Review by 1wingedangel45
"Nothing can describe the awesomeness of this awesome 2-part saga"
Since the beginning of time, Dragon Quest for the NES revolutionized RPGs forever by being simple, intuitive, and overall charming and colorful instead of just plain bland like those old PC RPGs. Final Fantasy came after that and even though it started out not as good as DQ, it soon surpassed that series with games like Final Fantasy 7 for the PS1, which also changed the way we see RPGs.
However, sometimes we just want to be entertained in ways we used to be entertained instead of ways we haven't gotten to yet. Many games tried to capture the feeling of the old days of sprite RPGs instead of being all movie-like, with Golden Sun and its sequel the Lost Age doing a beautiful job capturing the old school feel instead of just cashing in on the days of yore. The Golden Sun series may not be as good as the movie-like RPGs like Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts, but at least there are a thousand reasons I've given it an 8 as opposed to a 7 or a 6.
Story: 8 out of 10. In the first game, you play as Isaac, a blonde-haired adept, or psychic magic user, from a town called Vale, which entirely comprises of adepts like him, including another player character and Isaac's childhood friend, Garet. When two cruel adepts Saturos and Menardi steals the four elemental stars from the temple of Sol Sanctum, which resides on Mt. Aleph in front of Isaac's home town, it's up to Isaac and Garet to stop them before they use the four stars to light up the elemental lighthouses and unleash alchemy upon the world. Over time, they meet up with two more adepts: a mind-reader and a merchant's servant/adoptive son named Ivan, and a priestess from Imil named Mia.
However, in the second game the Lost Age, which takes place after the first, you switch from playing as Isaac's group, who were trying to prevent alchemy's awakening, to playing as Saturos and Menardi's henchman and hostages, Felix, Jenna (Felix's baby sister), and Sheba, who are questing to unleash alchemy. These three are adepts like Isaac's group, Felix and Jenna from Vale, and Sheba from who-knows-where/Lalivero. The three are soon joined by Piers, a boat man and adept from the ancient city of Lemuria. Even though the story and characters are incredibly cliche like almost any other RPG, at least you'll care for many of the characters and feel a great sense of action and adventure once you go through the games anyway. In other words, you'll easily forget it's cliche once you pick up these games. The story is also more improved in the second game than in the first, but to understand the entire story you'd have to play both games.
Game-Play: 8 out of 10. Golden Sun and GS Lost Age are reminiscent of the old school RPGs from the days before movie-quality graphics and sound. You'll expect random enemy encounters, turn based battles, lots of text to read, leveling up and tweaking your characters, an over-head view, and deformed-looking sprites. Thank god it's not some pathetic cash-in on the old days, because if it were, then I would've just suggested staring at a wall for a few hours. But since this game is good, I won't have to recommend staring at a wall, because when you play it, it'll suck you in and never spit you out until you beat both games. Even the simplicity and intuitive menus and controls will imprison you for a long time, as well as the ability to actually use magic outside of battle to solve simple yet challenging puzzles.
Both games also have these small elemental creatures called Djinn (Djinn is plural, Djinni is singular). Like almost any other Japanese RPG, the Djinn sure beat those boring and complicated point distributing systems seen in Western RPGs. Djinn are hidden around various parts of the world, and once you gain a Djinni through solving a puzzle or fighting it, it'll join you. Djinn possess the power to increase your characters' stats and give you new spells and abilities when you "set" them, and can be unleashed during battle. When unleashed, the Djinni you use will either damage an enemy or two, or temporarily buff your characters and heal them. Once unleashed, they'll enter stand-by mode. The down-side for stand-by mode is that your stats decrease, but you can summon a god or spirit in battle when you have a Djinni or two on stand-by. The more Djinn, the stronger the summon. You can also have your characters give and/or trade each others' Djinn, and depending on which Djinn is set your characters may get different skills and have their stats tweaked a little. With the way the Djinn are implemented in GS and GS LA, you'll immerse in a vast variety of battle strategies and character tweaking.
There's also a battle arena mode, outside of the regular story mode. You can take the characters you've developed and put them into battle against either swarms of monsters your characters have already encountered, or pit them against your friends' characters via two GBAs, two GS/Lost Age cartridges, and a game link cable. When fighting against a friend of yours, you and your friend can only select up to 3 party members to send into battle, and if either one of you don't make a battle command in under 15 seconds, the characters you've yet to command will automatically defend. I know it's annoying but at least it adds more of a challenge for yourself and your friend.
Sound: 8 out of 10. Motoi Sakuraba maybe no Nobuo Uematsu, but at leas his soundtrack for the Golden Sun games are very well implemented. You'll expect the very music from other RPGs with Sakuraba's music style, from classical pieces to jazz, techno, and rock. Like various other pieces of Sakuraba's music in other games, GS/GS2's music shines like a thousand suns. Some of the sound effects are reminiscent of the old RPGs for the NES, while other sound effects are reminiscent of the SNES, which was more advanced.
Graphics: 8 out of 10. It's reminiscent of the old SNES RPGs, just like the game-play and story. In towns, buildings, and dungeons, you'll expect the over-head camera angle. But when you enter the world map, it's vast, pseudo-3D, easy to get lost in unless you use your map, and free-roaming. The downsie to the world map is the sea sailing in Lost Age, which is long, boring, and makes it up for the random battles on the sea. However, when you enter battle, the camera rotates to get different views instead of just stay in one place and being still like other old RPGs. The pseudo-3D rotating camera and beautiful graphics adds tons and tons of mood to each of the battles and immersing you real good-like.
Overall: 8 out of 10. The first game clocks around 15 hours, while the second game clocks around 20. Playing both games will clock in around 35 hours. Meanwhile, you can use a password system or two GBAs and a link cable to transfer character data from your completed file in the first game to the second. That way, your characters from the first will have the Djinn and stats you've worked to develop, as well as a few secret cutscenes and items if you've completed certain requirements in the first. If these two games merged into one cartridge in the first place and were far longer than 35 hours, I would've given it a 9 or a 10. But overall, this game is heavily addictive. If you love RPGs, no matter which era they look like they came from, then by all means get these two games, although they're now rare and you'd have to get them on E-Bay. Even RPG newbies will enjoy this game, because after all, an 8 is incredibly good, like a 9 or 10 only lower.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 05/30/06
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