Review by KnightsoftheRound
"Golden Sun: The Lost Age is one of the best sequels to any game ever made, and is the best game on the Game Boy Advance."
The Good: Amazing graphics; wonderful soundtrack; enhanced gameplay features; lengthy adventure; interesting storyline that is faithful to the original game; original characters still play a large role in the storyline; the weapons still have really cool special effects; puzzles are more challenging than the original; the best RPG on the Game Boy Advance; 2 player battle mode is a lot of fun if you have someone else to play against.
The Bad: Story sequences are sometimes very long; dialog can get wordy; you can't go back to any of the locations from the first game.
The original Golden Sun for the Game Boy Advance was one of the best games released for the system. It had everything you could want from a portable RPG. It had an interesting storyline, amazing graphics, and a great soundtrack. Naturally, expectations were high for a sequel to the original Golden Sun, but Camelot somehow managed to soar above and beyond, and create a sequel that not only lived up to the original, but surpassed it in every conceivable way.
Even though Golden Sun: The Lost Age is a direct sequel to the original, it actually begins a little bit before the ending of Golden Sun. However, instead of taking control of Isaac, Garet, Ivan, and Mia who were the main characters from the original game, the focus shifts to Felix for the majority of the sequel. You begin the game taking control of Jenna attempting to escape from the Venus Lighthouse before it's collapse, (which occurred at the ending of the original game) and you soon meet up with Felix, who takes the role of the main character in The Lost Age, and Sheba who is another ally. You also venture around with Kraden who was a scholar from the first game with a minor role, but in the sequel he is pretty much in the entire game, as he travels with Felix and his party, however he is not a playable character at any point during the game.
Some could say it's disappointing when you don't play as the same characters in a sequel, but anyone who has played the original Golden Sun will be no stranger to Felix, Jenna and Sheba, who all had roles in the original, and Jenna was even a playable character early on in the original game. The characters of Isaac, Garet, Ivan and Mia, are also still central to the games main plot, but they don't come into focus until around three quarters through the main quest, but they are mentioned briefly during the course of the game. This is because in the original game, Isaac and Garet originally set off to pursue two characters named Saturos and Menardi, who stole four elemental stars from their home town to try and light the four elemental lighthouse beacons. At the beginning of the game Saturos and Menardi, along with Felix, kidnap Jenna and Kraden during the same time that they steal the elemental stars. Isaac and Garet are given the task of pursuing them to take back the elemental stars, defeat Saturos and Menardi, rescue Jenna and Kraden, and find out why Felix (who is Jenna's brother, and Isaac and Garet's childhood friend) has betrayed them. So The Lost Age shifts focus from trying to catch up to another group, to being the ones who are running away from the other group. Needless to say, both parties cross paths at a very important moment during the game, but what transpires is up to you to find out. It's worth noting that The Lost Age continues to storyline established in the original game, despite that the perspective has changed a little, but ultimately the story unfolds very well in this sequel.
The storyline is actually part of the reason why The Lost Age is such an amazing sequel. Due to the events which occurred at the end of Golden Sun, you now set off on an adventure that spans multiple continents, instead of just exploring one large continent like in the first game. In The Lost Age, you will even come across a ship, that will allow you to sail across the world map traveling between continents and islands, going to many different locations. There is also a great exploration aspect of the game that makes it much more open ended at certain points in the game. Once you get the ship you basically have the ability to sail wherever you want to go on one half of the world until you complete certain objectives, which will allow you to access the other half of the ocean. Golden Sun: The Lost Age in a sense, is a linear game, but at parts of the game it gives the illusion of being non-linear, but that is because at certain points of the game it is a non-linear game. There are clear objectives that you must complete in order to progress but you are allowed to do it at your own pace while you explore the world and try to figure out where you are supposed to go. At this point in the game it doesn't tell you where you need to go, because in the storyline your characters don't know where the things are that they are looking for. So you basically have to sail around the world exploring until you figure out what you need to do. It makes the game have a much more epic feel than the first game, due to the fact that the world of Golden Sun is at your finger tips. Disappointingly though, you do not re-visit any locations from the first game other than the Venus Lighthouse which is for a very brief time right at the beginning of the game.
