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One of the most celebrated role-playing games on the Game Boy Advance launched in November of 2001 in North America. Golden Sun was developed by Camelot Software Planning and published by Nintendo. The celebrated series kicked off on the Game Boy Advance but what makes this game such a big deal and do I agree with all the praise? Select Yes/No to continue reading this Golden Sun review.
Golden Sun Plot:
To get a grasp of the story, you first need to understand the setting of Golden Sun. The world in which you live was previously controlled by four elements. Fire, Earth, Wind, and Water but are named Mars, Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury in Golden Sun. Long ago, people controlled these elements through alchemy but it was deemed too dangerous as it caused massive destruction and chaos in the world. With the elements unpredictable, they were sealed away in the form of four stones that were placed on top of a mountain and protected in various ways.
Golden Sun takes place in a fantasy world called “Weyard” where there’s no electricity or machines. Think middle-ages but not as dark. Anyway, the main character is named Isaac. He lives in the town of Vale at the base of the mountain that protects the four elements. One day, two evil humans try and break into the mountain to steal the four elemental stones and set off the traps. A massive storm occurs and a huge boulder comes crashing down the mountain and wrecks Vale. A boy named Felix nearly drowns but is rescued by Saturos and Menardi who are the two evil beings that tried to get the stones. The three of them disappear.
Fast-forward three years later and Isaac, and his friends Jenna and Garet travel atop the mountain to conduct some research. When they reach the secret temple and enter it, they discover that the temple is being raided again by Saturos and Menardi. The two of them now accompanied by Felix steal three of the stones and kidnap Jenna in the process leaving Isaac and Garet for dead.
Isaac and Garet set off on a huge quest to rescue Jenna and take back the elemental stones before Saturos and Menardi destroy the world. With the stones missing, some people in Weyard experience powers being able to shift elements. These people are called “adepts” who are essentially magic-users. They meet an adept named Ivan who is searching for his master who was robbed of his powerful staff. Ivan joins Isaac and Garet in the search for the elemental stones in hopes of running into the thieves that stole his master’s staff. As the trio begins to search around Weyard for clues on where Saturos and Menardi could be they run into Mia, another adept who later joins the group.
They meet Saturos and Menardi at a lighthouse who are trying to activate the lighthouse with one of the stones. If the four lighthouses are restored then alchemy can again be used leading to massive chaos. Anyway, Isaac and co. battles Saturous but fail to stop him and he gets away.
During the game there are a few other quests that occur like battling in a coliseum, returning a town that has turned into tree-people to normal, and healing an ancient man. You’ll need to do these quests if you want to level up. The game ends abruptly after defeating Saturos and Menardi a second time after they have combined to form into a huge monster. Despite Felix being free of their grasp, he continues to evade Isaac and Garet. Meanwhile, Jenna is still missing. The final scenes are Isaac, Garet, Mia, and Ivan entering a ship and sailing across the ocean to search for Jenna.
Golden Sun Gameplay:
The world of Golden Sun is very colorful and bright. It looks great on the Game Boy Advance and each town feels unique with NPCs and building designs. Weyard is a large world to explore but my gosh, they didn’t include a map! It wasn’t an issue in my Golden Sun review until I reached the second continent because I needed to make my way back to certain towns and it was a bit confusing. I wish they would include a map you can pull up to see where you were but I had to use an online map. I feel like RPGs like Golden Sun make the game ten times harder without including a damn map.
I love stories, they are my favorite part of video games and naturally, RPGs have terrific stories. Unfortunately, Golden Sun’s story wasn’t all that great. It falls into the familiar trope of “power crystals” or “elemental stones” that control the world. Its been done a million times and I was disappointed during my Golden Sun review to learn that this was the main plot of the game.
Another thing I love in RPGs is the character interactions and relationships between the main characters. Again, unfortunately, there isn’t any of that in Golden Sun. Rarely do the characters speak to each other and it only occurs during cut scenes. There’s no casual conversations or relationship building. It’s just the plot and very much to the point. It made the characters less likable and seemed like strangers to me. There is this insistence on having Isaac answer “Yes/No” in some conversations that add nothing to the story. I don’t have specific examples but you have to select yes or no almost every cutscene but the conversation is like:
“Hey Isaac, do you agree that monsters are bad and we should fight them?”
“Isaac, the cave is crumbling and everyone is dying. Should we make a run for it?”
“Isaac the sky is falling and I need help wiping my ass. Will you help?”
Okay, maybe the last one didn’t occur but it sure felt like it with all the dumb questions they have you answer.
There were some very lengthy dialogue scenes that grew tiresome after a few minutes at the beginning of my Golden Sun review that I pushed through. The conversations would revolve around a problem but the solution was right in front of their face but it’d take ten minutes of talking to get to it. Thankfully, they didn’t become a trend with most conversations lasting a minute or two.
The best thing about Golden Sun was the combat. It looked great on the Game Boy Advance and there are plenty of strategies that go into the fights. At the end of the game, I had reached level 30 with all the level-grinding I had done. I didn’t mind fights because they didn’t last long and once you get the hang of it, it becomes quite fun. You can attack with your sword, use psyenergy (magic) or summon a djinn. A Djinn is a little magical creature that causes your stats to shift along with your magic. There are eight of them in each category of an element. The more you have the more powerful your summons become. Once you summon them they will cause massive damage but will need to recharge after using them. The animation of the summons are sweet and I enjoyed watching them during my Golden Sun review. If you have Djinns in battle your base health actually drops a ton so it’s a fine line to walk. If you want a ton of health you shouldn’t use any Djinns but if you want to deal massive damage and hope that does the trick then you might get lucky summoning them. It was fun searching the world and collecting the djinns even if I didn’t use any during the final battle.
Speaking of the final battle, I had no idea I was at the end of the game because it ends so abruptly. The final battle has you fighting Saturos and Menardi together. I beat them but then they transformed into a monster. This wouldn’t be an issue except they give you no time to recover so whatever health your characters were at when the first fight ends is their starting health when the second battle begins. Thankfully, I beat the second form on my first try during my Golden Sun review.
Golden Sun’s ending sets up for the second game but man, there’s no closure for the first game. It’s simply okay we beat them, now we are jumping on this ship to find Jenna. Then the game ends! I think Golden Sun is a fun RPG but it won’t capture your imagination with the story or suck you in with the character relationships.
I heard nothing but great things about Golden Sun so I had to experience it for myself. It took me almost two weeks to beat it but I’m thankful I played it. I’ll be playing the second game sometime, but not in the near future.
Golden Sun Review Score:
Golden Sun is a beautiful RPG on the Game Boy Advance that has addicting combat mechanics and unique summons. It’s held back by the familiar trope of “world destruction power crystals” and a cast of characters who feel cold to each other with no relationship building.
Golden Sun scores an 8.1 out of 10.
What would you write in your Golden Sun Review? Do you remember when Golden Sun first came out? Did you find all the djinns? Did you have any issues finding your way around Weyard? Were you surprised by the sudden ending of the game? Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments!