Portable Review

Golden Sun


In the early Middle Ages, mastery of alchemy was often sought after as a quick means to an end. The most common of these goals included wealth, well-being, and the creation of human life. Many moons ago, it was written off as mendacity and those who practiced alchemy were condemned as heretics and burned at the stake. If you are taking any of this as historical fact and using the material to study for an exam, do not expect to score much higher than a 16%.

In late 2001, alchemy made a second splash on the world of man in the form of Camelot’s Golden Sun. In Golden Sun, alchemy simply takes the place of magic. At one point, the use of alchemy was commonplace and everyone could wield it. During a period of unparalleled bliss, the world was ravaged, alchemy fell into disuse, and now only Adepts are able to utilize psynergy (a synonym of alchemy). The story starts out with you taking over the role of Isaac, a young Earth Adept from the village of Vale, waking up during the middle of the night in a storm. A little bit of foreboding never hurt anyone. Much to everyone’s dismay, a boulder from Mt. Aleph is threatening to crush the village. Several of the more prominent Adepts in the village are holding it up, but cannot last long as it’s a multi-ton hunk of destruction. From here, it falls, and several of the main characters’ family members are swept away in the raging river. That is quite a twist on the ‘Oh, my poor peasant village has been destroyed’ cliché, eh?

Times passes, people rebuild, and some strangers come back to visit Vale. You soon find out that these are the game’s main protagonists. Their mission is to recover the Elemental Stones, sounding much like something passed through the kidney, and prevent the return of alchemy to the world. You will meet allies and fast friends, enemies and subplots, and the cute, Pokemon-like Djinn.

The first thing you will notice about GS is the graphics. For a GBA title, they are pretty snazzy to look at. Colors are vibrant and rich, character sprites are nice and detailed (if a tad small), landscape is quite varied, and some of the background even looks as if it is hand drawn rather than pixilated (this changes once you enter battle). For the most part, the entire game is rather bright and well thought out, with no major gripes to be found. Furthermore, the summon spells are hands-down some of the coolest sights to see on the GBA as they are extremely detailed and epic.

The game is a traditional, turn-based RPG, similar to many Square-Enix titles. Your team dukes it out with opposing monsters in menu-based combat. You have your magic, attack, items, and other standard options. Then there are the Djinn. They exist in two states: active and resting. When active, they add stats to your characters, and may be used to create various individual effects, or the can be combined for combos.

While the Djinn create magical effects that are similar to those of psynergy, magic cannot be completely discounted from the game. The offensive magic leaves a bit to be desired in terms of effectiveness. Compared to the Djinn, damage spells outright suck. The only truly useful spells are those in the healing and support realm.

The sound in GS is fairly intricate and pleasant to the ear. It is nicely varied and fits the mood of each particular scene, be it town, battle, overworld, etc. It even sounds nice over the mono speak of the GBA SP. Sound effects are likewise effective in providing depth to the game and don’t get too annoying or used too often, such as different monsters having the same battle cry.

Typically, you wouldn’t find much replay in an RPG. Sure, you could go through and look for unlockables, but only if you’re into that sort of thing. This game actually gives you a reason to replay it: a better group of characters later on in the sequel. Yes, your group can transfer over to the sequel via a password system (long and drawn out), or linking it with another GBA (the easier method). Either way, the end result is the same and adds much-needed substance to replay value that is usually a once-through for RPGs.

Golden Sun does much to revive the dying art of menu-based RPGs. This is what many older gamers grew up on during the early days of gaming, and has somewhat diminished with the popularization of action and tactical RPGs. It is a fun game, with about 20 to 25 hours of gameplay under its hood (I think I clocked in at about 22). Not too shabby for something you can fit in your pocket.

-Originally Posted by Getahl


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