Review by Impossible

"A great game, liked for the wrong reasons"

By now, most GBA owners have played through Golden Sun and are eagerly anticipating its sequel, Golden Sun: The Lost Age. But some hated it, claiming the story, or characters, or the gameplay, were below average. So I’m here to prove them wrong. They say Golden Sun is overrated. I say it’s underrated. I may sound crazy, but I say this because people are often ignorant of what’s really original and great about it. The only really unique things I won’t go into here are Djinn and Psynergy puzzles, because those are the kinds of things most Golden Sun reviews and FAQs will tell you about. This late one is to give you a reminder or advice if you still haven’t picked up Camelot’s GBA masterpiece.

Gameplay: 9/10
I could give you a regular explanation of the gameplay and why it’s so wonderful. But there are dozens of other reviews for that all over the internet. So I’ll tell you what people overlook. Even some of the greatest RPGs of all time had a simple weapon system. Each character had a type of weapon (Sword, Spear, Bow, Staff, etc.), and as you progressed in the game, you could buy or find new ones.
But Golden Sun’s weapon system is very well done. Depending on whether or not you choose to buy a Long Sword in the first town, Vale, you may or may not buy a weapon something in the second town, Vault. In the third town, you might buy a Broad Sword. But depending on the amount of money you want to spend on weapons, and the amount you want to spend on armor, you might do things differently. You might choose a path where you buy a Battle Axe fairly early on, instead, and depending on what you chose to do in each town, you might get a Broad Axe some time later. Each time you play the game, you can choose a different way of buying weapons. However, some weapons can be found, instead. These weapons are artifacts, and generally have a special ability, more powerful than a critical hit, called an unleash. This unleash is generally quite powerful, and may cause a status effect, or possibly an instant kill of the enemy for a couple of weapons. The weapon and armor system is quite unique, and original. But you’ve probably gotten really bored at this huge paragraph by now, so I’ll continue.
An interesting thing about the battle system is if, for example, you have three people attack one enemy, and the first two defeat it, the third will defend. Most people hate this, but it adds a new level of strategy to the battles, as does the ability to focus spells on a certain enemy, so they do more damage on that one, and less on the ones surrounding it (but each spell has a range of how many enemies it can hit either way).
I shouldn’t need to go on about Djinn and summons, too, because that would simply be information you could find in some other review. The only problem I have with gameplay is a lack of sidequests. There are three sidequests total, but I’m expecting the sequel to improve greatly on this.

Graphics: 9.5/10
Truly awesome stuff. The spells, summons, Djinn and 3D battle affects all look great, etc. etc, blah blah blah. Nothing to say here that you can’t find out anywhere else. But there’s always room for improvement…

Sound/Music: 9/10
Once again, nothing much for me to say here. The music is awesome, I love it, and it proves that just because the GBA has a tiny speaker it doesn’t mean it can’t produce great tunes. Headphones are a must for this game. How else are you going to hear each little sound in each song? The songs that stand out the most are probably the game’s theme and the music for the battles against the antagonists, Saturos and Menardi. The sound effects are good, and whenever a character is talking, you can hear a noise that represents the pitch of their voice. If this annoys you, there’s an option to turn it off. Each tune suits whatever it’s for, I have no complaints, and once again, I can’t wait to see (hear, in this case) was The Lost Age has in store.

Story: 9/10
Another nine? No, my review score isn’t an average, I’m just saving room for improvement everywhere. Some people say this game has an awful story, but it’s actually quite good if you pay attention, and a fair bit is from real legends and myths, such as alchemy and elements. The conversations are long, and sometimes tiring, but I enjoy the depth of the story in them. There are some side events that somehow form their way into the main story (or at least for the sequel), such as two of the side-quests.
The story itself is for someone else’s review. Just be careful of that damn cliffhanger ending, but watch after the credits.

Characters: 8/10
They still need some more development (give it time, TLA will be much longer), but Garet, Ivan and Mia all have their own distinct personalities, whether some people wish to believe it or not. Hopefully, I won’t need to go into that.
Isaac is a mute. Hey, Crono was a mute, I don’t see anyone complaining! The point of mute RPG heroes is to put the player into the place of the hero. Whatever you’re thinking you would say, Isaac is saying. Or something. But technically, if the main character has his own personality, it’s not a true RPG. There’s only one point in the game where the Yes/No choices actually affect what the characters do, and that’s after a sidequest. This could be changed, but it’s really not that important.

Replay Value: 7/10
This is the only area where the game lacks. Multiplayer is nice, but not if you have nobody to play with (like me, but I made the score 7 anyway). There’s a battle mode where you can see how many consecutive battles you can win against monsters, two regular sidequests (one can only be done as a certain part of the story continues. I’d imagine the story would be kind of bland around there if you didn’t at least trigger the side-quest, but I’ve never tried it). The rest of the replay value lies in rare item drops. We all hate them, but you can transfer data over to the sequel, so we all want them. You might want to play through the game again, just so you can experience it one more time, but it’s not wonderfully long, giving you around 20-30 hours, no walkthrough, all sidequests.

Overall: 9/10
This is a great game, definitely worth a shot, especially if you’re new to the RPG genre. It’s addictive, a little short, but great while it lasts. With the promise of Golden Sun: The Lost Age coming in April, there’s never been a better time to buy Golden Sun. But now you’ll know and appreciate what truly makes it great.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 03/24/03, Updated 03/24/03

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