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Review - Golden Sun (GBA)

Started by Nightcrawler, January 18, 2015, 06:55:06 PM

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After reading all the accolades Golden Sun has received over the years, I decided to give it a try recently. Often people herald the GBA as a second coming of the SNES. I can refute several points in that direction, but I have to agree that a game like Golden Sun exemplifies the spirit of what a newer RPG may have looked like had the SNES had a longer life or received a 2D successor.


Normally, I get turned off by the lower resolution for SNES-like games on the GBA, but there's no denying Golden sun took 2D to limits that few other games on the GBA could. How could any fan of 2D sprite work not appreciate the graphics in Golden Sun? The GBA provides the processing power to do software scaling of sprites, and animation frames far exceeding the abilities of the SNES. I have no real complaints in the graphical presentation department. You couldn't ask for better on the GBA platform. As good as it was however, I couldn't help but to imagine how crisp and detailed the game may have looked had it been done on the Playstation or other higher resolution console.


I think we have a winner here as well. You'd be hard-pressed to find a GBA game that sounds better. I think the flute was the standout instrument of the game. Many of the musical tracks were very well done, but there were a number of themes that were simply average. This is normally not a big deal, but it seemed there just weren't that many different tracks in the game. So, a number of them became repetitive. The sound effects were very basic and sounded like they were ripped from a game a decade older. It would have been nice to see upgraded sound effects to match the quality of the music.


This is the biggest negative of the game. I don't know what went wrong here. The game certainly has a story, and a substantial one at that as it spans two games. It's got many NPCs that converse, and a small core number of characters. Yet, I found myself mentally wondering off all the time and wanting to skip through cut-scenes. It had all the ingredients, but somehow failed to put them together right. I can't put my finger on it. I guess I would have to say it was the writing. It was overly verbose and very dry dialog. It just felt stilted. I am not usually overly critical of such things, but it was bad enough to make me take notice. It wasn't entertaining and I don't think it did the story justice. Even though the story is interesting, I don't think I want to play the second game because the dialog is so dry and boring.


Despite the dialog issues, what made me keep playing was the gameplay. I think Golden Sun was a solid step forward with the traditional RPG formula. Battles played out very fast. The freedom and instant results of combinations of Djinns made it easy to mix and match, and try the different gampley mechanics out. The battle system was very customizable, but yet simple in execution. This was a great blend to have varied gameplay, but not be tiring in configuration. Since your magic points recovered in field walking, you could also explore your (fairly large list of) spells without fears of not having enough to experiment. I enjoyed having multi-enemy effecting spells early on in the game. All of these things aided in battles playing out quickly, and typically there were not a burden.

The game also excelled at dungeon design and puzzles in my opinion. The puzzles ranged from fairly easy to fairly challenging, but never overly frustrating. They were the right difficulty for me to be fun. The dungeons were never that tiresome in length, nor came across overly repetitive. After playing RPGs for so many years, this is a difficult balance to hit in the genre as time goes on. I was impressed.

At the end of the day, I think I've had my fill of Golden Sun. I think having a second, longer dosage of everything in the second game would hit in the realm of repetitiveness and become burdensome. I really wish the dialog was better written. The game does have an interesting story and I think I will take a peek on Youtube to see how it all plays out. I just don't think I can handle the rest of what comes with playing through the second game, even if it is from the 'antagonists' prospective. In the end I give it an above average rating. It had all the right ingredients and is worth a look. However, it could have been great if the ingredients were mixed to a better recipe! - The central hub of the ROM hacking community.