Game Review of Golden Sun (Game Boy Advance)

This article is a game review of Golden Sun. It provides a look into the gameplay and story, and also includes a personal opinion of the game, graphics, sound, and replay value.


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Game Review: Golden Sun (Game Boy Advance)

By Ammon Hansen     January 8, 2016

 

In 2001, a game called Golden Sun was released by Camelot. The game is an RPG (role playing game) for the Game Boy Advance, and it instantly set the standard for the genre.

Featuring an incredible and complex story, a challenging battle system, memorable characters, a beautiful soundtrack, stunning graphics, an open world, and a satisfying length, to this day Golden Sun is arguably the greatest RPG of all time.

Personally, I fell in love with the game (and the series) immediately. I actually started with the third game, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, and it wasn’t until I began playing that I realized there were more games! After completing the third game, I was hungry for more.

Which leads me to this game, the one that started it all…

 

Gameplay

Golden Sun offers an open world, and by the end of the game the player has the freedom to explore every part of it. While wandering or traveling between cities, the party can be attacked by a variety of monsters at any time.

The battle system is turn based, and very simple, but many fights within the game are surprisingly tough. For example, I lost track of the hours I spent fighting the Kraken before finally emerging victorious. I was defeated countless times, and had to return to my last save point before returning to challenge the monster again…and to make it even harder, I had no way to do any grinding. Without the means to boost my stats, I had to learn from each battle with the monster, developing and refining my strategy.

When battling, there are four ways to fight:

First, you have weapons such as swords and maces. Each weapon can improve or degrade your stats, so choose wisely. These can be bought in the shops found at each town, or discovered in abandoned treasure chests while exploring dungeons. Additionally, some weapons have magical properties, and can do an amazing amount of extra damage in battle.

Second, there is Psynergy. This is elemental power, falling into four categories: Venus (Earth), Mars (Fire), Jupiter (Wind), and Mercury (Water). The playable characters in the game are the rare descendants of an unnamed ancient people. These descendants are known as Adepts, and each can control a single element. For example, Isaac is a Venus Adept, and Garet is a Mars Adept. With a limited amount of energy to use their powers, each character can still do considerable damage with each elemental attack.

Third, there are small creatures called Djinn. Made of pure elemental energy, there are 28 of them hiding throughout the game. but not all of them are easy to find. Some are found hiding in forests between cities, others are found hidden in dungeons or cities, and a few join the party automatically during the game. Each Djinn can boost a character’s stats, and can be unleashed in battle to deal considerable damage to the enemy.

Fourth, there are Summons. These are the most powerful attacks of all. When a Djinn is used in battle, they then are in standby until used in a Summoning. After this, the Djinn will be able to attack once again, as before. If enough Djinn are in standby, they can be used to unleash a force or being, such as Thor (the Norse god of thunder), Neptune (the Roman god of the sea), Gaia (the Greek goddess of the earth), Ramses (an Egyptian pharaoh), and Judgement (the might of the apocalypse).

In addition to use in battle, Psynergy is also used to access areas in dungeons and cities. It is the only way to move forward in many situations, but it can also be used to access hidden areas where Djinn, powerful weapons, armor, or other rare items await.

In the game, you should try to talk to everyone. Some may have a side quest to accomplish, useful hints and rumors, and some may have items (or even a Djinn) to give you.

I loved the gameplay, and I found it to be fun and challenging. Battles are tough, and each dungeon is complex and requires the player to think their way through. The controls are perfect, and easy to learn. I honestly have no complaints!

 

Story

Having already played the third game, I thought I knew the preceding story. However, I quickly discovered that I knew hardly anything! The story is deep and intricate, with shocking twists that the player will never predict.

Set in the flat world of Weyard, the game chronicles the adventures of a seventeen-year-old  named Isaac, who sets out to save his world from total destruction. Beginning in his small hometown of Vale, Isaac and his best friends Garet and Jenna, along with their teacher Kraden, travel to and discover a secret hidden in a nearby volcano, Mt. Aleph.

Vale is located at the base of this volcano, and the group finds a hidden chamber inside of it. The chamber holds the four Elemental Stars, capable of restoring the powers of Alchemy to the world of Weyard.

While they are in the chamber, another group enters it. These are our villains, and they have come to steal the Stars and use them to light the Elemental Lighthouses, restoring Alchemy. They kidnap Jenna and Kraden, taking three of the stars and leaving Isaac and Garet in the chamber as it collapses.

Isaac and Garet are saved by the mysterious Wise One, who appears and tells them that they must stop the return of Alchemy at all costs. Its return will bring the end of the world, and the two friends are now the only ones who know of the impending end of the world. The Wise One then teleports the pair back to Vale, who immediately set off on their journey.

I won’t say any more about it, because I don’t want to spoil anything. The story is amazing and beautifully told, and it is an incredible experience to watch it unfold. It was deep and I could not wait to play the second game!

 

Sound and Graphics

This is a Game Boy game from 2001, but the sound and graphics are incredible. They fit the game so perfectly, and I have nothing to criticize. There is a unique soundtrack for each dungeon and every part of the game, and the graphics are stunning.

 

Replay Value

Golden Sun has a lot of replay value. The first playthrough has so much to offer, and although the second time won’t add anything new, it will still be fun and challenging!

I will point out that in addition to the main story and everything it has to offer, there are also additional dungeons and bosses to discover and battle, which can be found at or near the end of the game.

Furthermore, at the end of the game Golden Sun will take your stats, items, Djinn, weapons, etc., and allow you to transfer them to the second game, Golden Sun: The Lost Age. This means that if you can find the most powerful weapons in the first game, and collect every Djinn, you’ll be even stronger in the sequel! You’ll still be challenged, but you will have an advantage through your extra strength.

Although finding everything isn’t technically a replay, most players search for the things they missed after winning the game. In the end however, I do feel that playing the game multiple times will be worth your time. It’s an incredible story, and it truly is one of the best games of all time.

 

Final Opinion

I have played over one hundred games start to finish on a wide variety of consoles. Yet, Golden Sun stood above them all, and quickly became my favorite. It has held that position for several years now, and it will always be my personal gold standard for judging other games.

I enjoyed everything about the game. It was funny, challenging, intriguing, fun, and so much more. I know I will be playing Golden Sun again in the future, probably sooner rather than later.

I would recommend Golden Sun (this game, and the series) to anyone who likes a challenge when gaming. If you like to solve puzzles in dungeons (like in The Legend of Zelda), and a similar feel to Final Fantasy IV, I’m confident that you will like this as well. In fact, I would recommend this game to anyone, because you might just fall in love with it. I know I did!


The above image is taken from GoldenSunRealm.com:

http://www.goldensunrealm.com/gs/general/

The cover image is taken from Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Sun

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