Review by Centurion

Reviewed: 04/28/03 | Updated: 04/30/03

Hype bites.

Golden Sun: What is it? Is it one of the best RPGs ever made, or is it some kind of Sunday breakfast special? If I had a choice, I'd probably bet my money on the latter option. Like all ridiculously hyped up games, many people have thought that Golden Sun would stay imprinted in the memories of many as one of the most innovative and spectacular games ever made. However, this was not the case, well, at least for me. In the past, there were many outrageously hyped up games that many gamers could probably shoot their heads hoping for all the excitement to stop. Usually though, these games easily became one of the best of all-time, and intending to stay that way for many years to come. Some examples include Final Fantasy 7, Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. However, there are also many insanely hyped up games that fail to live up to all the publicity and excitement. Golden Sun is a perfect example of this. While many people have deemed it to be one of the best RPGs they've ever played, this is the very few RPGs that are situated close to my trashcan.

One main reason I truly despised Golden Sun was its lackluster and preposterous storyline. Your adventure begins in the quiet little village known as Vale, located on the foot of Mt. Aleph on the continent of Angara. For many generations, the elders of this village have successfully guarded the ancient Sol Sanctum - a beautiful temple located on the peak of the mountain that has defended the seal on ancient science of Alchemy. Then one day, some freaks named Saturos and Menardi decide to break this seal, to release the powers of Alchemy and cause havoc on the world below. Your party decides to venture of to the temple, to see what's happening. Apparently, Saturos and Menardi successfully steal three out of four elemental stars from this temple that are able to grant to user tremendous powers when towns into their respective elemental lighthouses scattered throughout the land. Your party manages to successfully recover the fourth elemental star. To help save the world from chaos, your entire party must now retrieve the other three stars from Saturos and Menardi.

I admit I was interested in the storyline in the beginning, but only for the first five minutes. What I really hate about the entire storyline is the fact that conversations with either your party members or with the main enemies can last about fifteen minutes. My thumb seriously became numb after repeatedly pressing the ''A'' to scroll through all the text. And what's worse is that even though you try to read through all the dialogue, frequently, you will still not understand what the characters are talking about. I seriously didn't even bother trying to understand the entire storyline halfway through the game and only cared about finishing the freakin' game at least once.

Even though this is a typical ''save the entire world from evil'' storyline, what makes Golden Sun's story worse from the rest is that you are offered with a line-up of the most boring and craptacular characters ever presented in an RPG. The main character is a spiky-haired teenager named Issac. But remember folks; don't ever judge a book by its cover. Issac's entire dialogue consists of a simple ''Yes'' or ''No'' whenever talking to his brain-dead friends. Either Issac is a shy type, or he has some kind of vocabulary disorder that prohibits him from verbalizing any other word. Garet is Issac's best friend and the second character to be included in your entire party. Just like Issac, I have no idea what planet Garet came from. Out of your entire party, he usually makes the most decisions, but more often than not, they are just horrible and unfunny. I'm always wondering if he ever attended school, since he shows absolutely no signs of intelligence throughout the game. The other two party members, Ivan and Mia are less irritating than Issac and Garet, but unfortunately, they are usually located in the ''shadows.'' They are both very bland characters and do not participate much in many conversations. Too bad...

Unlike the story however, the gameplay is pretty decent, but not spectacular. Golden Sun employs a traditional turn-based combat system via random encounter. The battle system is pretty much similar to most other RPGs; you must successfully defeat your enemies to earn experience and money, which are valuable assets to the progression and achievement of your quest. In addition, even though the combat isn't very original, one aspect that's remarkable is that fact that the battles take a more realistic approach when compared to many other RPGs. Whenever entering battle, the camera is first ''set'' behind your party, while glancing at all opponents. When you finally issue your first command, the camera immediately rotates a certain number of degrees away from your party. The same thing occurs when the enemy attacks. Even though this feature is not really an important necessity in determining Golden Sun's final score, it is a very pleasant ''extra'' to be added to the game. I was really amazed when I first observed this.

Golden Sun also introduces a very innovative aspect known as ''Psynergy''. During battle, psynergy is just magic you cast to shred your opponents to a pulp. However, this is not the main purpose of psynergy. Outside battle, Issac and his friends must use psynergy to successfully complete many challenging puzzles and advance through your quest. For example, when attempting to move a boulder that is inconveniently blocking your path to the next region, one playable character can easily cast the ''Move'' technique to gracefully move it where it can no longer interfere. Furthermore, when trying to gain additional information from the local townsfolk, you can easily cast the ''Mind Read'' spell to discover what the ''poor'' victim thinks about. Man, I'd probably sell a fortune just to obtain all these psynergy techniques. It would definitely make my life a thousand times more enjoyable!

Like many other adventure games and RPGs, puzzle solving is a key aspect that determines a game's overall difficulty and fun factor. This is just one of the few aspects where Golden Sun truly shines from many other disgraceful RPGs. Some puzzles featured in the game include the very pleasing ''Log Rolling'' in forest stages, to the very typical ''Block Pushing'' scattered throughout many dungeons. Overall, I was very pleased to see such a diverse array of puzzles throughout the entire game.

