Review by Sana chan
"This game does not qualify to be an RPG!"
I've been a HUGE fan of the RPG genre of video games, but Golden Sun is another game that is full of HYPE that does not deliver. People seem to love it so just because it’s one of the first RPG's out for GBA and it looks so pretty. (I’ll admit, it does.) But the creators have forgotten the MOST IMPORTANT elements in RPG’s! Read on...
Plot/Story - 1/10
Story? What story? Oh, you call THAT a story? Sorry! Not in my book. The whole “story” in Golden Sun is composed of a bunch of side quests, it seems. Every time you’re about to get something, you’re asked to go on some other quest for yet ANOTHER thing. You never seem to get back on track for the “main“ quest. The issue is never resolved and the ending is just an advertisement for the sequel of this game. People who have no connections whatsoever with the main “plot” (if you consider there to be one in this game), come out of nowhere and ask you to do things for them - sometimes completely irrelevant or has minimal ties to what you’re supposed to be doing. The main “quest” is forgotten as soon as you get going. Bah. This is a story? Give me a BREAK.
Characters - 2/10
Characters are just plain dull; characterization is non-existent. Your main character says no more than five lines total in the game other than “yes” or “no” choices which don’t even affect the gameplay. Oh, wait, he’s a silent protagonist. Ok fine. Next - your best friend is some idiot that asks for your advice every five seconds. (Well, actually all of them do.) You also have Jenna, Ivan, and Mia, all of them being uninteresting, boring characters who do nothing but state the obvious or... gee, the dialogue in Golden Sun is so unmemorable that I don’t even remember what they said. They have no distinct personalities. In fact, if their pictures didn’t go along with the text, you probably wouldn’t know who the heck is talking. (I’m sure the developers put in their images for this purpose.) The characters stay the same way throughout the whole story. Because characterization is thrown out the window, all that remain are boring and unlikable characters.
Gameplay/Controls - 7/10
The controls are pretty much the same as other RPG’s, nothing different except you have to use Psynergy (their word for magic) at some points. I think the L and R buttons were utilized pretty well, as you can use them as shortcuts for Psynergies of your choice. That way if you use one frequently, you don’t have to go to the menu and select the Psynergy over and over again. There are many puzzles to be solved in Golden Sun, some of them quite hard, but for the most part, medium and don’t take a genius to figure out. Though I think some puzzles are pretty pointless. The whole game is composed of side quests, so there isn’t much to say about that category.
Battle System - 6/10
Turn-based battle system. You select everyone’s moves in the beginning of each turn. the oldest and most basic, in other words. You have physical attacks (sometimes they unleash critical attacks), Psynergy AKA magic, Djinn, and summons if available. (Generic commands like Defend, Item, Run Away, etc. are also here but self-explanatory.) You gain Psynergy by equipping various items or finding Djinns (summon creatures). There’re 28 Djinns total, 7 of each element. Each Djinn can be set onto a character for better stats. Depending what combination of Djinns you set on a character, their class may change, which affects what Psynergy they can use. (This is annoying because sometimes when you use a Djinn in battle, your class changes and all of sudden your crucial spells disappear, such as Cure, Wish, etc. The only way around this is to not use any Djinns.) When Djinns are set ON, you can go to Djinn mode and use their special effects, then they will be turned off. When one or more Djinns are turned off they can be summoned to do special attacks. A level 1 takes up 1 Djinn (of that element) to summon, level 2 takes up 2, and so on up to level 4 summons - the most powerful. Winning battles, especially later in the game, nearly depends on these level 4 summons. You also have to use Psynergy out of battle many times as well. Although this system is mostly boring, at least it’s not too simple and takes awhile to learn, so that’s good.
Graphics - 10/10
For a portable game console, the Gameboy Advance is amazing in delivering beautiful graphics. The graphics in Golden Sun looks a lot better than 90% of the Super Nintendo game graphics. They are clean, crisp, and hardly any pixels besides when you’re on the world map. The towns, for the most part, are colorful and detailed. Character animations were excellent as well. Most dungeons look similar, but not exactly repetitive. Now for the best part: I was blown away by the animations of those summons. Nothing short of brilliance. BEAUTIFUL summons that I actually enjoyed watching. Yes, Golden Sun had awesome graphics. But that doesn’t make up for its crappy storyline and characters, two of the most important aspects in RPG’s.
Sound/Music - 7/10
For the first time ever, there is real music on a portable system instead of beeps! The music in Golden Sun is good because it actually sounds like music, not because the music was very pleasing to my ears though. Many towns had the same music, because there are a lot less town tunes than towns in the game. This becomes rather annoying after awhile, listening to the same music from town to town. Most other tunes in the game are pretty much average, and there’re not many of them all together. Still, though, I didn’t despise the music or anything. I was, for the most part, indifferent about it. This section got a 7 because of the music in Venus Lighthouse. That was great music and I enjoyed my 3-hours of tedious stay there, even. Hahaha... only because of the music!
Challenge - 8/10
Golden Sun is not an easy game. It can get pretty hard to figure out where to go. Or even if you know where your destination is, you probably don’t know where the heck that place is. Sometimes excessive leveling up is required, especially for the final boss. Oh, did I mention leveling up takes so fricking long? Even in the first couple of levels? I only got to level 24 before getting tired and challenged the final boss. The battle system takes awhile to figure out as well. Also, you have to use certain Psynergy outside of battle, and most of the time no hints are given to which one to use. Sometimes a dead-end is actually a place to use Psynergy, and when nothing is there for clues, most people would just leave and end up wondering where the heck to go. Challenge score is high, but not in a good sense. An average gamer would get frustrated rather than happy with this type of challenge.
To Buy or to Rent?
Actually, I suggest borrowing from a friend. I mean it’s not worth your money, and you probably won’t finish it renting it for 5 days. It takes 20-30 hours to complete, but you’d be so bored that you play it an hour a day and not touch it for the rest of the day. Is this game worth playing? Yes, to see the revolutions made in the graphics department, but that’s all.
OVERALL - 3/10
Again, this game is nothing but hype. The developers forgot what the most important aspects of RPG are and spent most of their time on the less important categories. If storyline and characters are on the same line as graphics and sound, Golden Sun would actually be a good game. Let’s hope the sequel is better.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 01/02/03, Updated 01/02/03
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