Review by EJRICH
"Lost in Age"
If there's one thing that the GBA is famous for, it's definitely its RPGs. The system was practically made for them, sporting the graphics of just the right quality to fit in with that of a Super Nes game; buttons that are very simple to understand in concept; and a portability factor that I can guarantee you would appeal to even the most die hard RPG addicts. Golden Sun was by some written off as a just another RPG trying to make money. Camelot wasn't exactly known by most, and to add to that they even didn't really have a budget to compare with some of the bigger franchises. They still pulled off a classic though, and I think that because of that they put themselves on the map; allowing those who never heard of them to quickly get the picture that they weren't fooling around. They spawned a sequel to it a couple of years back, and that's what this review will be on. People had a ton of expectations for this game, mainly because of the success that previous game had. A quality was achieved, and people were expecting that same quality to carry over in this game. Not only that, but they were smart in the fact that they decided to let the first game leave off with a rather uneasy cliff-hanger that definitely left speculation to run wild in the mind. I waited patiently for this game, and while it was rather grueling it was definitely worth it. I first found out about GS through my cousin who was basically addicted to the series, and while he did let me borrow the game I had to give it back. I quickly bought my own copy, and through that I myself was hooked. I finished the game within a span of about two weeks, and patiently waited during the elapsed years that came and went. Needless to say, the days of release finally came, and guess who had a pre-order XD. I picked up my copy from my local EB games, and didn't take it out of my GBA for about three-four weeks of decent play time. I had a blast with it, and it was a shame that it had to end, but it was worth it in my eyes, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.
Your journey begins on the island suspended in the middle of the ocean. A giant tidal wave comes though; and unfortunately for you you are swept away to an unknown land. The game's really funny how it starts out, and I think that because of that touch of lightheartedness you really are given a good start to your adventure. The part that I am talking about is rather simple; Felix wakes up and checks if he's broken anything. You're given a choice in menus whether or not you want to do it, but I suggest it. Felix then proceeds to wiggle his body in a bunch of different directions; it almost looks as if he's doing a dance. That quickly ends though, and the monotonous feeling of the previous game quickly sets in unfortunately. You immediately find out that your actually doing the right thing by lighting the lighthouses, and that the heroes from the previous game may very well be your enemies. That kind of threw me off a little bit, but I new in the long run that they wouldn't just do it that way. They actually don't to be quite honest, as at about the 75% mark of the game they reintroduce you to them atop the third lighthouse. There's a point I'd like to discuss. They make us wait for a whole 75% of the game before we even get to set foot in a lighthouse; it's unfortunate because that's were the really good puzzles are to be quite honest. Granted, the puzzles throughout the rest of the game are good; just short. Needless to say, they also house some of the biggest plot points in terms of fights and character development. You really get to see what is really troubling the main cast of characters and how that affects what the outcome of the game can possibly ascertain.
Character development is probably one of the biggest things that could have ever happened to the GS series. Not only does the series house probably one of the biggest casts of party members available to someone on the GBA, but it also takes it a step further and develops them to a degree as well. For example, a party member named Piers starts off as a mysterious being, but thanks to some strategic plot maneuvering; you get to see his home and watch him develop into something different that someone wouldn't really expect. Granted, his nature let out a symphony of kindness, but that kindness really didn't have anything to back it up with until you saw what he really was. Like I said before, the game also put in some lighthearted moments in the game that allowed the character to be explored; but in a humorous manner. The game never really gives us even a hint of Piers' age, and it's funny when the characters actually start prodding for that same question themselves. He doesn't give in though, leaving you to ponder that question along with others as you go about your adventure. That's what is really cool about this games story. It leaves things up to the imagination of the player to decide on their own what it really is. The next thing I'd like to discuss is the meeting with the remaining cast of part members at the ¾ point of the game.
Not to say that I overly enjoyed it, as I myself kind of like it when a hero is clear-cut developed by the designers themselves; but what works works, and to that angle if it works; then there's not much too actually say. In this game, Isaac is developed for you, allowing you too finally put the point in which the character fits in the puzzle in place. I kind of didn't like the way Isaac was portrayed, as to me he was just another one of those goody goody heroes that follow some kind of righteous moral code that makes them so predictable in everything that they do. I'd much rather prefer a hero who will sit there and act like he doesn't care about anything, like Kalas from Baten Kaitos. He fit the part perfectly. Felix is this games silent hero, and you'll quickly see this even as the game begins. I think I saw one picture of his face portrait the whole entire game, and I don't appreciate that at all. Like I said before, it works; but to what affect did they have to take it to in order for it to work. Some will like it, and other won't; that's a given.