The battle system is Golden Sun: The Lost Age has stayed pretty much the same, although there have been several improvements that make it much better. There are quite a few new psynergy spells available this time around, and because there are more djinn, there are more classes available. One of the greatest things about the original game was the djinn system. Djinn are these elemental creatures that you have to battle and collect to augment your characters powers and abilities. These djinn are normally "set" on certain characters to increase their power. For example, Felix is a natural earth adept. He excels in earth magic, and all of the abilities that he learns throughout the game are earth based. So when you find an earth djinni and then set it on Felix, it will make many of his attributes such as health, magic and attack power rise, as well as his class, which can sometimes introduce new psynergy, and in this case they would be earth spells. However, djinn can also be used, instead of just being set on a character. When a djinni is set on a character you can select it from the djinn menu during a battle and use a djinn, because each djinni has a different special ability that can be used during a battle. But when you use a djinn in a battle, the stat bonuses that they provide a character will be removed, until the djinni that was used has had enough time to recover, and then set itself back on a character. After a djinn has been used, it goes on standby mode, and when they are on standby mode you can use their unleashed power to call forth powerful summoned creatures. This leads to one of the greatest improvements in Golden Sun: The Lost Age.
In the original Golden Sun, there were four different summons for each element, obviously some were stronger than others. All you need to do to use these summons is use the required amount of djinn of that element, until you can summon a creature. In The Lost Age, you can find stone tablets spread around the world hidden in caves, and sometimes guarded by powerful bosses which will grant you double element summons. A double element summon is a summon that requires a certain amount of djinn from two different elements. These djinn are much more powerful than the regular ones, but they are harder to use during the battles.
Naturally, giving Felix earth djinn won't really change his magic that much due to the fact that he is an earth adept. However, you can mix up djinn from other elements, or simply put a bunch of fire djinn only on him, or other characters, to drastically change their abilities. Because Felix is an earth adept, setting fire djinn on him will have bizarre effects on his psynergy. He will lose a great deal of his earth psynergy, but will gain psynergy from different elements, such as fire, but because he is an earth adept, he will still have some earth psynergy as well. This is where Golden Sun: The Lost Age's replayability comes into effect, because there are a ton of different combinations that can make some really cool effects on your characters. You can go through the game playing with the characters using their regular powers, but then change them up at any time. And the greatest thing about it, is if you get bored, you can simply change their djinn around again at any time to revert them back to their normal selves.
The battle system works in a turn based fashion. When a random battle has been initiated you are taken to the battle screen where you have multiple commands at your disposal. There are attack, psynergy, djinn, summons, items and defend commands. The random battles occur in two phases that go in a continuous cycle. The first phase is where you choose all of your actions for each of your characters, then once you are finished the battle plays out. The character that acts first is the character with the highest agility stat, so usually a few of your characters will attack, then some of the monsters will attack, and then your slowest characters will attack, and this will end the attack phase. The best thing about this system is that during the phase where you are choosing your commands you have time to think and strategize about what you are doing without having to worry about the monsters continuously attacking you like in other role-playing games. Needless to say, the battle system in Golden Sun: The Lost Age, is very similar to the original game, but it is fun and engaging nonetheless. There is nothing more annoying than an RPG sequel that alters the battle system, and The Lost Age remains completely faithful to the original game.
The weapons and armor in Golden Sun: The Lost Age are still very similar to the original. You can buy regular weapons and armor in the shops, but you will still find really cool special weapons and armor scattered throughout the game hidden in secret locations and treasure chests. It's really cool because just like in the original game weapons will occasionally "let out a howl" and instead of you attacking the enemy the normal way, all these crazy special effects will happen and something really sweet with occur. For example one of the axes that you find early on has a howl called stone justice, where your character will summon a bunch of rocks from the earth and throw them into the enemy causing much more damage than a regular attack. There are also weapons like the light brand, where a giant sword comes out of the ground and stabs your enemy, and your character can steal health points from them in the process. There is also a blacksmith in Golden Sun: The Lost Age, which is a new addition, and you can find raw materials which were not available in the first game. If you bring him raw materials he can forge a whole bunch of crazy and super powerful weapons for you and your group. This is where you can obtain the weapon Excalibur which is the hardest weapon to obtain. Excalibur's howl opens a mystical portal in the sky, where either one, or three swords will rain death upon your enemies.
The main quest in Golden Sun: The Lost Age is still full of plenty of familiar puzzle solving, much like the first game. However, the differences are, is that the puzzles are much more challenging, and thus more entertaining. You have to use your psynergy outside of battle to solve puzzles, by placing objects in certain positions, or changing the flow of water in certain areas to open up a path. The puzzles in The Lost Age are what makes the game so great because you aren't just running from point A to point B doing absolutely nothing but fighting monsters in between. This puzzle system is part of what makes the Golden Sun series so memorable and entertaining outside of the battles. There is also plenty of NPC interaction, and of course since this game is much, much larger than the original game, there is plenty more NPCs to interact with than in the first game. There are also a few familiar faces that will pop up during the course of your adventure.
