Golden Sun is a testament to just how awesome a game can be, if the development team is given a comfortable development cycle to get the job done. This roleplaying game, created by Mario Golf/Mario Tennis team Camelot Software Planning, has been in the works since before the official, public debut of the Game Boy Advance system back in August of 2000. That's more than a year in the works, but brother, that time definitely shows in the product, as this game could arguably be one of the best 2D-based Japanese RPGs created for any system. And yes, that includes Final Fantasy.
- Quest that lasts dozens of hours
- At least five different characters join your party
- Four different magical styles
- Battery save (three locations)
- Link cable support for two player battles
- Only for Game Boy Advance
Golden Sun has been developed by the same team responsible for the extremely popular Sega Genesis RPG series, Shining Force, and the overall design of this game just oozes with experience. Though it's very similar in design to other Japanese RPGs such as Final Fantasy, the team has built an outstanding adventure on the tried-and-true overhead-wandering, random-battle gameplay that looks absolutely sweet on the Game Boy Advance small screen...in fact, this game arguably rivals most of the classic RPGs that have ended up on the console systems, like Dragon Warrior or the aforementioned Final Fantasy series, for example.
To explain the story in Golden Sun would ruin the enjoyment of the game for anyone interested in playing through this adventure, as the plotline has been so tightly integrated into every ounce of the adventure. The only thing safe that can be said about the game's story without spoiling any of the zigs and zags of the story arc, is this: You play Isaac, a young swordsman and resident of the town of Vale, and at the beginning of the adventure a storm is brewing outside that forces Isaac to flee to safety. But every virtual adventurer knows that it's never as simple as that, and eventually you're thrust into the role of the world's savior, befriending other skilled adventurers that will join your crusade...there's strength in numbers, as the phrase goes. Golden Sun has such a rich and deep plot that it's almost easy to get lost if you're not paying attention. Most familiar RPGs rely on extremely cut-and-dry storylines to simplify the game design...and while Golden Sun's layout is pretty straightforward, it's not exactly a snap to grasp the intricacies of why exactly you're on the quest unless you're paying strict attention to the unfolding story as it happens...and believe me, it's not an easy thing to do when you're playing it on the GBA system, where you could be saturated in distractions depending on where you're playing the game.
The one downside to the game design is that it literally takes about two hours to get into the meat of the game -- because the designers have written such a deep story involving dozens of characters (each with their own unique personality), the game has to unfold the introduction through both action and conversation. The beginning is very slow-going for folks really looking to jump right into the action, but after a few key events, the game really starts to take off...you just have to stick with it for a good while. Some of the conversations can get a little long, and the "involvement" by giving players some "yes/no" choices can get a little silly, especially when you're given a "yes/no" choice in response to normally rhetorical questions like "Isn't that great what happened, Isaac?"
But when the game gets going, it really kicks into gear -- you'll learn that the game has a ton of things to do in both the overhead exploration as well as the many, many, many battles that occur. Players will have to depend on their party members magical abilities to advance further into the quest -- finding the hidden passages requires some keen thinking by sliding statues, rolling logs, using magic to pull stones or blast away foliage covering the doorways. The game also focuses on a neat little Pokemon-style element: creature collection. It wasn't completely necessary to include this, but it does add a bit more to the overall design. These four creatures, known as Djinn, will enhance players' abilities as you "equip" them, as well as offer powerful offensive and defensive attacks during battles whenever they're needed. Some of the most powerful attacks come from the Djinn's ability to summon spirits for a massive attack on the attacking party, which really show off the Game Boy Advance's graphic capabilities.
And that's where Golden Sun really shines. Though its obvious that a lot of attention was paid to the game's overall design, Camelot really put a major focus on the game's overall look. Without a doubt, Golden Sun is one of the most beautiful games on the Game Boy Advance so far, pushing the system's advanced color palette and graphics capabilities all over the place. In the overhead wandering levels, each room has been rendered with an amazing amount of detail, especially stunning since the game's on an eight megabyte cartridge. The fight sequences are even more beautiful because the developer created a flowing camera system that rotates the perspective around and into the fight ring. The magic effects are just flat-out gorgeous, with exploding particle effects that blast all over the screen in an amazing lightshow...and the further along into the adventure you go, the more impressive the effects get. That's some incentive to continue, as if the storyline wasn't enough to keep you driving forward.
Where the audio department has been a mixed bag throughout the Game Boy Advance's less-than-year life, Camelot proves that the GBA can push out music and sounds that trounce the Super NES' capabilities. The development team "orchestrated" some excellent tunes for the many different situations throughout the adventure, featuring some nice, mellow sampled pan flutes and string instruments that will encourage the use of headphones just so you can hear every little note to its fullest. Naturally, the one thing this game doesn't have is character voices for conversations, but because this game is on a relatively smaller cartridge compared to console's ample disc format, you can't fault Golden Sun.
source IGN Pocket
Number of Players
1 - 2 (Link up battle)