Golden Sun has the luxury of being the first Game Boy Advance RPG available and will set the standards for future releases. Trust me on this one: The standards are pretty high now.
The minute you step foot inside of this wonderful world, you’re greeted with a splash of lush, vibrant, brilliant colors. The graphics of this game are really something to marvel at. The maps, villages, caves, dungeons, and other assorted RPG areas are crafted with an amazing palette of colors. This gives the game a jolly and happy feel to it. It’s hard to get bored with the game when there are so many beautiful villages lying around. Golden Sun’s sprites are animated to an almost Capcom-like detail. The motion of the characters are very fluent. Another area where the graphics of Golden Sun excel in are during the battle sequences. The game pits the view to the side and creates sort of a ‘boxing ring’ type perspective. The camera pans around and zooms at the appropriate times and makes full use of the Game Boy Advance’s Mode 7 techniques which results in a pseudo 3-d experience. Again, the sprites in the battles are designed exceedingly well and are very fluent when it comes to motion. The magic looks absolutely gorgeous and the melee attacks are nice as well.
Not many games have capitalized on the GBA’s excellent PCM stereo capabilities. Well, that was until Golden Sun was developed. Camelot has really delivered the goods in this department. The music has an orchestrated feel to it and is practically CD quality. There aren’t any specific tracks that stick out on the soundtrack but all of the songs are pretty high quality and give the game great emotion.
The story isn’t anything groundbreaking but it gets the job done. It’s actually very cliché. You start off as a young boy and everybody has magic called djinn. This djinn can be used for completing certain tasks around the house or even stopping massive, overly gigantic, rigid humongous, hard, bone shattering boulders from crushing your city and annihilating anything that it comes across. Unfortunately, there were just too many and the latter wasn’t exactly possible. A few boulders fall here and there and all of a sudden your dad is dead and your best friend lost her whole family. As Isaac, you continue to grow and eventually develop some interesting adventure skills. You meet a few people who get kicks from abusing their magic and young Isaac here doesn’t approve of it. They kick you and your little party’s butts and here is where your quest begins. It is now your duty to stop these menacing fiends. The plot doesn’t sound that bad but when it takes nearly two hours before you get into the meat of the game, you can get a little bit frustrated or bored. Luckily, the 20 some odd hours that it takes to complete the game definitely make up for the two tedious hours of background info and history.
The battle system is somewhat dated but isn’t to the point where you begin to complain. It is turned based and gives the gamer a few choices. At the beginning of your turn, you can either attack, use items, or run away. Running away doesn’t reward you and sometimes it’s not even possible in certain situations. There isn’t too much to brag about in this department of Golden Sun but there also isn’t too much to complain about. The battle system is quite basic, so for those of you who are looking for a revolutionary system, please leave.
One of the more basic and boring facets of Golden Sun is the interface. Don’t get me wrong, the interface is very efficient and clear. The only problem is that it is simply put: too plain. You can always change the color of the menus but it’s still lacks in overall appearance. You can actually use a ‘hot key’ (well, ‘hot button’ for that matter) function that will allow you to allocate certain djinns to the shoulder buttons so you don’t have to scrounge around in the menus to use an ability. This ability makes the game more efficient and prevents slowing down the pace of the gameplay. One thing that does slow down the gameplay is the poor attempt at including the gamer in conversations. This option was really unnecessary and didn’t help the game at all. While talking, you’d be able to pick Yes/No to answer questions. Regardless of your answer, the outcome will always be the same and sometimes the situations where you get to choose just don’t make sense. This is by far the most annoying part of Golden Sun.
Overall, Golden Sun is by far the best handheld RPG out in North America. It is one of the best games out on the market for any handheld. The great combination of splendid visuals and emotive melodies put this game ahead of the pack. The replay value pretty decent and the game’s relatively easy difficulty makes sure that you don’t spend countless hours struggling through the game on your 2nd or 3rd time through. The bottom line is, is that this game is beyond fun and will really put some joy into your heart. You’ll be playing through the game with a smirk or grin on your face and a twinkle in your eye. Any fan of RPGs that owns a GBA should invest in this game immediately, you won’t be disappointed – not one bit.
-- Chase Nguyen