The Game Play of the original GS practically mirrors that of GS: TLA; with slight improvements here and there that ultimately make it a better experience as a whole. The next post and beyond will delve into every aspect of play that his game has to offer as a whole; with some parts giving a broader experience to those who actually want to sit through this monster review. With that out of the way; shall we begin?
Psyenergy is probably one of the biggest innovative ideas that his game could have ever produced. In a lot of games, magic is just called magic, but in this game they took that to another degree by taking people and aligning them with one element, calling those people adepts. Not everyone is an adept, but to those that are power is accessible to those that take the time to hone their skills. That being said, I like to think of psyenergy divided into two parts; one part is battle, and the other is out of battle. In-battle psyenergy acts as your magic spells, allowing the character of a particular element to act with spells in that element. For example, if a person is mercury adept, then they have the ability to cast both healing and water psyenergy. Each element is opposed to another, with the obvious taking place like all other games before it. Strategy dictates that it is your best interest to create match ups in which you have the advantage, but that's just me thinking too much again XD. I really liked how they managed to incorporate psyenergy out of battle though, as that's were the system truly shines. This system of incorporation was masterfully done, as they incorporated it at a level of innovation that kept the idea fresh as you went throughout the game. They were constantly introducing new type of these spells throughout the game. As I said before, out of battle psyenergy could be as simple as the ability to push or pull something out of reach with a ghostly hand, or if you get into something a little more complicated it can range from a tornado to the evaporation of water to open up previously inaccessible caverns. It doesn't stop there though, as you can even gain the ability to read someone's mind with time . Psyenergy changes depending on your class, which will be discussed in a later segment. With that though, what I can say at the moment is that it will definitely be confusing at first when you're trying to find a particular type of psyenergy that is needed in a particular area. Other than that, I thought that they did what they needed to do to make the system their own, and I think that although it may be a little bit misleading at times it works wonderfully .
Now that I have gone over some of the games working mechanics, let's go over battles. You generally have a choice between a couple of tactics such as the following: run, attack, status. In that, you have access to even more categories if you decide to choose to attack. Normally, you can choose to just attack with your weapon, psyenergy, summon, or possibly an item if you have one that allows that. Healing with items is optional, as well as looking at your status screen. Battles are done in turn-based fashion, with a special preference on your choice between psyenergy and regular attacking. Psyenergy acts as your magic as I said before, and that's normally very effective against enemies given the right situation. Problem is though that you only have a limited number of PP for your spells, and once that runs out your toast. Regular attacking is incredibly balanced though, allowing some weapons to far exceed your magic. That's another thing that I think is awesome. They don't force you to rely on magic to win all the time like some games have a tendency of doing. They allow you to be the one in control of your battle fate. One thing that really shines in this game is the fact that some special weapons that you may find or even buy house some of the most dazzling and potent finishers in the game. I call them finishers, but they really are just boosted attacks played out in a different scene in which after that your enemies are pummeled into oblivion. If you wish to let your characters use some of the more powerful finishers, then you'll more than likely either have to find or in most cases forge the weapon itself. The most arguably powerful weapon in the game is housed in the final dungeon, but I'll tell you right now that if you play out the forging game enough you'll find something that may be a tad weaker in regular attacking, but probably the most lethal in finishers. I don't consider weapon finishers spoilers, mainly because they really have nothing to do with plot points or what-not. The finishers name is legend, and it sends randomly one to three purple swords plunging into your enemy in such a magnificent scene that even the most graphically appealing games have to sit there and watch in awe.
The class system is this games job system when you take it down to its most basic level. Depending on the dinjin you equip, you have the ability to change your class. There are many combinations of dinjin that can be put onto a character to form many different classes, and you'll normally find that experimenting is in your best interest if you wish to gain access to some of the games best classes. Each character has access to a different set of classes, with some classes exclusive to that character. Of course some classes find themselves intermingling with many different characters, but if you really do look at the system with your full mentality you'll see that some characters are better built for that particular class than others. With that, each character has a main class that if you decide to just attach dinjin of that particular character's affinity to you gain access to that one characters affinity class. Affinity classes allow the character to gain access to some of the best elemental spells in the game, but on the flipside to that they may not gain access to some of the games best stats. Sometimes you have to look at the fact that you will probably be using your main attack to deal out your regular damage, and if that's the case you definitely want to go for a class that gives bonuses to that. That's my one problem with this. Some classes are downright broken in all respects, while others are just pathetic. It's like they wanted to you to follow that certain line of class changes throughout the game. I guess though that because of the insane dinjin requirements for some of these classes, things are balanced out. I know that these requirements are worth it though, even if they don't always balance out the rest of your party. By now you've probably gotten the picture that psyenergy changes with class, but just incase you didn't, let me explain. When you move to a different class, sometimes different psyenergy will come and go from your menu, whether it be attack spells or field menu spells. I think probably one of the biggest problems that the class system has in general is the fact that some people may have a hard time remembering which classes house which spells, and I think that when it all comes down to the wire it really is confusing to your average player. I had to personally commit to memory several different combos that were needed to get past the games puzzles, which is kind of sad when you really think about it. It still works though pretty well; it just probably needed a little bit of fine tuning to make it better. On a final note I'd like to say that classes are probably one of the games most intricate system when it all comes down to the end of it, and I think that if you can learn it well enough you'll really come to enjoy it; which is what the game is really about.