The sheer amount of detail in Golden Sun: The Lost Age is amazing, the game is visually stunning, and is the best looking game on the Game Boy Advance. The battle effects are simple amazing, the weapon howls are really something to look at. One of the final weapons you obtain in the game called the "Sol Blade" has a special howl that unleashes a giant meteor, and the special animation that ensues is breathtaking, especially since it's only on the GBA. The summons are also amazing to look at. All of the summons from the first game have the same animations, but the new summons are really astounding. One of the summons called "Catastrophe" has a giant knight in medieval armor, take a sword and create a large triangular seal that blasts into the earth, the ensuing explosion causes a giant storm of wind with flying dragon heads to fly into and engulf your enemies in a giant explosion. It really is a visual treat for a hand held game. The character sprites are animated wonderfully on the world map, as well as in the battles, and the psynergy attacks look amazing. What's really great is that during the battles the characters have a 3D look to them, despite the fact that they are just 2D sprites. It's a really cool effect though, and it goes a long way in creating one of the best visual treats for the Game Boy Advance. The environments are wonderfully detailed, and there are so many different looking areas in the game to wander around in. Camelot really has done an outstanding job at creating one of the most visually stunning games on the Game Boy Advance, you really just have to look at this game for yourself to understand how good it looks for being on the GBA.
Golden Sun: The Lost Age, much like the first game, is complimented by a wonderfully composed soundtrack that really adds a lot to the overall experience. There are quite a few recognizable tunes from the first game that reappear here, but there are also plenty more tunes created for this sequel. The soundtrack consists of over 90 songs, which really is a lot, especially for a hand held game. The new battle theme for The Lost Age is especially one of the best new additions to the soundtrack, but the old battle theme is still accessible, but I'll leave that to you to figure out how. The Golden Sun series is comparable to the Final Fantasy games in the soundtrack department, no Golden Sun's songs were not composed by Nobuo Uematsu, but they are pretty damn good considering that they were created by someone else. The sound effects are also great in The Lost Age, although many of them are recycled from the first game, but this is obviously considering the games both use the same engine and everything. However their are many new spells in the game, so there are naturally, plenty of new sound effects as well.
The main adventure in Golden Sun: The Lost Age, is a much longer game than the original. Ranging from 40 hours to complete and beyond, The Lost Age is a very long game. It's especially remarkable because The Lost Age is a portable RPG, yet it still manages to rival console RPGs, and is even longer than a wide variety of them. The 40 hours is really just the main quest on its own, but chances are your quest will be much longer than this, as there are tons of side quests in The Lost Age, triple the amount of side-quests which were available in the original Golden Sun. There are a bunch of other cool additions too, especially for people who have completed the original Golden Sun. If you transfer your original Golden Sun game data to Golden Sun: The Lost Age, there are certain side-quests that you can do, that you normally wouldn't be able to, depending if you've completed certain conditions in the first game. If you completed certain side-quests in the original game, there are many things that can happen in The Lost Age, and it's really cool when they do. For example, if you won at the Colossus tournament in the first game, you will meet some of the Knights that you defeated in the first game, and you can battle them again, as they want revenge for being defeated. You can also gain many bonus items from NPCs from the first game, if you did certain things in the original Golden Sun. So in that regard, playing the original Golden Sun is highly recommended. There is also a battle mode which can be accessed from the main menu where you can battle against monsters in the battle arena that you have encountered during the main game. Bosses can also be encountered here as well, so you can replay some of the bosses you have defeated during the main game. Unfortunately you can't actually choose who you are fighting against, as the battles are random. You can also play the battle arena with a friend if you link up with a game link cable, and you can battle against a friend 3 vs 3 like the original game.
When it comes down to it, Golden Sun: The Lost Age is the mastery of the portable RPG. Camelot has managed to create the best portable role-playing game that has ever existed, as it is both epic in story, gameplay and sound, and amazing in it's graphical presentation and attention to detail. Golden Sun: The Lost Age is an astounding achievement for a portable RPG, and proves that you don't need a powerful console to create one of the best role-playing games available. If you've ever enjoyed any of the classic role-playing games on the SNES or other older systems, you will absolutely love Golden Sun series. Although it's highly recommended that you play the first game before you play Golden Sun: The Lost Age, because even though the sequel is a better game overall, the overall package is an epic and unforgettable one.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/15/07
Game Release: Golden Sun: The Lost Age (US, 04/14/03)
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