category an extra point because they at least left themselves open to change some of these things in GS2.
The gameplay mostly makes up for the horrid plot. The puzzles in each dungeon are very fun and very challenging. They are basically what sets this game apart from most other RPGs, because the story sure doesn’t. My only gripe with them is that often they seem more like puzzles than just obstacles. What I mean is, why would there be giant logs standing upright in the middle of a dark, dank cave. I wish the puzzles would mix with the surroundings a little bit more. Some of them do, but more would be better. The Djinn system for battling is pretty interesting, but not many people want to waste time experimenting with their setup only to give up and set it back, so they usually stick with Earth on Isaac, Fire on Garet and so on and so forth. Also the battling isn’t exactly challenging. There’s no need to level up past level 30, or it will get way too easy. I beat the game on level 26 without a hitch. But really, the gameplay is obviously why so many people like this game.
Shockingly low. This is a 20-25 hour game unless you waste all that time leveling up. It’s easy to collect all 28 Djinn, because few of them are out of the way. Very, very short as far as RPGs go. Short but sweet is definitely the phrase for this game. Luckily, the sequel is supposed to be much longer.
Golden Sun is a fun game backed up with incredible graphics. It’s rather addicting, but if you decide to play it nonstop, you will finish in a week or less. It has a horribly cliché story, and if plot is what you look for in an RPG, steer clear of this one.
Hopefully they will expand on the story in GS2, and make it a little longer than this one, and then we’ll have a great game on our hands. In fact, those changes would even improve THIS game. Until that, right now we’ve just got a fun little puzzle game with turn-based battles and a painfully boring storyline thrown into the mix.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/18/02, Updated 11/06/02
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