Under normal pretexts, variation is normally something that should be sought after in terms of game play and what-not. This is one of those cases that states differently. The graphics in this game are extremely inconsistent in terms of quality. Some of you are probably saying that I am completely insane for doubting the wonderful graphics that are in this game, but I'm not. You see, yes this game may have excellent graphics; but they are bought down in terms of overall quality by one thing alone; the over world. The over world presents everything that's in this game that shouldn't be in it. Not only are the graphics on that screen extremely pixilated, but they also lack the depth of color that the rest of the game showed in spades. Don't get me wrong, I've definitely seen the quality of the over world in other games, but through that I've also seen the rest of that games graphical representation; and to be quite it stinks. This game showed me throughout that it did have the ability to pull of rich, vibrant graphics in the bulk of its areas, it just faltered in this one section. I personally don't know what they could have done to make it better; but that's just me. I'm not one to be playing with graphical specks, but what I do know is that compared to the rest of this games graphics, these are a mockery. For example, you can basically see the pixels all over the map; it's terrible. Fortunately for this game though, the rest of the graphics pull the weight of this failure.
Battle graphics are probably the most seen in the game; that stems from the fact that his is an RPG . If there's anything at all that I saw as I was going through this games battle system was that the graphics from which it boasted were some of the best I've ever had the pleasure of viewing. Everything works to better the system which the game is thriving in. Sure, both your party and your enemies are heavily pixilated, but it just doesn't take away anything at all from the graphics as a whole. They actually make it look more realistic in my opinion, something that just doesn't happen very often. When you can go and watch someone do that, you know you have a developer that has stuck it right were it hurts to any adversary that could possibly come up from this.
Summon is the games big guns that are absolutely magnificent in terms of both graphical quality and overall damage. I personally loved the games summons as they graced there presence to the screen in such a way that it made me really wonder why enemies just sat there XD. Honestly, they are amazing in everything that they do, and I think that when it all comes down to it, they really are the best graphics that the GBA has to offer even today. Now I know that that is a big statement in terms of overall correctness, but when you take a look at just how well they are really put together, you really get a picture of just what I mean when I say all of this. The variety is great, and I think that just that alone was a good idea on their part. The more summons they put into the game, the more the people paid attention to the overall graphical scheme. If the whole game were done in this feature, then it would have probably been the best game in terms of graphics ever, but they didn't, and it still rocks.
Now there's one point in particular I want to go into before I end this, and it's that the graphics that the game has to offer at the end of the game are really interesting. They take place in an anime type of pre-rendered background that sort of looks like a painting. I personally had never seen anything like that in all my years of gaming. Just the way that they managed to blend the colors to create that rustic feel that we all know and love from the symbol; it really does make it look better.
The music of GS:TLA is absolutely amazing in terms of overall quality of production values. They had a darn symphony do the battle music that you listen to throughout the game. It's not like it's some kind of garbage that you'd hear on any regular game. What really makes it cool though, pay attention to this; is that they took it one step further and did several pieces of music that you can actually listen to depending on the area. They created something cool while still giving much variety in what they did. I really liked the fact that they actually decided to take it in that direction, as it just made the feel better as a whole.
The music of the over world seriously doesn't change at all as you play the game, except at the end of course when it actually gets a ton better. I really liked the way they made the music sound, don't get me wrong; it's just that they probably could have taken it a step further and incorporated a bunch of different tunes like they did with the battle music to give it a better quality as a whole. They really could have probably made it better if they decided to change it up every so often instead of just putting one in the beginning and then in the end. Aside from that, I absolutely had no problems at all with it in its entirety.
