Review by Carlos McElfish

"GS is a frothy drool inducing romp."

Opening up Golden Sun and placing the cute little cartridge into my GBA was a bit of a momentous occasion for me. You see, ever since I bought Nintendo's new handheld console I sometimes would silently muse to myself about playing an awesome RPG on the little bugger. And now Camelot Software has answered my SNES fan-boy prayers. Not only does Golden Sun mark the first kick ass RPG title to come out for the Gameboy Advance, but it also marks the first quality RPG Camelot Software has ever even made.

GS is a frothy drool inducing romp that will have you constantly questioning whether the graphics fairy didn't drop by while you were sleeping to inject your GBA with magical-graphics-sauce. We're talkin' pseudo 3D rotational effects, entertaining mini-games, down home traditional character development and a cohesive, interesting story line here folks. It's kind of like FFVII in the sense that you can link special elemental abilities to your team characters (through what the game calls Djinn) effectively allowing you to use summons. And there are no less then 20 different Djinns to discover during the course of the game. Not too shabby for a system with a footprint half the size of, well, a foot.

A total of five playable characters will join you for the adventure, although you can only control four at one time. The main hero, Isaac, who possesses the elemental power of Earth. Garet, who has the greatest physical strength and the elemental power of fire. Jenna, who joins your party after the tragic loss of her older brother. Ivan, who is considered an oddity among his people due to his elemental power over wind. And of course the obligatory party healer; Mia.

Fans of the old Shining Force series for the Sega Genesis may notice quite a bit of similarities to this game, which (as you may or may not know) is a good thing. Camelot Software isn't exactly known for kicking out high quality RPG's as of late (*cough* Beyond The Beyond *cough*) which makes it all the more surprising that Golden Sun is, hands down, one of the best RPG's of 2001.

Golden Sun truly has it all: old school puzzle solving, an enormous over-world to explore, tried and true HP/MP dynamics, and even a head-to-head Battle Arena mode where you and a friend can duke it out via the link cable. I hope you have some sort of battery pack because this game will chew through Duracells faster then you can say ''unemployment benefits''. Of course, a solid RPG is nothing without a good soundtrack and this game has it in spades. Plug in some headphones because that tinny little built in mono-speaker just is not gonna cut it on this one. This game's soundtrack is among the best of any classic SNES shindig of RPG past.

The story goes like this: ''Forces of Darkness'' are pursuing the ''Ancient Science of Alchemy''. It is said that the one who possesses these ancient secrets will wield the power to do anything his imagination can comprehend. Which to me would mean the ability to summon Krispy Kreme Doughnuts at will, but in all likeliness the ''Forces of Darkness'' will use the power to destroy earth. So it is up to you and your merry band of do-gooders to make sure this power does not fall into the wrong hands. It is not exactly the most original concept but Golden Sun pulls it off nicely.

Golden Sun pimps a bright color scheme, which makes it nice for those of us that do not have optimum lighting (which, short of a custom lighting modification, is all of us). Golden Sun is set in a very lively, animated world brimming with life.

One nice feature is that you have the ability to save your progress no matter where you are in the game, so you can always pick up right where you left off. It also sports a sleep function, if your against turning off your GBA when your not using it.

According to the warning inside Golden Sun's instruction manual, prolonged exposure to this game may result in one or more of the following:
.Eye or muscle twitching
.Altered vision
.Involuntary movements
.Loss of awareness (my personal favorite)
So considering the fact that this game will take the average gamer upwards of 30 hours to complete its a wonder that hospitals aren't filled with unlucky gamers, flailing aimlessly on the floor, not knowing who or where they are. I, perhaps surprisingly, suffered none of the above ill effects. Mainly I was just worried about figuring out the ultimate snack treat to eat so as not to divert my Zen-like focus from the game. The result; Philly Cheese Steak Hot Pockets.

Not to say that this is a perfect game though, GS has a somewhat open-ended mission system that can potentially keep you wandering around aimlessly for quite some time. With a little luck and eagle eye attention to the dialogue you should be ok, be warned though, newbies to the old school RPG genre may need the assistance of a strategy guide. The menu system is also a little tricky (particularly assigning spells to the shoulder buttons) but after a few hours you should have it down.

Golden Sun is most certainly a game you will not want to miss, if it were up to me it would be considered a felony (except of course in Alaska and Hawaii) not to own this game if you have a GBA. Do yourself a well-earned favor, go out and get this game now!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/05/02, Updated 02/05/02

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