Probably the most innovative feature to be presented in Golden Sun is the ''Djinn'' system. Djinn are little; I mean creatures that grant the user increased stats. They come in four different elements - Water, Fire, Earth, and Wind. In total, 28 Djinn are scattered throughout the lands and you must successfully capture them situated in the gloomiest and least expected areas in the game. Moreover, when equipping a certain Djinni, the wearer's job may change as well. By altering a certain character's class, he/she may learn new psynergy techniques, besides increased stats. There is a price however, where the character may have to sacrifice some of his current psynergy skills.

Golden Sun presents a hefty number of jobs for you to discover, and all of them can be obtained by setting a certain amount a Djinn to a specific character. Depending on the number of Djinn and their element, each combination will yield different jobs for the wearer. While this feature greatly increases the strategic elements of this game, it can be frustrating as hell, since I'm sure everyone would spend hours to find out the perfect combinations for their party, just to become a Golden Sun ''master.'' I spent most of my playing time adjusting the Djinn to their respective wearer that I sometimes ripped my hair out, trying to find out what's best for me. Next thing you'll know, I'll be buying a toupee.

Although Djinn can increase your stats as well as learn new psynergy skills, this isn't the Djinn's main purpose. For one thing, the entire system is seriously flawed. Whenever capturing one, any playable character can equip it by setting it to ''Set'' mode. When activating a Djinn using ''Set'' mode, the wearer will attain increased stats and new psynergy techniques, as previously stated. However, you are granted the ability to ''summon'' your Djinn in battle by activating them in ''Standby'' mode. Depending on the amount of Djinn on standby, identical in element, you can summon them to produce disastrous and catastrophic attacks. After a little while, the Djinn will return to ''Set'' mode waiting for you to activate them on ''Standby'' again. Even though the Djinn system is very innovative, there is a major side affect to it: overall difficulty. Their powers are incredibly powerful that I could just activate them all to ''Standby'' before a certain battle to easily wipe out all enemies. As a result, the game's challenge is greatly affected by this feature.

Enough ranting about the Djinn, it's time to bash the battle system. Even though there are many features of the entire combat systems that are incredibly innovative, like the ''Rotating Camera'', there is one aspect included that has questioned me several times: the fact that you cannot attack another enemy after the one you originally aimed for was vanquished already. That's right folks! The problem that was present in the original Final Fantasy is back to haunt you again! However, instead of standing idle, the character will simply defend from future enemy attacks till' it is your turn again. Also, the game uses an annoying text based system during battle. With this included, the entire screen during combat is reduced, thus, making it harder to perceive the brilliant visuals whenever casting a magic attack or summoning a Djinn. I had no idea why Camelot did this. Maybe someone was drunk at the time he decided to add in these two features.

With all the flaws mentioned in this game so far, there's just one more aspect that is probably the most irritating. The entire world of Golden Sun includes many diverse towns, caves, deserts, and forests for you to explore. However, during the later stages of the game, when you must ''backtrack'' to attend certain events or if you simply forgot to find a specific item, you must walk back by foot. While there's psynergy that enable you to achieve certain tasks, such as moving and lifting heavy objects, there's absolutely no skill that enables you to conveniently ''warp'' to certain locations. Whenever I had to travel to previously visited locations, sometimes, it took me 30 minutes just to get there. I find this to be more pathetic than being a stripper.

While Golden Sun employs decent gameplay with many major flaws, there is one aspect where the game truly shines like the sun: The graphics. Golden Sun's graphics are truly stunning and unbelievable. When I first played this game, I thought I was actually playing it on the PlayStation. The scenery in the overworld is incredibly vibrant and the various towns and caves illustrate unimaginable detail. The greatest aspect of the graphics is the incredible visuals presented when casting a certain spell or unleashing a Djinni summon. During battle, whenever casting a spell or summoning Djinn, your eyes immediately become in awe when glancing at the incredible visuals presented. Excellent examples that portray Golden Sun's graphical capabilities include the devastating ''Ragnarok'' spell, where a sword thunders down from the heavens to strike an unfortunate foe waiting on the ground below, or the earth-shattering ''Meteor'' summon, where a real meteor descends towards the Earth to annihilate an entire group of enemies. Ouch!

The music however, has mixed results. Sometimes the music in Golden Sun are very memorable, sometimes they are not. In various areas of the game, such as some caves and during boss fights, the music is rather spiffy and very enjoyable to listen to. The overworld music is very calm and serene, and I admit, sometimes it becomes so addictive to listen to that I had to drive it out of my head. While the music in all these areas is very gratifying to listen to, sometimes it can become an annoyance, rather than a pleasure. A perfect example of this is the tedious music presented during every regular battle. Sometimes, I just turned my volume off just to ignore the monotonous battle music. The sound effects, well, they are there, but are sometimes annoying to hear, such as the sound presented whenever you successfully kill an enemy.

In the entire gaming world, there are a respectable number of games where you can simply finish it and forget about it for good. Unfortunately though, Golden Sun can be added to this list, as it offers absolutely no replay value. After you've completed it the first time, you'll probably ask yourself ''Huh? Is that it?'' In other words, Golden Sun's ending is extremely ridiculous and will probably disappoint you to a point that you just want to trash this game after all the hours spent.

Golden Sun is by all means not the worst game ever created, and I admit, it could have been an incredible game. However, after noticing the many flaws scattered throughout the game, I knew my statement would be false. Hopefully, Golden Sun's numerous flaws will be resolved in its many sequels to come. Of course, its future successors cannot be completely horrible, just like Final Fantasy. Or can it?

Final Score – 4/10

Rating:   2.0 - Poor

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