Dungeon music is where my main problem stems. Not only are the tunes dreary and boring to listen to, but they also have the pleasure of being the only tunes in the game not to be produced by an orchestra. That really puts a damper on dungeons as a whole, mainly because of the fact that you spend so much time in each one, and once you've been in something like that for such an extended amount of time; it honestly tires you out. This was probably the only other problem I had with the games music, mainly because they put you through it for such a long period of time.
Battle music is probably the best music in the game. Not only do you get to hear the symphony at its finest, but you also get to here such an array of different notes at different times. If you are into music at all, you will honestly see that each and every note of music is finely developed to the point in which you can hear the beats of the orchestra as it plays throughout the battle. Now please, take a moment when playing this and just listen. Don't battle; just listen for what the game has to offer. You'll see probably four or five different tunes when you are playing the battles of the game; so just take a moment in each one and listen carefully.
The music that you'll be hearing in towns is usually up-beat except for one city in-particular that I won't be mentioning for spoilers sake. Let's just say that it's cold XD. Anyway, for the most part tunes will be played on an even tempo of about a 4/5 time measure if I remember correctly. I really enjoyed it; as in that you had the ability to actually listen to things.
Replay value is probably one of the most probable aspects that will come up in a players mind when they are thinking for the long run in terms of post game mentality. I'll be honest; this game doesn't have a post game. It does give you the ability though to play it again though in either easy or hard mode. Hard mode is really hard, will easy is probably considered to be super-easy. The class system is definitely there if you want to replay the game with a different party. I, for the most part at least; liked my party enough to keep it throughout. There are different paths in this game in terms of fighting bosses at different times. Definitely play it again if you took the easy path the first time around.
If there's anything at all that I can tell you about this games difficulty, it's that you will really be having either a really hard time or a really easy time. Puzzles are usually easy with the exception of a few that really will test your patience in terms of overall sanity. I personally only had one or two problems as I was playing the game, and they were more towards the beginning, when the puzzles made you rely on some type of horrible thought process that I just couldn't master on my own. My poor luck as usual. Still, you'll get past it with time.
Bosses are usually extremely hard or extremely easy; much of depends on how you've prepared your part through levels and class. If you've taken the time to make yourself stronger, than good for you; if not, be prepared to be in a world of pain in some of the more un-forgiving parts. One fight in-particular allows you to fight the boss immediately, but if you do then the boss will heal a ton of HP every turn. I have personally had a ton of fun fighting him this way XD. One of my friends actually did it .
There are usually two types of enemies; those two being either hard or simple. Simple enemies are just your run of the mill opponents that can't really do that much to you if you're prepared. Sub-bosses, on the other hand; or much harder, but still easy in my eyes. Again, preparation is everything. With it, you can make this game easy as heck. Well, except for one boss XD.
Summon rushing really ruins this game. People just abuse their summons on a boss and make it die without really even fighting. In my eyes, if you do that; you are cheating yourself out of the game and what it could be. If you do manage to get through the game without them, then I commend you. Still, it's a piece of cake even when you don't. Only a baby summon rushes .
I strongly suggest you buy this game, mainly because it's just soo long. I have spent countless hours replaying it so many times only to sit there and think to my self, Why wouldn't anyone buy this game? If you think you can beat it fairly quickly, then I commend you. Speed runs are possible, albeit hard even if you know your way around the game. This mainly stems from the fact that it's just so long, and the puzzles can sometimes take to long to complete. I have personally finished the game completely in 15 hours .on my fifth run.
This game really is rated E for a very good reason. It has practically nothing wrong with it, save alchemy, but that's passible as just another thing. I really suggest you get it, mainly because it really does nothing wrong aside from what I mentioned. There are a very few older kid oriented type of references in it, but I had no problem with it.
Guide or No Guide
For the classes alone, I'd tell you to get a darn guide. It takes so many hours to fully get everything, and I think with a guide, you'll have a much more bearable experience. Dinjin can be extremely hard to find without a guide as well, so take that into consideration if you care anything at all. I had a guide while I was playing, granted, it was only a printed out step guide for my first run, but it got me to were I needed to go and showed me the class system. If you need to know the guide I used, just ask here and I'll post on my first chance.
You can pick this game up for roughly 15 bucks right now if you are lucky, so it's not that pricy. It has been out for a while though, so keep that in mind when looking. I picked my copy up a few years ago for 17 bucks used.
Golden Sun: The Lost Age, is a great game by all means. It just suffers from a few problems that really can be looked over if you are careful enough to not take everything seriously. I loved the game, and I'm sure you will to. Thanks all. I will post ina couple of weeks when I get a new comp, thanks for posting this for me hyper, I know it's been tough XD.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/07/07
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