Review by negativeflame
"A revolutionary handheld RPG"
Golden Sun: The Lost Age
When the first Golden Sun came out, many people played through it voraciously, and by the time they had played through it, were begging for more of the same. Time passed, and eventually, Golden Sun 2 was announced, under the name 'The Lost Age'. Of course, no one was really prepared for exactly how good GSTLA would be; we had our own expectations, I'm sure, but...well, read on. Truly, GSTLA is a work of beauty, and really, it's better than anyone had concieved in their wildest dreams. New innovations to the Golden Sun community include:
-More playable characters
-A bigger map
-Numerous side-quests and adventures
-Bigger, badder enemies
-An improved Battle Arena
-Along with an improved Battle Arena, the two player battle remains intact.
These includes alone let Golden Sun: The Lost Age overshadow it's younger brother, but let's go in a bit deeper, and see what really makes this game so much better than the first one.
Veterans of the first incarnation of Golden Sun will find the battle system to be completely intact; much of the same reamains, with little changed. A lack of change, in this case, is a very good thing. The battle system is simple, to-the-point, and executed well. There isn't really a part that I had gotten confused in the battle interface; it's hard when there's only a couple of options. Once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to issue commands to your heroes near-effortlessly, and a flawless battle system will make a gam fun. In addition, the overhead map is easy to use, with little new to the game outside a few cool new on-the-map graphics. Just as well-this is pretty much the same game, gameplay-wise, as the previous Golden Sun, just with a few nice extras that make it noteworthy. It's easy to tell where a town begins and the map ends, where ocean becomes shallow water, and so on and so forth. This is a simple game, with great results.
The story is epic. Simply put, in a word, it's just epic. There's plot twists abound, and if you fully recollect the first Golden Sun's story, you will definitely love the end of this game and the plot altogether. However, let me tell you why it gets only an 8.5 instead of a nine or ten. The reason is that newcomers to the GS series will be completely lost. In essence, you cannot play this game unless you've played and beaten the previous one. That makes for a very un-fun experience, since newbies will have to play through a whole different game just to understand this one. But sure, if you took the time to beat the first one, this plot will blow you away. Honestly, the ending is really amazing, I loved it. I won't spoil anything, but it has to do with a certain character and the title of the game. Hell, Square could learn something from these guys.
This is an amazing game to watch graphically. The sound is incredible, but more on that later. The graphics are stunning, and quite familiar will be the Ragnorak attack (seeing as it's an incredible visual effect), and it's now-evolved-attack, Odyssey. The graphics are a bit grainy on the map, but aside from that-simply great. And the music. Well, it's incredible. The music is better than any Final Fantasy music I have ever heard, particularly the one Lighthouse theme, which is just awesome. Composers of this music really took advantage of the GBA's limited (but better than the GBC's) sound system, it really seems to have gone double time here. The music is one of my favorite parts of this game, and it comes through with flying colors. You will be amazed of the effect of earphones+this game's music gives. It's truly one of the best gaming experiences I will ever remember.
One thing more-Golden Sun: The Lost Age is very LONG. It took me almost fifty hours first time through, and thats not even counting the secret dungeons/islands you can access. The numerous puzzles and some VERY difficult bosses will keep you preoccupied for hours. Also, some of the quests have you running around the planet (literally, the planet-GSTLA is huge), which eats up even more time. When it's all said and done, you'll keep going back to GSTLA, just to get the best weapons and items. Another thing here is the sheer amount of things to DO in Golden Sun: The Lost Age; it's almost a free-form RPG. I'll explain why now-about a third of the way through the game, you get a specific item that helps you go almost anywhere on the map with little to none difficulty. Essentially, this means that you can do any number of things in any particular order you desire; truly, the closest thing to a free-form RPG moment that I can recall in my years.
Golden Sun: The Lost Age is a challenging game at times; overall, it performs well in this category. It's an amazingly hardcore game at some points, but generally it's not a devastatingly difficult game, especially if you know what to expect. The enemies ARE tougher in this game than it's first incarnation, but still-it's essentially the same basic enemies. It's not unreasonably difficult (thankfully), and if anything, it's a tad bit too easy if you overlevel. Of course, overlevelling is handled very well in this game. It's difficult to overlevel here, or should I say, harder than before. Challenging, but not insane.
GSTLA gets a 9/10. In short, it's one of the best games I've ever played, let alone on a handheld system. The reason it doesn't get a ten is because it falls just short of perfection. The graphics are a bit grainy on the overhead map, and the gameplay can get a bit tedious if you need to level up. Likewise with leveling up, item hunting is a bit strenuous and can take you HOURS just to find what it is that you need. Also, the game can be very challenging to find what to do next; though there is no limit to the amount of things you CAN do, it's a matter of finding what you SHOULD be doing that can sometime stump you for a half hour or so, and no one really wants to waste a half hour doing nothing. Still, GSTLA provides a constant challenge, and will always be a great game in RPG history.
Without a doubt, this is a must buy. Honestly, if you need a reason, just read the review. This is an accomplishment in RPG history, and definitely one of my favorite games ever produced for the Gameboy Advance. This is one game that is actually worth scouring the shelves for; I highly recommend that you find it at any cost (well, short of murder and arson and such). Worth every penny of gas used up going down to EB or Wal-Mart or wherever and buying this.
Final Fantasy I and II: Dawn of Souls
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
Considering the competition for RPGs on GBA, there isn't much. Golden Sun: The Lost Age surpasses the Final Fantasies simply due to a more in-depth story, better graphics, and overall a better gaming experience. In addition, GSTLA is longer and more replayable. Golden Sun (as in the first one), is a challenger, but not quite a viable champion, considering this game is better in every way. I haven't played Fire Emblem yet, but if it's anything like the older ones, GSTLA is better in contrast; better graphics, better gameplay system-of course, thats all speculation. The Pokemon series is probably second to GS here, since it's targeted a bit more at the younger age spectrum. So all in all, I would have to say that this is probably the best RPG available for the GBA, if not the single best game on it.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 09/19/05
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