Review by Yoh_of_Izumo

"The Perfected Portable Role-Playing Game"

Throughout the land of portable role-playing games, the only ones that I have touched and possessed were the turn-based Pokemon games and Final Fantasy games, some real-time action RPGs such as Fable and Kingdom Hearts, and the action-based Zelda games with hints of RPG elements. This all changed when I decided to take a change and purchase I game that I heard was excellent, but never heard publicly about. And thus I was silenced by the power such a game could deliver on the Gameboy Advance system. Not only were the graphics mind-boggling, but the story, game length, and eclectic variations of music left me emotionally disturbed at the end of the game by the fact that the game was to be continued and by the fact that Pokemon released on the technologically advanced portable Gameboy Advance system was receiving greater herald than this stupendous classic. It totally destroys the empire that Pokemon and other RPGs that have followed in Pokemon's suit have sustained, and this Golden Sun has placed a higher level of requirements for any portable RPG that follows the release of this engineering prowess: Fire Emblem, Kingdom Hearts, etc…The programming is so unbelievable that it almost competes with major console systems and their classical games such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (for Nintendo 64), and the Final Fantasy games of Playstation. Of course, it would be illogical to say that it can compete with those games, because it cannot with technological limitations, but truly demonstrates that major console gamers lacking arrogance and chauvinism would dearly enjoy Golden Sun, its sequel, Golden Sun: The Lost Age, and other RPGs for the Gameboy Advance that have learned from this ingenuity.

Obviously since this is the first game in it's duo saga series, it truly has no background information pertaining to it. I wish I knew more about the Camelot Corporation, but the only experience that I have had in the past with it was during my gaming of Mario Tennis, another wonderfully defined game despite engineering mirroring Pong. Though despite not playing Camelot's creations of the Shining Force games, I have witnessed the games to truly say that Camelot's games are surely bliss that attempt to push the limitations of a system to the maximum to fully satisfy gamers (the customers) in knowing that they got their money's worth. Camelot may not be as well known as companies such as Game Freak, Nintendo (and their Mario Games and Zelda gaming partners), or Squaresoft (or SquareEnix – whatever you desire to call it), but it surely designs games that can compete with these known gaming giants.

Finally, here we come to background information on this classical game, Golden Sun. Golden Sun takes place on the Angara continent in the Golden Sun world. You wake up to find that a storm has imperiled the village by causing erosion to loosen up a gigantic bolder that is on the verge of smashing into your town. The villagers are unable to contain the boulder any longer and it rolls through the town of Vale – your town – and some people are lost in the storm. You pass out along with your friend Garet after two mysterious characters accuse you of eavesdropping and defeat you in an obvious battle in which you can't win. Years pass and you are almost an adult with seventeen years under you belt, and you go exploring with an old scholar called Kraden as well as a group of your friends, well just two friends, Garet and Jenna. You encounter a holy relic called Sol Sanctum and upon further exploration, Kraden realizes this is the epicenter of your Psynergy powers – innate to those who hail from Vale – with the power of Alchemy hidden in this structure. Though events turn for the worse when the two mysterious figures along with another person appear again in an attempt to steal the magical stones that keep the peace in the world. You attempt to give them the final elements of stone in an attempt to rescue Jenna, but a volcanic eruption starts occurring from the instability of the lost elements, and with that, all is almost lost until the Wise One saves you. The town then bestows the daunting task upon you (Isaac) and Garet to retrieve the stones to save the world, and rescue Jenna. Of course, you are given the right to refuse this quest, and the game ends with a message saying the world has fallen away (interesting story twist) and some extra melancholic features. Now, you don't want to select that choice. Save the world! After you've left your hometown of Vale, you make acquaintances with a Djinni and the many Djinn you encounter will prove vital as friends since they will boost your power and with several combinations, make gameplay very intriguing. And so you explore village after village in your attempt to prevent the evil antagonists from lighting the lighthouses of the world and to save Jenna. The fate of the world is in your hands!!!

