Review by bluej33

"You've gotta make your own kind of music"

Do not let Golden Sun fool you; it is not what you might expect. Upon powering on the game and beholding the cute little sprites and laughably typical beginnings of an – ultimately – surprisingly intriguing save-the-world plot, you might understandably come to the premature conclusion that this is a fairly typical RPG, one that pays homage to the likes of Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire, and Dragon Quest.

You would be sorely mistaken. Golden Sun is something so much more and so much better.

My favorite way to describe Golden Sun is that it's like a Zelda game with random battles. The RPG template that the vast majority of such games follow these days has you wander from place to place fighting a hell of a lot of monsters but never really interacting with your environment. Golden Sun changes all that by implementing countless really clever environmental puzzles throughout the game.

This makes Golden Sun a much deeper, much more engrossing game than just about any other RPG I can think of. Instead of making your way into a dungeon and wandering around until you find the exit, you'll make your way into a dungeon and solve puzzles. You acquire little creatures called djinni throughout the course of the game and these bestow upon your characters varying magic spells which can be used – get this – in the field. You can freeze water, melt ice, make little sprouts grow into huge vines, whip away dead vines and leaves from hidden cave entrances, and oh so much more.

This alone makes Golden Sun more than worth buying and playing, but the game continues to suggest new ways for role-playing games to evolve by cleverly messing with ingrained RPG mechanics. My favorite example is the boat ride. Just about every RPG and his mother sports some naval transportation here and there, but Golden Sun turns what in any other game would be a monotonous five minutes into a surprisingly fun, creative set-piece battle. Well played, Golden Sun. Well played indeed.

What makes the game really special is the unrelentingly creative environmental interaction and well-done scripted scenes, but the plethora of random battles are well-handled thanks again to the djinni. Each djinni has special effects in battle, from a physical attack to a stat boost, and then once you've used them you can summon then back in really creative summons. Golden Sun encourages exploration if for no other reason than to find new djinni and thereby unlock new, even cooler-looking summon attacks. Throw in your standard attack/magic/item/defend menu options and you've got yourself a surprisingly deep turn-based battle system.

And there's not much more to say about Golden Sun. You'd think that such an epic game would somehow merit a more in-depth review, but for all its hugeness it's actually a fairly simple game at heart. The battles are fun, the game is pretty, and exploring has been transformed from a boring RPG staple into an exciting chain of thoughtful puzzles. I'd hazard the boldness required to say that Golden Sun is more than a little revolutionary.

What more can you really ask from a game?

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 09/01/09

Game Release: Golden Sun (US, 11/11/01)

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