Review by Malerik
"Short but sweeeeet..."
Golden sun is the second gba rpg I've played (the first being megaman battle network) and I must say it is quite an achievement.
The story is that of a group of 'adepts' (see hard warrior types) out to save the world from another group of adepts and save their friends. Basic rpg fare you'd think, and for the most part it is. This is not a bad thing however, as the game is very involving and keeps you guessing till the end (and beyond!) The goodguys are pious and brave, the badguys suitably hateable and powerful, and the other main characters are all distinct. This does not, however, mean the storytelling is perfect. The game falls into one of the worst rpg cliches there is, the mute main character. Your on screen self never speaks, but others respond as though he does. This annoys me terribly as everyone is constantly talking to him and responding as if hes talking. Also you get asked many yes or no questions during the game, but none of these actually have any affect on the outcome of the story as if you make the 'wrong' choice, your companions will countermand you. irritating to say the least, but not game ruining. My only other problem with the game is its relatively short playing time. I beat it in just under 19 hours, which may sound a lot, but compared to most snes and psx rpgs it isn't. However, when you get to the end you'll realize this isn't that much of a problem.
The game uses turn based battles, much in the style of the Lufia series, but with a few distinct differences. The magic in the Lufia series is gained through a combination of different equipment and gaining levels, in golden sun you will learn a few spells by yourself, but your spell set is augmented and sometimes changed completely by the creatures known as 'djinn'. Anyone who has played Final Fantasy 8 will feel right at home here as these are like mini guardian forces. when equipped to a character, their stats and spells will change depending on their alignment and the alignment of the djinn/s. Also, the djinn can be 'unleashed' in battle, upon which a special attack is performed and after which the djinn can be summoned. If several djinn of the same alignment are unleashed, they form a more powerful (and MUCH better looking, I was summoning Thor against EVERYONE) summon. However when the djinn is unleashed your stats and spells will change accordingly, so you must be careful.
Outside of battle the game is fun as well. The puzzles are all logical and none are so hard as to get you stuck. The use of psyenergies to progress can sometimes be confusing, especially if you need a certain combination of djinn, but these instances are few and you can assign two psyenergies to the shoulder buttons to speed use. My favourite is the psyenergy 'read mind', its really fun finding out what people REALLY think about you and your party.
Overall the game is very fun to play both in and out of battle, but nothing truly incredible.
Ohh yeah! This is where the work really shows. The graphics in Golden sun are GORGEOUS! The battle sequences have final fantasy 7 style rotating cameras, the spell effects are beautiful, characters and badguys zoom in and out smoothly due to the gameboy advance's scaling capabilities and the world map has a strange mode 7 effect that works wonderfully. All these effects are awe-inspiring considering the system is only supposed to be as powerful as a snes, this is probably the best looking game on the gba to date. Nuff said.
The badguys scream when they die. The swords make a satisfying 'thwack' noise when a special mode is pulled of correctly. The spells make burny smashy killy noises if offensive, and bubbly bleeps when defensive. People make a charming little noise when speaking which made me laugh when I first heard it. Overall, the sound effects are functional, but nothing to write home about. The music is another story however. To enjoy this game fully, get yourself some stereo headphones, every piece of music in this game is superb and, though not as memorable as tunes from the final fantasy series, are a joy to listen to. The pan pipes tune in the high up areas is great and uses the stereo earphones to full effect. Great stuff.
The game system is easy to use, the menus are clear and easy to read, Djinn are automatically re-equipped to avoid embarrassing losses when you forget to do it yourself, shops tell you beforehand how items will alter your stats, and will allow you to equip immediately. This is easily one of the most user friendly rpgs I've played in years. It even has a 'sleep' function to save your batteries. Not that you'll need it, you can save anywhere in one of three save slots. If you're so inclined you can even deactivate the noise people make when talking, but personally i think its cool. The djinn system is patiently explained and all menu options have big pictures by them, so they're very quick to navigate. Top marks Camelot! Keep it up!
A great game, well worth picking up, but its not the greatest rpg ever, like some people (*cough* IGN guy who's never played other rpgs *cough*) are saying. It is still only a Gameboy advance title, don't expect a final fantasy 7 (or for that matter, 6) beater.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/14/01, Updated 11/14/01
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