Ok, so you have finally conquered the first book of two books in the Golden Sun saga, and now you are ready to take the level of saving the world to a higher level; onward we go! In the second Golden Sun, Golden Sun: The Lost Age, you wake up in control of Felix and his following party members: Jenna, Sheba, and Kraden (non-combat party member). You are informed by Alex later on that Saturos and Menardi are no longer in the same dimension you breathe in and that it is now your destiny to carry out their failed task and light the remaining two lighthouses. It is inevitable not to know this, but eventually, you will meet up with your former party that you trained and played with in Golden Sun, the first book. At first you are suspicious of each other, but eventually learn that the Wise One is holding a terrible secret from you, and that if you don't fire all the lighthouses, the world will crumble away to the Gaia Falls. Though evil may be created with the golden power of alchemy once the lighthouses are lit, but it is logically foolish to outweigh such an issue with the end of the world. Evil can be ignored and dealt with, but ignoring the continuing erosion of the world you exist in, won't.

And now…on to the review…

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Gameplay: 10/10
The gameplay of Golden Sun ranks among the great RPGs of all consoles from the original Nintendo system to the Playstation 2. This RPG is a turn-based system just like Pokemon, but the battle arena is set in stadium perspective to give the gamer nostalgia to the Final Fantasy epics. Though the graphics are solely two-dimensional, the camera movements during battle give the gamer the relaxed optical illusion of a three-dimension (3D) battle. During battle, the commands are fairly simple: Attack, Psynergy, Djinn, Summon, Switch (once you have rendezvoused with your former party), Item, and Flee. Attack is self-explanatory: you use the weapon that you have equipped such as a sword, ax, mace, etc…, and if that weapon has a special effect, the effect will sometimes take place, such as for the Titan Blade. For psynergy, you use special elemental attacks that you possess through your innate elements and that you have gained from levels and Djinn combinations to use in the world environment or in battle. With the Djinn command, you can set or unset Djinn for different classes (for different psynergy) or for summoning. Now Summon is my favorite. Just as in other major RPGs, the Summon command is used for vast amounts of damage and an awesome graphical seen. The summons in this game truly push the portable systems to unbelievable limits that before this era, seemed impossible to accomplish. If a party member is low on health and you don't wish them to faint, or if you want to introduce a member with Djinn that are set for a certain summon, you can switch out a party member for in the latter group. And of course, if you are low on health, if the creatures offer low experience, if it is a waste of your time, and for other reasons, you can flee (run/escape) from the battle (if your levels are high enough so that permits). Sometimes a battle can be won through the thoughtless brute force of summons, powerful psynergy attacks, and massive attacks, but when you face those boss battles throughout the saga, intuition and wit are required. Sometimes defensive moves such as raising users attacks and healing moves combined with Djinn defense and the cautious summon are the needed perquisites to succeed. Now besides an awesome battling system, the worldly exploration is truly simple as well. You walk around, encounter monsters, go through towns, take on miniature sidequests, and attempt to save the world. Sometimes the world is filled with too many encounters that you sometimes are maddened when after using an item or psynergy to repel the annoying creatures, they still sometimes pop up. The commands are just as simple as walking around in real life, and some moves allow you to interact with your environment, such as Whirlwind to clear a vine on a stone, or Move to place a boulder too far away in its proper place. Not only can you interact with people through regular speech, but you can also delve into their hidden subconscious minds through the psynergy move Mind Read to access thoughts that they are trying to hide that may help you continue on in your quest. The only problem sometimes with environment interaction is that the psynergy aiming system is sometimes slightly off and forces you to sweat harder in hopes that your psynergy won't exhaust, especially before a hard battle. Not only are there regular battles, and the rare boss fights, but there is also a tournament that you can take part in that truly pushes this RPG from sometimes serious situations to rather fun moments. In Golden Sun: The Lost Age, there are newly introduced boss battles that truly push the ground of strategy. In order to get certain summons that truly define the game, you must beat powerful bosses, such as Star Magician – a fight that may take up to an hour to accomplish – and Dullahan, a boss that is so powerful that it rivals the final bosses of console giants, along with other epic fights that greatly increase gameplay. Now besides a drooling single-player mode, there is also an exhibition mode where you can do arena battles in which you fight previous monsters and bosses that you have encountered in the game for a recorded endurance challenge. No longer is sheer power adequate enough to overpower the lesser creatures, but mental power is necessary in order to know which monster is in need of summons, and which ones are better to defend against and save those power moves for later. And of course with this delightful battle system, comes a multiplayer match-up with other gamers who possess this game. While the game only permits a three versus three battle, it will be necessary to choose the characters who will provide a defense and well as a strong counterattack. The game will keep track of your wins, ties, and losses and you can visibly see them above the door that leads to the arena. And if you ever want to listen to the wonderful in-game music rather than trying to beat the game to hear the awesome finale, you can easily visit the lady who sits in the bottom-left of the screen for some awesome jamming.

