"The Elemental Quest Continues..."

If someone came up to me and asked, “Hey, what's Golden Sun all about anyway?” I'm sure I could still come up with a sentence, just one sentence, that could nearly describe the game almost fully. But things would be different if someone asked me about Golden Sun: The Lost Age. For the first time in my life, I found an RPG that's so simple yet so complicated to come up with. Here's what I have to say about it.

Story

Background.
Starting exactly at the end of the previous Golden Sun, you'll begin as Jenna, who together with Alex and Kraden, make their way down from the top of Venus Lighthouse during the fateful battle between Saturos and Menardi against Isaac and company. Their plan to meet up with Felix and the others in the cave at Idejima Peninsula didn't turn out to go so well, as lighting the beacon of the lighthouse turned to evoke the power of earth, unleashing a massive earthquake which is followed by a gigantic tidal wave.

Continents collide, climate of the world changes, as the peninsula where the three of them are slowly seperated from the land of Gondowan, drifting slowly east towards the foreign continent of Indra. Felix and Sheba join them afterwards, exhausted from being adrift at sea. Both bringing news of the surprising defeat of Saturos and Menardi by Isaac's hands. But despite that, their journey must continue. Their quest begins anew as Felix now takes over the lead them to seek the remaining lighthouses.

The fate of the world is already at balance....

Plot
It's difficult to decide whether the plot of Golden Sun: TLA is good or bad. The problem is actually because half of the game is a wild-goose-chase adventure in trying to figure out puzzles, new Psynergy, and sub-quests which all seem to be unrelated with Felix's main mission.

There are some good parts though. Like Alex who decides to separate himself from Felix and company, complicated cases of town raids by pirates, the discovery of new places and legends, and of course, rumors about the coming of Isaac and his friends, who seek their way to Lemuria as they pursue Felix to stop him from lighting the lighthouses. The mysterious motives of each of them is one feat too, since you rarely find a game where you play as someone but hardly understand the person you're playing. Only later in the game there'll be a revelation which explains everything.

Characters
This is where it gets interesting. A cast of new characters is introduced, including of course, Felix himself. Together with the people who didn't get much role in the first game who now join him, that is, his sister, Jenna, the scholar Kraden, and of course the holy child of Lalivero, Sheba.

A new villain, Karst, who happens to be Menardi's sister, is introduced nearing halfway of the game. Together with her as baddies are some already well-heard characters as well....

As for the Water Adept to take over Alex's place is Piers, a young man wrongly accused for a crime he didn't comit, who is also the only key Felix and friends have in reaching Lemuria.

Gameplay

System
At last, Felix too, now harness the power of the Djinn. There's not much difference in battle system with its predecessor, though we can now be ready with even more Djinn (eight instead of seven). How it works? Well, equip a Djinni (put on standby), use it's special ability (of course in battle), and then it's ready for summoning, with or without it's other Djinni friends. This time, you can also summon elemental beasts from Djinns with different elements(!), as long as you've gained it's summon ability first via these strange runes engraved on mysterious rocks (You'll find out what I mean.). And for those who've forget, the summoner's elemental power will be raised according to the summon. The Djinn are still spread across the world, some can be found in towns and dungeons, while others encounter you through random battle in the world map (especially in peculiar corners of the world).

The class system, that goes with the Djinn system, is still there. Our characters' classes will change accordingly to the number and types of ‘stand by' Djinn he or she has. Change of class will change the parameter numbers (status) and Psynergy the character has, and all that definitely makes changes whenever you're in battle.

Certain new classes can only be attained by equiping items. These new classes are unique and specific, which usually has certain Psynergy no other job has besides them. Other items like weapons and armor artifacts, still unleash their howl whenever we're in need. Though this time, some of them need some forging before they could be used.

About Psynergy, there'll be new ones never seen before. Both for battles and field quests. Just get ready when you find that gaining one might mean gaining access to a lot new unexplored places.

Difficulty
Quite hard, and for some, perhaps crazy. The world is humongous, and I believe that is still not yet the WHOLE world we live in. ‘Explore' is the key word and you'll never get enough of this ‘exploring' thing. There is no dungeon in the game where you only visit once since there's always, ALWAYS, something you can only get later in the game.

The battles have become slightly harder, the normal encounter rate which is still annoying can still be reduced by many means. You'll understand what I mean after you see how FAR places can be.

The puzzles sometimes can be frustrating, since some of them are combined by the complicated layout of the dungeon, you'll often wonder whether you're still on the right track. Sometimes the clue in solving a puzzle is available somewhere else, someplace REAL faraway. Needs lots of logic and common sense.

And Psynergy! The elemental key to everything! Gaining new Psynergy is definitely harder than ever, though it does make us feel worth getting it once we succeed. Especially the ones you get from the elemental rocks—gigantic mountains where a certain type of element is filled. In these places you'll find new, special Psynergy which will prove to be more than helpful in your journeys.

Other stuff
Graphics are still one of the best on the GBA. No doubt about it. There are also some new special effects given which really, really are an eye treat. ‘Nuff said.

The audio is still good. There are some new BGM of course, still the same type and richness like before. If not, better. Since this time, there are some tracks which I turn to like. Plus the howl of the artifacts sound somewhat more dramatic.

Last but not least
Camelot still proves this series as one hell of a trademark. Excitement, confusion, in short, Golden Sun: TLA is a great game. It'll take some time to handle, but it's still great nevertheless.

Flaws? Perhaps some minor mistranslations and weird dialogues that surely won't hurt.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/30/04


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