Review by Aegis Shield

"A Breath of Fresh Air in a World of Ports"

There is a feeling that one gets when he or she knows that they've found a game worth hanging on to from the moment they take it out of it's wrapping and place it into the gaming system. It may happen often or infrequently, but it will happen nonetheless. It isn't the first time a game like Golden Sun had me hooked, but it's one of my most fond gaming experiences to date so far.

Everybody knows about the Game Boy Advance. It's a great little piece of hardware brimming with third party support; some gems, some stinkers, and many in between.
What some (or most, as this IS GameFAQs) is that while the GBA boasts titles of every genre, it's RPG selection is filled with ports of classic titles of yesteryear. This is not a bad thing, but it does bring questions to mind whenever a somewhat large portion of the selection are simply games we've already played made portable. I repeat that this isn't bad, but we can agree on that innovation, fresh ideas and good gameplay and an engaging story (Story not being required in some games, however) are what RPG's, and in general video games, are all about.

But, let's down to the basics, shall we? What does make Golden Sun a great game in my eyes? Well, I'll tell you with none, or as little 'bias', as I can handle.

Story An RPG can never be great without a story to engage players in the experience. Golden Sun takes place, like most RPG's, of a land filled with monsters, mysteries, and magic. The world is called Weyard..and the journey is just beginning for two young children of a small village named Vale..

*Small, very minor spoilers ahead, but it shouldn't be too bad as the story is unfolded within the first twenty minutes of play*

A power by the name of Alchemy used to thrive in the world of Weyard. Housing the power of the four elements Earth, Fire, Water, and Wind, great enchanters called Adepts could use the power of Alchemy to bend the elements to their will, turn materials like lead into gold, and even thwart death itself. As in the case with most great powers, Alchemy was abused until the world was on the brink of destruction. Somehow, (Nobody knows how, but expect a prequel of sorts to be produced) the flow of Alchemy upon the world was halted, and it's dangerous power was sealed in the four Elemental Lighthouses: Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, and Mars. The power to unlock Alchemy upon the world was placed in four stones bearing the same namesakes of the towers, and if all four stones were to be placed inside the lighthouses, Alchemy would be unleashed upon the world once more for mankind's benefit...or ultimate destruction. And lo and behold, the game begins with those very stones stolen from the sacred Anemos Sanctum, guarded by the priestly villagers of the Adept town of Vale.

The story begins when two young children named Isaac and Garet, of Vale, embark on a quest to retrieve these stones to prevent disaster that could accompany the return of Alchemy. They will receive aid through new friends, and these little creatures known as Djinn, which can heighten powers and aid their journey. The story and use of Djinn isn't exactly triple-AAA, but the presentation of the events found in the game is solid enough. The protaganists are teenagers who are fairly normal and happy go lucky, so don't expect any dramatic changes or melodramatic hero's games like Final Fantasy offers. Be prepared for some rather lengthy text sequences and cutscenes, especially at the beginning of the game.

Story: 8.25 of 10

Graphics & Sound

No matter how many people say gameplay is more important (Which it is), most treasured games need good presentation and eye candy. Thankfully, Golden Sun delivers it in spades with brilliant use of sprites, effects, and environments. Golden Sun is easily in the top 3 visually appealling Game Boy Advance games, in my opinion. Summons and spells (Called Psynergy) are delivered in full tone, beautifully appealing animations that last briefly, or up to the area of fifteen-twenty seconds in the case of high-powered summoning. Players will be found going through Angara (A continent of Weyard) in Golden Sun, which houses many different climates including more than one desert, frigid tundras, many forested areas, and even dank caves and mines. All of these places are fantastically designed and colorful, with catchy tunes(most of the time) in mind to the adventuring player as well.

Music can seem grating in times of long training, so it can be expected to be played turned down at times. However, I found myself humming the themes, especially the Overworld, Tolbi, and Lamakan Desert themes. Characters also sound like a Peanuts character when speaking, which can be annoying at times as well, especially in the lengthy cutscenes found in the game. Some sound effects are also repeated and seemed 'washed' out, especially in some of the longer-lasting psynergy spells.

Graphics: 9.5 of 10
Sound: 7.75 of 10


Gameplay

This is where it matters most. A game can have an epic story, spectacular graphics and mesmerizing sound, but it fails easily if the gameplay is sub-par. Golden Sun is a turn based RPG, meaning your characters and the enemies fight each other in a sequence, and Golden Sun, like most RPG's, turns are based on Agility. There are the options of Attack (Using the equipped weapon), Run, Psynergy, Item, and Djinn options. Djinn are found throughout the game, and you cannot hope to achieve success without a good number of them. In battle, Djinn upgrade your class when 'Set', which gives you a nice boost in stats. You can also 'Unleash' any Djinn in battle for some effect. Some are just the standard, "Pulverize enemy in the face with a large rock" affair, but others can heal, cure status effects, and even cause them such as poisoning and lowering agility. However, unleashing a Djinn causes you to lose the stats temporarily until it is 'Set' again, so beware. After being unleashed, a Djinn can perform a summon. More Djinn being released equals a more powerful summon , with a longer recovery rate to put your Djinn back into Set mode. It may sound complicated to some, but the tutorial that's given when you receive your first Djinn will clear any questions. Plus theres a 'Help' option that is rather useful..

Battles are usually the standard affair, but the Djinn and nasty surprises with Psynergy, your magic, spice things up a bit. You can combine Djinn of different elements to form different classes, and the amount available is vast, so be prepared to experiment!

Golden Sun is an RPG that stresses upon puzzle solving, and I love it. Most aren't too terribly difficult, but others will cause frustration easily. Especially in Golden Sun's sequel, The Lost Age, but that's another topic for another day. Being inquisitive and good at puzzle games will help you a ton here, for there are many secrets hidden in the game, and some lead to pretty useful prizes...

Now lets back on track. Psynergy. Besides using it to boil your enemies alive, so to speak, Golden Sun has Psynergy that allows the player to alter their environment. Basically speaking, to solve puzzles, a player made need to push a rock of a ledge into a river, or remove thick ivy vines from an entrance. Golden Sun allows players to interact with the environment, and some areas the player will have to backtrack after gaining particular psynergy. Fun, eh?

Golden Sun performs well with it's gameplay, as the controls are easy and responsive, and solving puzzles and moving onward to the next challenge left me satisfied, and looking forward to more of the game.

Gameplay: 9.25 of 10

My overall enjoyment of this game is quite high, and my final score is not an average, but what I feel it deserves best. It is not perfect by any means, but no game really is. This title left me completing it again and again after beating it, despite not knowing the true ending until about two years later when it's sequel hit the stands. A great gem, an instant classic, and one I will treasure and hopefully most players will for all time.

Overall score: 9 out of 10

See you next time, and don't forget to go Djinn hunting!


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 06/10/04


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