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Golden Sun Package Art
 GENRE
  RPG
 DEVELOPER
  Camelot
 PUBLISHER
  Nintendo
 NUMBER OF PLAYERS
  1-2
 CONNECTIVITY
  No
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Golden Sun

Made by the friendly people over at Camelot, Golden Sun is what most people would call the Game Boy Advance’s first epic RPG. Upon inserting the cartridge into the GBA and flipping the power switch, you are able to begin your quest. What is the story behind such an epic? Let’s take a gander at the instruction booklet to directly quote the story...

"Nestled away at the foot of Mount Aleph, the most sacred peak on the continent of Angara, rests a quiet village called Vale. For ages, the elders of this remote community have been the caretakers of Sol Sanctum-– an ancient temple on the mountain’s slope that for eons has guarded the seal on the ancient science of alchemy.

"Now, that seal has been broken. A mysterious figure is attempting to release the powers of alchemy upon the world, a power so great that one who wields its full force can attain any of his heart’s desires-– countless riches, endless life, even the power to destroy the world. Once the combined power of the four elements-– earth, water, wind, and fire, which together make up all matter-– is unleashed, the world will fall to its knees before the one who wields it. If this horrible fate is to be averted, a brave soul must arise!"

Can an epic RPG really find its home on the GBA? Only by reading will you discover the truth!

visuals

As I think back to my first RPG experiences, my memories go back to the Super Nintendo. Who could forget the golden era of the role-playing genre? Golden Sun transports me back to that time. Visuals are excellent; both in design and feel; you’re able to see the GBA’s graphical abilities brought to life.

Landscape and terrain design is superb. Each differing location has a different look and feel to it. Houses are full of detail-– water is transparent and rippling in the wind. From walking through a village to general outdoors terrain, it is simple to pick up the emotions that have befallen the imaginary characters you control. I never once grew tired of what was presented in the game, visually.

Character design itself is also quite impressive. The battle sequences are perhaps the most amazing feature of the game. Whether it be an enemy or one of the main characters, each of the aforementioned has a "3D rendered" persona. Don’t be fooled however, despite their three-dimensional look, they’re simply 2D. During battle sequences, the camera rotates to show different angles of the characters.

Yet another beautiful visual aspect to Golden Sun is found in both the Psynergy and Djinn (we’ll get into those more later). When a character summons a Djinn or casts a spell using his or her Psynergy, impressive effects ensue on your little GBA screen. Be prepared to see graphics like you never thought possible on a portable system.

audio

The audio heard in Golden Sun is nothing less than exquisite. It is both well orchestrated and applicable for the mood of the situation. As with every well-orchestrated sound track in a game, you might even find yourself humming one or more of the songs. Simply said, Golden Sun possesses some of the best, if not the best music heard on the GBA to date.

Sound effects don’t differ much from the orchestrations in Golden Sun as far as quality goes. Sounds are beautifully coordinated; explosions really sound like explosions. When a character uses Psynergy, most spells have unique sounds to accompany them. Sounds do very much for a gaming experience, and that is no different for Golden Sun. And you thought things couldn’t get any better?

gameplay

In a game as deep as Golden Sun (as little as 20 hours and as much as over 30 hours), it's not an easy task to begin a decent description. The basics seem like a good starting point. You take control of Isaac and his companions. Your task? Walk around a massive continent utilizing the control pad. While walking around, your team will almost always encounter random battles with creatures that grow progressively stronger throughout the game. As Isaac and his team go from town to town, you might realize there are a few sub-quests of sorts that don’t necessarily have to be completed-– but they’re fun and useful nonetheless.

Psynergy is the magic system used in Golden Sun. There are certain types of Psynergy that are usable outside of battle, such as healing spells and "Move." "Move," for example, is used to push and/or pull heavy objects. As the party walks around, characters gradually regain Psynergy points they have used. Characters can also change classes. When this occurs, a character's Psynergy abilities change and they learn different types of spells.

Now, how about those wacky Djinn? What do they do? Djinns are magical creatures that come in four element types-– Earth, Fire, Water and Wind. When a Djinn is set to a character, that character’s stats change accordingly. Also, when a certain number of Djinn is set to a character, his or her class may change, usually to a higher or stronger level. Such a class change soemtimes results in a different set of Psynergy techniques. Additionally, when a type of Djinn is set to a character, said character's defense in that Djinn’s element rises.

When summoned in battle, each Djinn has a different ability to help your team. For example, some increase your defense, and others decrease the strength of your opponents’ attacks. After more than one Djinn type is summoned, different creatures can be called upon. The maximum number of Djinn a character can use to summon with is four. The more Djinn a character "sets" in battle, the more brutal a summoned creature related to that Djinn is.

Let’s go over some other gameplay basics. The Start button pauses the game. It also allows for saving, and sleep mode. In sleep mode, the screen goes blank to conserve power. On the world map, The L button zooms the map out to let you check your surroundings, and the R button shows a full-screen version of the world map itself. The Select button brings up the game menu that has a Djinn, Psynergy, and invetory list, as well as your party's characters' status. Two Psynergy spells of your choice can be set to either the L or R buttons for usage in town settings/dungeon settings.

Finally, when characters level up, they learn new and more powerful Psynergy spells. As typical for RPGs, stronger weapons and armor can be purchased in towns you visit progressively through the game. Inns serve as a way to quickly heal up the party. The list could go on and on, but chances are the rest is common RPG knowledge.

multiplayer

If a friend and yourself both own copies of Golden Sun, you can link up via a GBA link cable and see how well your teams fare against each other. My Isaac is better than your Isaac!

overall

Golden Sun brings back many fond memories. I was able to practically revisit all my favorite experiences on the SNES with an even more impressive GBA game. Whether it be through design, story, or gameplay-– this solid title competes with some of the bigger titles we’ve played on some next generation systems. And so, Golden Sun comes across as a highly recommended title for anyone who enjoys an epic story and a challenge. Disappointment is not an option.

final score 9.7/10





WRITER INFORMATION
Staff Avatar Aaron Steinfeld
Staff Profile | Email
"Losers quit when they are tired; winners quit when they have won."


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