Story: 10/10
Now, this story is original. I have never played a game where lighthouses were involved in the game. Basically as said before, three mysterious people run off with magical elemental stones in order to light the lighthouses to unleash the golden power of alchemy on the hills of Vale at the top of Sol Sanctum where the beacons of powerful light will coalesce. Of course, the Wise One along with the village elders have asked that you stop these people from that action as this will bring the world into chaos. And besides this, you need to save Jenna who has be kidnapped by these supposedly evildoers. The story has many twists and turns that make the plot dark and mysterious. The main character, you (Isaac), is a rather silent guy who imposes the feeling of omniscience. You join up with two other characters that add more interesting elements to the story throughout and until the end of this game and onto the following sequel. With the aid of the Djinn and various other allies throughout the land of Angara, you follow the land and its perils to save the world from a foreboding doom. Besides the main quest, you also have relative minor sidequests, such as helping people out who are defenseless or who cannot muster the power to conquer without the aid of psynergy and the mysterious powers of Vale. Of course, you try to level up as much as you can, attempt to encounter all the Djinn – twenty-eight in total, seven of each element, perform all the summons, try all the possible Djinn combinations for the ultimate class combination, and collect the weapons and items that will prove useful as you transfer this game over to its sequel. The only annoying part of the story was thwarting the mysterious guys on one of the lighthouse only to find that the game was over, and that it was to be continued. Of course, at first I thought it was a money racket, but after the release of the second game, despite it possibly being a money racket, I found the story well scribed.

Now besides the original story, the story continues to grow larger, more mysterious, and more epic. No longer are you confined to the continent of Angara, but to the ends of the world where the great Gaia Falls loom. Felix, along with Sheba, Jenna, and future party member Pier, make up this new company with Felix taking the place of Isaac as the silent one. You learn that the lighthouses are the only way to save the world and a town that is nearing the consuming falls. The sidequests on your journey to that ultimate goal continue to enlarge this plot, and there is no need to describe this game with words: buy the game.

Graphics: 10/10
Simply outstanding. The game designers have taken the Gameboy Advance and the portable era to a totally new level. The full capabilities of the Gameboy Advance have been totally used. The battle scenes are blazon with 3D simulation graphics, the special abilities that the weapons release are unbelievable, some of the psynergy moves are so wonderful that you keep doing them over and over again, the Djinn attacks possess their own graphical abilities, and finally the SUMMONS ARE BREATHTAKING! Judgement, Meteor, Atlantis, just to name some totally stunned me when I used them for the first time. The pixels are polished, the graphics are sheer bliss. And to blow my mind even worse, the sequel to this possesses battle graphics that surpass these delectable graphics. Not only do we have the original graphical summons, but also summons far superior to them such as Iris, Catastrophe, Cataclysm and much more. Even the weapons that let out a summoning cry such as the Soul Blade truly amaze the eyes for a portable system. Now then, besides battle scenes, the world map, though just a world map, despite its importance has been nicely done as well with rivers looking like rivers, mountains curved correctly, snow prints appearing where you tracked through, and the nicely detailed sprite images of towns and other monumental areas that you approach on your journey. And while you venture throughout the towns, the detail of the ground and the structures truly leaves in-town graphics such as those of Pokemon on the Gameboy Advance and other noteworthy RPGs on this system way behind in the dust. And to put other games to shame, this game contains an opening cinematic that truly demonstrates portable's capabilities with the Venus Lighthouse shown in a dusky scene as a seagull drifts in the wind. Sheer delightful.

