495th played so far


Genre: Role-Playing
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Year of Release: 2001
Developer: Camelot Software Planning
Publisher: Nintendo

How often can you play a game before you really know it? I’ve played Golden Sun several times before and although I haven’t memorized all details even now, only on this most recent playthrough did I learn about the monster’s abilities and stats. How elemental stats differ per monster and aren’t just simple multipliers, for example. How item drops are complicated. All that sort of stuff.

It happens in a lot of RPGs, but Golden Sun gripped me more somehow than so many others. Maybe it’s because it’s one of my first JRPGs, or perhaps more has happened. It’s certainly something I could try to unwrap.

Our Thoughts

The bright and anime-esque graphics certainly help draw you into the game. I don’t think they’re often listed as a high point of the game, but the game looks lovely, especially with some gorgeous background art that was great to watch on its own.

The story itself, though starting off as fairly standard “save the world” plot, is greatly enhanced by the world. The basic idea of alchemy of a living force, released in part at the start of the game, is fairly in depth and ties into proceedings really well. More importantly, the game mechanics tie into this set up, with several gameplay elements being based not just on this division, but also being explained by the story events.

The problem with the story is that it isn’t finished. The game’s story ends halfway through, and is continued in the sequel Golden Sun The Lost Age, together with some additional bonus content. It’s supposedly due to some constraints, but feels a bit wrong.

The charming characters help. Aside from the silent protagonist (switching roles between series) the characters all see quite a bit of development, and even the protagonists see a bit of it. There’s some railroading going on there, with other characters saying how you responded, but some otherwise non-meaningful yes/no responses allow you to add a bit of personality.

Combat is partially standard turn based stuff, with magic called psyenergy. The real difference comes in through djinn. Small creatures released at the start of the story, you collect them as you play through the game. While nominally giving you stat boosts – especially notable when you stick to each character’s default element – equipping djinn of different elements changes your character’s class and adding new abilities – your physical attacker may gain additional healing, or your main spellcaster gets more defensive power. This also changes the spells you have access to, and in one case even adds a required field abilities. Djinn can also be used in battle, each having a more powerful ability, but lowering your stats and possibly changing your class again. When used, they can be used for the most powerful summons as well, giving you an interesting trade off between general strength and single large attacks

The field abilities are the other interesting part of the system. Not only does your psyenergy have an effect in battle, but they can also manipulate objects in the environment. Starting off by moving things, later you can put out or light fires, create platforms by freezing puddles of water and more. In part they add barriers to progression, but more often they add puzzles for optional objectives, getting you access to djinn and powerful items. It’s a pretty fun way to play, encouraging further backtracking and making what would be simple dungeons otherwise a lot more interesting by encouraging you to explore further.

Final Thoughts

Golden Sun is a decent JRPG, with a pretty good story, but for me lifted by the world and sheer amount of exploration it encourages through its different abilities. Sure, you’d want to pick up both games now to make sure you can finish the story (with an onerous save transfer system), but at least it plays well once you do. Absolutely a game worth sinking your teeth into.