Review by LiteYear
"An average RPG at best."
Overview: Golden Sun is the first traditional RPG to come to the GBA. Unfortunately, it is only a mediocre RPG, as it has numerous flaws that are barely countered by its strengths.
Graphics (89/100): Ok, might as well start off with this games greatest strength. The graphics here are simply amazing. The rotating camera in the battles makes them visually impressive, while most of the spells and summons are equally impressive. The sprites are done very well in this game, although they do get repeated a lot (only about 10 townspeople sprites, 3-4 palette swaps on enemies). However, my only gripe about this is that the sprites and world map are pixelated, especially when in close-up shots. However, this game still sets a high bar in GBA graphics.
Gameplay (68/100): Well, the games' battle system is pretty innovative, but unfortunately has some flaws in it. While most of it is the basic commands (attack, magic, item, defend), the Djinn are what makes it interesting. You have to find Djinn on the map before you can use them. What they do is increase your stats. However, use can sacrifice that bonus to unleash it's special ability, and then use it as a summon (a very powerful elemental attack.) Once you do that, it recovers for a bit, then re-sets on the person. What also interesting is, but setting different combinations of Djinn, you can completely change the Magic each person can use. Unfortunately, there is no real incentive to change classes, as the basic classes are usually the best. Also, this game has a few puzzles, but most of them won't take more than 5 minutes to solve.
Music/Sound (63/100): I found that the music and sound were, although good, rather repetitive. There is only a few battle sound effects spread out over the entire array of spells and summons. Further more, there is a low amount of music themes in this game, making you almost want to turn them off after the third time hearing them.
Difficulty (58/100): Simply put, this game is way too easy. Nearly all of the bosses can be killed by unleashing up to four Djinn, then using the summon attacks. You never need to use your items you collect, and they clog up your inventory, especially since you have so much Psyenergy, and it regenerates over time (near unlimited healing).
Replay Value (46/100): Unfortunately, there is very little reason to go back to this game one you beat it. You may need to capture a couple more Djinn, or need to explore the games only secret area. Unfortunately, the secret area isn't very satisfying, as you, for the most part, only find cursed weapons, which, although powerful, can freeze you in battle, and unfortunately can't be de-cursed. Furthermore, the boss of that place is too easy as well. The arena is no different, as you'll only be facing monster groups you've already defeated. If it had unique monsters, or if it had more of a sequential order, the arena would have been better, but it just seemed like an after thought thrown in at the last minute.
Story (38/100): Unfortunately, this is where this games suffers the most. The story is very bland and un-involving. You almost won't care for your whole mission, as most of the time, your distracted by fetch quests that have nothing to do with your main goal. The characters are totally bland and generic, and the only character with a good background and a reason to fight it taken away from you. The ending is equally bland and unsatisfying, as it leaves you with a feeling of ''that's it? But what about...''. Overall, a poor story attempt by Camelot, even with the promise of explaining everything in Golden Sun 2.
Final Score and Recommendations (61/100): Well, due to being the first RPG on the GBA, I would definitely buy it if you are new to RPGs, want to try a new traditional RPG, or want one for your GBA library. However, if you are a veteran to RPGs, you might not be satisfied with this attempt from Camelot. Either way, you still should at least try this game, whether renting it or buying it.
Explanation of Rating System: Well, I rate most games in five different categories: Graphics, Music/Sound, Gameplay, Difficulty, and Replay Value. However, I do add some categories depending on the game genre. For example, in most action games, I'll add a control/hit detection category, and RPGs, I'll add a story category. Also, the final grade is not an average. I weigh categories differently due to the game genre, and I also compare them to different games of the same genre. So, I think my marks are, although harsh, are good indicators on how the games stand up.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 01/06/02, Updated 01/06/02
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