Fire, earth, water, and wind…four of the classic elements often used in nearly every aspect of fictional works and media, with some managing to pull it off well, while others…not so much. But there has always been one story to topple them, one game that defied all expectations: Golden Sun, and its sequel, Golden Sun 2: The Lost Age. And needless to say, with the exception of Shin Megami Tensei, I think of Golden Sun series as one of the best RPG series of all times. After almost 8 years of vanishing from the world, it has finally returned to the Nintendo DS. But will it defy expectations? Will it become the best game in the series and make fans weep for joy!?
No, sadly not, but it’s still a good game nonetheless. Graphics for the DS are fairly nice and colored, and some familiar areas and characters from both original games are featured as well, including some news ones. While gameplay is your sort-of standard for any classic RPG with a turn-based combat system, allowing you level up, use magical abilities of the four elements called Psyenergy, and develop skill levels with your weapons to perform new and more powerful attacks, the real meat of the game comes from the puzzles, one of the main drawing points towards this game. These tend to range from easy-to-kinda hard, and can leave you stumped for a few minutes sometimes if you don’t know what to do, but they are fun nonetheless, especially as Psyenergy is now linked to the DS touch screen, though it is not necessary to use it. The game also thankfully has a map system on the top screen, just so you don’t get lost.
The Djinn, which are like Pokemon in accessory form, can also boost your skills depending on who is equipped. Their actions can range from dealing special attacks, stat boosts, or even healing allies or causing enemies ailments. Once they are used, stat bonuses are gone, but they are set. And that means you can use the real special ability: summons. These not only deal great damage to an enemy and are very entertaining to watch, but depending on which one is used, your character’s elemental offensive ability increases.
The story takes place 30 years after the last game, and revolves around new heroes who were born from most of the protagonists from the previous games (example: Matthew is the son of Jenna and Isaac, Karis is the daughter of Ivan, etc.), and some are brand new additions, such as Sveta, who is a mix of human and wolf. And there is a new group of villains that constantly taunt and guide the heroes across the world to try and bring this world to its knees for their own gains, and one of them is fans should obviously remember. And it is entertaining to see some returning characters reprise their roles. If you are new to the series, do not fret, for this game is actually made for new people to jump right in, offering a encyclopedia for terms that are told throughout the story as the player continues to play through the storyline. This can also help new players fill in the gap of what exactly happened during those long 30 years they have missed out on.
But with all of these great things, how can this game not be as epic? The main problem with this game is simple: the difficulty level. The original Golden Sun games didn’t have a lot of hard bosses, but most were quite challenging if you didn’t level up properly or go with a proper strategy. Here, most enemies can be taken down with physical attacks alone, so long as you have a strong weapon. Psyenergy is near useless, save for Karis, possibly the most useful healer in the game, and of course other useful healing Psyenergy. Early, it may seem useful, and the effects for every spell is wonderful to view, but when you are late in the game, you will no doubt be focusing on the physical attacks due to their useful and even overpowered attacks when you have the right abilities equipped, especially the Sol Blade. But does that mean there are no hard bosses?
Of course not, for extra bosses and the final one will give you a real run for your money. The final boss is a pure cheater, able to use a multitude of attacks during each turn, create a shield to minimize any attacks, disrupt your little djinni friends to make sure you can’t summon, and of course use special and instant-kill attacks. You can beat him with low level parties, if you count 40-50 low, but expect quite a ferocious fight if you do not have healers. But at least this is one of the fights that shows that players have to do more than just press the attack command every turn. And of course, even the plot suffers at one point for those that have actually played the series, but I’ll refrain from speaking about that, save for the gigantic cliffhanger at the end of the game, which already tells us more games of the Golden Sun franchise are on the way.
Overall, I have to admit that I was surprised and a little let down by this game, but at the same time, I really had a lot of fun and enjoyed myself. It’s not going to revolutionize anything in the gaming industry, but this is a good start to what will no doubt be the rebirth of a once great series, all while adding great characters and promises of future games in the series. Golden Sun Dark Dawn gets a 4 out of 5, and should be on your list of games to get!