Sound: 10/10
Finally, there is a game that lacks the dull and droning music of the expected portable games. No longer does the music sound purely slapped together keyboard music, but a melodic mix of several instruments. The music never gets boring and truly I enjoy keeping the volume up to the maximum in order to hear all the different blends of music. And besides this, in the exhibition mode, you can walk over to the lady sitting in the bottom-left corner of the building and talk to her hold your R button in order for her to become a jukebox and you can play the innumerable amount of songs that you enjoy listening to – some more than other. Now in Golden Sun: The Lost Age, the lady jukebox possesses all the music entrees from Golden Sun and Golden Sun: The Lost Age for continued non-boring mixes. Of all the music in the Golden Sun series, my favorite in the 97 songs is the Credits song.

Replayability: 9/10
This game was so ingenious and never seen before on a portable system that immediately after beating once – which took about twenty-five hours – I played it again and I believe maybe two or three more times. It was so beautiful that to this day, I have never touched my Pokemon Ruby and other Gameboy Advance Pokemon games that refuse to even try to incorporate a battle scene that incorporates a remotely similar system to that of Pokemon Stadium. After playing this game through once, if you do not have the next game in the duo series, you will surely play it again to accomplish everything perfectly and accumulate the perfect items and party to transfer over to Golden Sun: The Lost Age. I haven't played the game for over a year, but simply writing this review makes me want to play this game and Golden Sun: The Lost Age over again. Though leveling up may be a nuisance sometimes, and you are saddened that it is impossible to reach level 99 without years of playing, have no fear. When you transfer it over to Golden Sun: The Lost Age, level 99 is on the horizon ready for you to sail for it. For a turned-based RPG, it is definitely number one for all portables, a classic to the gaming world, and a definite Hall of Fame member. When you play through Golden Sun: The Lost Age, the game length is almost three times that of the first book, and after completion of the game, you can even try for a hard difficulty that truly makes battles more about skill than brute force. Though with such an epic completed, many RPG hardcore members will want to keep this game untouched for quite some time. The length mixed with the increasingly arduous puzzles in a simulated 3D yet 2D world may cause some to take turned-based RPGs on good amount of vacation, but once the time has passed, the game is ready for another round.

CONCLUSION
Using my rating system for Gameboy Advance RPGs:
20% Gameplay, 30% Story, 20% Graphics, 7.5% Sound, 22.5% Replayability

Overall Game Rating: 9.775

OVERALL RATING: 10/10 – Genuine Classic Extraordinaire
Suggested Action: A definite must have for all serious role-playing gamers.

Final Comments: If you do not have a portable system such as Gameboy Advance or the Nintendo DS, and are interested in getting one, this is definitely a great game to start out on for those who wish for a long lasting adventure. You cannot be a hardcore RPG gamer if you have never tried this game. Put away the ignorance about portable gaming, and try this game out. Of course as all RPGs go, I don't recommend this game to those who want the quick thrill without substance. If you don't problem solving puzzles that tap your mental capacity mixed with battles that distract your attention in multiple situations, then this game may not be your cup of tea: that is the definition of an RPG. If you want to see if you are an RPG style gamer, then this game (and I don't suggest trying Pokemon for older gamers) coupled with games such as Fire Emblem, and Final Fantasy will truly let you know if you are the person who wishes to use your brain's power somewhat and enjoys a suspenseful story.

Fin


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/10/06


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