A Golden Game
Golden Sun: The Lost Age is the second book in the Golden Sun series. Camelot created another original fantastic RPG that runs in the same way the first installment did. Instead of trying to improve upon an already near flawless game, The Lost Age is basically the same game as the first Golden Sun, but that is not a bad thing.
*Note: I used my best attempt to not write about any spoilers in this review.
The Lost Age (TLA) takes place immediately after the end of the first Golden Sun. For those people who did not play the first game in the series, TLA does a pretty good job of summing up the main events of the first game in the very first opening scene. However, this quick summary is very basic and leaves out some main details. I encourage players to play through the first game before starting the second. If you plan on playing through this second adventure, not only is it in your best interest to complete the first just to get the full story, but also your game data can be transferred over. If players played through and beat the first game, a new save file will be created that is strictly used to transfer data. There are two ways to transfer data. First is the linking systems option. If players have two GBAs, a completed version of the original GS, a copy of TLA, and link cable, this mode can be utilized. This is the perfect method of transfer because it is very easy and convenient. The other way to transfer is through the password system. This is for players that can’t get a hold of two GBA systems. There are three password lengths: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Each one is longer than the other but carries more data over. If the Gold password is chosen, a massive password is produced but it transfers everything including Djinn, items, gold, and your character’s level. This password is very very long but worth the time. If you chose to use the Bronze or Silver, the password would be shorter but you don’t get every aspect of the original game data. The Gold password is the only mode of transfer if you use the link cable. The long password system is very painstaking as you must write down every character then retype it in again? and hope you didn’t make an error along the way. This form of transfer is very inconvenient but can be remedied by the use of a link cable.
In the first game, the player controlled a young boy named Isaac and his group of friends. This time around, Felix is the man in charge as some other familiar characters join him. For the first part of the game, you are only in control of three characters. Later, a mysterious fourth character will join. And soon after that, you meet up with the original members of the first Golden Sun, hence the password system. This all ties together very nicely as it helps the story flow.
Players shouldn’t expect a better game simply because they jumped right into the second adventure without playing the first. For the most part, this sequel contains most of the same elements as the first. TLA is longer than the original adventure in that it offers 40+ hours of game play. This is a lot of time to spend on a handheld game, but players of the game will have trouble putting it down. One thing that sometimes can prove annoying, are simple “Yes” and “No” questions. These questions will be asked by random characters, but either answer serves no purpose in the advancement of the story. This is just offered to players to give a sense that they are controlling the plot. At times, the dialogue can be a bit wordy. Player will feel the need to talk to every person in each town and village, and then use magic to read their minds. So this means, in order to get the most out of the game, you will need to talk to people at least twice. Patience and time is needed here. For the most part, the first Golden Sun was pretty linear. However, about a quarter of the way through TLA, a boat will be obtained, allowing for free travel where side quests can be found and completed.
Game play remains mostly the same as before. Characters travel across a vast land and gain levels in a traditional RPG fashion. What makes Golden Sun unique are the Pokemon like creatures called Djinn. These little creatures control many game play elements. They control the spells that characters can use, the summoned creatures in battle, and a character’s class and stats. In other words, the more Djinn you collect, the stronger you become. Similar to the Wild Arms series, players must use specific magic spells as tools to gain access to new parts in dungeons and to move further into the game. New to TLA are magic spells to cast that can resolve new puzzles. This is great way to keep Golden Sun fresh without straying from the original. GS offers challenging puzzles that rival the Zelda series. The use of magic, jumping across platforms, and strategic thinking are a must in this game. Players gain levels by traveling through dungeons and in the over world map. It is here that random enemy encounters will take place. On the plus side, there are not as many of these pesky random battles as in the first adventure. Also, there is a spell that allows you to travel free of battles for a short time. This is nice change when you want to complete a mind-boggling puzzle without the interruptions of a simple battle. The use of items, armor and equipment also work the same way as they did before. However, one major new aspect has been added to TLA. This involves the addition of the ship so great distances can be traveled quickly and exploring made easier. This allows for faster game play. In addition, players can find new places to go, back tracking is easier, and side quests can be taken advantage of.
The play control remains the same as before. “A” and “B” buttons accept and decline operations performed in the option screen and battle mode. In the field map, the trigger buttons are used as ?hot keys’ as they can be assigned a specific magic spell for use with a simple tap of the button. This makes magic easy to use because if the player was required to use a spell through the menu screen every time, it would bog down the game play. However, despite good use of the trigger buttons, the “A” and “B” buttons could be used better in the overhead field screen. If the “B” button is held down, the character runs making travel faster. Instead of constantly holding down this button, there should be an option in the menu screen that always makes you dash. Furthermore, the “A” button brings up the menu when in the overhead field mode but it also serves as the “search” command. Having the menu pop up when you are trying to search for items or find treasure in a barrel or box is very frustrating and inconvenient. On the other hand, after some time spent with the game, the player will become accustomed to these flaws. One other flaw resides in the combat. Say players one, two, three, and four all target the same enemy in the same turn. On player one’s first attack, he kills the monster, leaving the other three players with an opened command. Instead of attacking the next enemy in line, the default is to Defend. This is very annoying. Not moving to the next monster in line after the first has been defeated makes the player pay very close attention to how much hit points he has taken away. Defending should not be the default move. You should at least have the option of choosing your default moves.
Anyone who has played either GS will admit that this game has the best visuals on GBA. The first time you venture on the overhead world map, you’ll wonder if you are playing on a digital photograph. The game also offers fantastic particle and special effects, in and out of battle. Each Djinn supports a new battle maneuver along with a different animation. Furthermore, the summoned creatures are also very detailed as they give off some of the best special effects in all of handheld gaming. To accompany the amazing visuals, the music is enough to rival any Final Fantasy title. Epic tunes will play throughout the entire adventure with each track fitting the mode of game at every moment. Numerous sound effects are also present and bring about the proper effect that each one it trying to perceive. Even the text is animated at times. Plus, simple emoticons like smiley faces will appear above the heads of characters throughout the adventure. This helps explain what the characters are feeling at each moment during a conversation. The backgrounds in battle are especially noteworthy as they emulate accurately where the battle takes place. For example, if you are traveling through a cave like dungeon, then the battle background will portray this. Even though you are getting a new point of view, it still retains the same feel. The character models, in and out of combat, are very well done. Also, every different weapon you equip will be shown in the hands of the character during combat. This really shows the extra effort the game artists put into this title. The fantastic sound and breathtaking graphics compliment the game play to near perfection.
Besides transferring data your old GS data, a VS battle is also offered. To make use of this function, two GBAs, a link cable, and two copies of the game with saved data are needed. It is here that players can decide which party is stronger and makes better use of a combination of Djinn. Players will battle in a similar fashion as they would a boss battle. This is just a small extra function that brings a little something more to the game. Hint: when battling a friend, concentrate all your firepower on ONE character at a time. This is the easiest way to defeat your opponent.
Golden Sun and Golden Sun: The Lost Age are two fantastic games RPG fans will go crazy over. The second installment, although only offering a handful of new features, is still an amazing game. With its great story, breathtaking graphics, and simple but deep combat system, GS will find itself in many gamers’ hands. It is great to see an original RPG made for GBA in an overwhelming sea of remakes. Once players start playing this game, they will probably only stop when they need to put new batteries in or recharge the SP. Even people that do not normally enjoy RPGs will still probably enjoy GS as it offers more than your stereotypical RPG. So if you are looking for a great, original RPG with an outstanding combat system and visuals, then either GS will whet your pallet. If you play one, you will feel it is your duty to play through the other.