Review by bluesky
One of the best games on the GBA
Golden Sun: The Lost Age (hereafter Golden Sun 2) is one of my favorite games, because it's a very good RPG that excels in all categories. Golden Sun 2 is one of the best RPGs I've ever played, even better than some of Square's immortal RPGs for the SNES. I should tell you that this RPG, unlike many others, focuses heavily on puzzle-solving, and some of the puzzles can be tough, although I find them all really fun. Unfortunately the reviews for this game have been pretty low (I don't know why), but here's my opinion of this great game.
Incrdible graphics, perhaps even better than those of the first game. The artists went to any lengths to convey a sense of incredible reality, adding pots and rugs and beds and all sorts of objects you would really find, all well done. Characters are very well-designed and so are the battle sprites. The battle Psynergy (this game's kind of magic) attacks are breathtaking, the best I've ever seen.
You might be surprised that I rated the story so highly. Basically (this is all revealed at the start), the lost art of alchemy has been sealed away because evil ones would use it for evil, but the Mars Clan is trying, for unknown reasons, to light the four elemental beacons using the Elemental Stars that were stolen in Golden Sun. In Golden Sun 2, you control the evil party, but you don't actually know why they're lighting the beacons yet! The story progresses gradually and is very involving and gets a little complex, but it's still easy to understand and better than the story of most RPGs. You'll definitely enjoy the story. The only downside is that it follows the typical save-the-world theme, but that's to be expected, because it's an RPG.
The sound effects are very good. They don't sound real most of the time but if they did it would probably mess them up. The music is some of the best I've heard on the GBA, and there's lots of it. The music is all good and fits in.
The gameplay is, like everything else about this game, simply spectacular. There are a large number of different continents and a huge world map, along with a ton of islands. You usually have no idea where you should go next, although you'll probably have heard of several vague references to different places you should head for from the townsfolk. And, by the way, you can read people's minds to find out more information about things that they wouldn't normally tell you. Isn't that awesome? This uncertainty about where you should go magnifies when you get a boat that can sail the seas.
You'll always be on the lookout for the elemental Djinn, who enhance your Psynergy powers and can be set to different characters for different effects, which is challenging and fun because you don't know what you'll get. And, there are now 72 Djinn you can get (although many of them can only be gotten and transferred from Golden Sun)! The level design is the best I've ever seen, especially the puzzle design.
If there is any downside to the gameplay it's the commonly-used classes. Each character has a class (Cleric, Mage, Swordsman, etcetera) that changes over time and often changes when the character sets or removes Djinn, especially Djinn of a different element (each character has his or her own element). But I like the class system.
Level Design: 10/10
The level design for this game is the greatest I've ever seen, ever. Whereas most other RPGs have you going to new areas each time you progress in dungeons, Golden Sun 2 has you looping back and forth and frequently ending up in different parts of rooms than you were before, leaving you really confused. I can't begin to describe how great this game's level design is. The puzzles are very well designed, and there are all sorts of them, from log rolling puzzles with water dams to sliding statue puzzles to liftable block puzzles to jumping puzzles. The designers put a lot of work into designing the puzzles and they did an extraordinary job of it.
The Golden Sun 2 controls are very interesting. Rather than pressing Start to perform Psynergy (the equivalent of magic in the Golden Sun series), you use A or Select, then choose Psynergy from a menu and select a certain character to use a certain Psynergy. When you're standing next to someone or a useable item (for example, a pot you can check the contents of), you can use Select to choose a Psynergy instead of talking to the person or checking the pot. Also from the A/Select button menu you can see what the characters' stats are, check the number of Djinn they have (you'll collect Djinn to enhance your powers and the Psynergy you can use), you can switch the character who holds Djinn (producing different stat effects and possibly different Psynergy learned), and you can use items. You use the Start key to save games, and you can set the L&R buttons to use Psynergy that you use often by just pressing them (I usually set up Mind Read and Reveal).
There's no real reason to replay the game, but it's fun to try it again and again and see what secrets, items and Djinn you missed the first time, and also to see how weak you can be and still beat bosses. There are a lot of hidden items, so you should replay the game at least once to try to find as many as you can. There are a ton of Djinn too, be on the lookout for them.
Buy or Rent?
Buy, without a doubt. The game is way too long to beat if you just rent it, and you'll miss most of the Djinn and items, as well as all the great dialogue that you can get by reading people's minds.
Golden Sun 2 is one of the best games for the GBA. It's graphically stunning, with challenging and fun puzzles and some of the best GBA music ever. But this game, you won't regret it.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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