Review by Lasareth
"One of the best New-Generation GBA RPGs to date"
Rarely has a handheld game been worthy of the title ''instant classic,'' but Golden Sun claims it as an instant success to the handheld Role-Playing genre. Camelot, a largely unknown game developer, has wowed hundreds of gamers with this revolutionary game, and will continue to for a long time to come.
Gameplay: Weight: 40%
9 out of 10
The essence of any good game is, of course, its gameplay. Golden Sun (GS) intermixes the elements of the Role Playing Games of old with fresh new concepts that will keep even a casual gamer hooked for hours on end. Gameplay can be divided into 3 subcategories: Controls, Originality, and Difficulty.
Controls on a handheld RPG are not too difficult to work with, so GS gets a high score in this category. The menu system is easily accessed with a quick tap of the A or Select buttons, and, from there, statistics, items, Djinn (more on them later), and Psynergy.
Conveniently, a new feature has been added to the old RPG-style system of magic. Psynergy can be used both on in battle and on field maps to manipulate the surrounding environment. To expedite the process, 'quick-button' shortcuts have been added. These (L and R shoulder) buttons can have one Psynergy each assigned to them for easy access on the fields. For example, a room needs a pillar moved 5 times with psynergy. Instead of accessing the menu all five times, the ''Move'' Psynergy can be assigned to the R button, and can be used from there to move the pillar.
For originality, Golden Sun earns a 7. Its many new features work well with the older RPG staples to create a good, unique type of gaming experience.
The addition of a new ''Djinn'' feature makes forming a formidable party a more tactical experience. ''Djinn'' (or Djinni if there is only one) are small creatures that are collected throughout the game which can be linked to a character to change class, add psynergy, and modify stats (a sort of mini-junction system similar to that of FFVIII). The trick is to evenly balance the party without giving one character too much power and another too little.
A summon system also linked to Djinn is also a well-implemented and original concept of GS. After using Djinn (each one has different effects, from healing to attacking to stat-boosting) in battle, they enter a ''standby'' phase. Up to 4 Djinn can be combined to Summon an elemental spirit to attack the enemy. Once used to fuel a summon, Djinn go into ''recovery'' mode, where they recover by the turn in battle, or after a few steps on the field. Recovered Djinn are then set to be used again.
The four Elements, by the way, are Mars(fire), Venus(earth), Mercury(Water), and Jupiter(Wind). As per RPG rules, one sorcerer, or ''Adept'' of each type is included in the party, and has unique base Psynergy in accordance to his/her Adept type. A similar example is the Chrono Trigger system of magic.
You may be thinking: A GBA game can't bee too difficult, can it? The answer to that is yes. Golden Sun presents a great (although not insurmountable) challenge to players who attempt to rush through it without properly preparing. Without proper leveling between bosses, an unwary player my and up on the snack list of the next big threat to humanity.
Puzzles are included in GS, but many can be solved at a second glance and without much hard thought. The overall difficulty of the puzzles increases over time, but by the end (with the exception of optional side-quest puzzles) most players will wonder why some of the puzzles were even implemented into the game.
Story: Weight: 30%
8 out of 10
Golden Sun's story is essentially a spinoff of the old hackneyed ''save the world from the bad guys'' plotline, but the core essence is so beautifully mixed with original ideas and themes that it easily earns an 8 in this category.
Magic returns in a big way to the RPG scene. This time, There are four ''elements'' of magic which correspond to the old principles of Alchemy-earth, fire, wind, and water. The plot revolves around a 17-year old boy's attempt to stop the forces of evil from lighting the four lighthouses of Alchemy and unleashing a ''terrible evil'' upon the planet. The bad guys are, of course, after power, and you're out to stop them. But there's a twist. You are also in search of a lost comrade who was taken by the shady characters.
The story is essentially a series of seemingly unrelated events tied together by a common thread. These events subtly reveal more and more of the plot, and the story blossoms into an epic before the gamer's eyes.
The only problem I have had with the plot of Golden Sun is the lackluster personality of each character. Isaac has no personality, as you supply the obligatory yes/no response to even the most useless questions which have absolutely no effect on the story. The other characters are also underdeveloped, as Mia (a female companion) only briefly tells of her past when she joins you, and remains basically silent for the rest of the game. Ivan is a bit more developed, as he has a good background, but he, too, has no personality (aside from mundane comments like ''Let's go!'' and ''I guess so,'' among others...). Garet has a personality, thankfully, albeit a very dense one. He acts as the party's ''comedy relief'' of sorts, and provides simple-minded observations that will sometimes make one question his intelligence.
Overall, Golden Sun has a very good plotline, although the same cannot be said for the poor character development...
Graphics and Sound: Weight: 20%
10 out of 10
This is where Golden Sun truly shines. The graphics of GS stretch the LCD screen to its limits with a vibrant assortment of colors that is unparalleled in modern GBA gaming. The graphics themselves will paralyze any gamer in disbelief. Is this really a GBA game? Yes, yes it is! The lighting effects are excellent, as can bee seen in Sol Sanctum, one of the first places you visit. What seem to be 3-D computer-generated monsters are brilliantly crafted and designed for battle, while spells have a wonderful transparent effect that makes them all the more spectacular when cast. What's more, the world map seems almost 3-D representation of the GS world, and pivots when changing directions from east to west and back. A masterful piece of handheld art.
The sound and music match the graphics in their excellent quality and composition. The music is synthesized, but it is almost impossible to tell, as flutes sound like flutes and trumpets sound like trumpets. The sound effects of magic and attacks are spectacular, albeit a bit redundant at times. When listened to with headphones, the stereo sound is captivating, and the player is taken ''into'' the adventure, if you will.
Replay Value: Weight: 10%
7 out of 10
This game will keep you playing for hours upon hours, trying to level up and be all-powerful in order to beat the next boss, or just playing for fun. The Djinn collecting and side quests are usually good reasons to start the game over, but more importantly, you may want to relive the past, as this epic game is one of the longer games of the GBA. Overall, one or two times over will satisfy a gamer's thirst for the experience.
Buy or Rent?
Buy. Definitely buy. This is one of the best...
Total Score: 34/40
Weighted Score: 8.7/10
Final Score: 9/10
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/03/03, Updated 01/03/03
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