• Golden Sun Review - Nintendo GBA

    So far, the Game Boy Advance has unfortunately been pretty short on RPG's, until recently that is. With the release of Breath of Fire, a classic has had the chance to take the limelight once again, that is, if it's not outdone by the sensational Golden Sun. Once again, you start your quest as a young boy, with both parents for once.

    You wake up on a stormy night (Everything's usual so far), and have to rush out of town, because the rain is starting a landslide. Just before you leave your house, your mother gets your coat for you. May not sound like much, but this is where Golden Sun's magic power is introduced.

    Each character has what is called Psynergy. This covers a pretty wide range of powers, from the usual magic, to improving your characters. There's a pretty wide range of things you can do in the field with Psynergy, and you have to be pretty observant to use it to its full potential. The first power you start with is Move. This is basically, to move large objects that you can't push, or to move something that is over a gap and you can't reach. There's a wide range of powers, like Force, to punch things over, Freeze, to turn puddles into pillars and Grow to make small plants to into climbable vines. The only aspect of field Psynergy, is apart from some exceptions, you can't use it in battle. Then there's battle Psynergy, this is all the real meaty stuff.

    To improve this quickly, you need to find some Djinn. Djinn will be based upon one of the four elements, Earth, Fire, Water and Air. The Djinn can really make your powers improve when you assign them to a character, and the more of these you find, the better you become. Each character has a natural affinity to an element, so it's best if you stick to Djinn of the same element to get the most out of your character. However, different elements will give different capabilities. To tell you what I mean, let's take the main character, Isaac, who has an affinity to Earth power, and make him summon a Fire Djinn in battle. After that attack, Isaac's Fire affinity will grow (Depending on how many Djinn you use, depends on how much it improves e.g.: 1 Djinn = 10 affinity points). So now Isaac has more Fire power, he will be stronger against enemies weak against Fire.

    It sounds complicated I know, but it's easy to get the hang of once you know what's going on. Unfortunately, you have to be careful with affinity points, and not just dish them out to whoever takes your fancy. Opposite elements to your characters main affinity, will usually result in making your character worse. So say with Isaac again, if you made him use Air Djinn, it wouldn't go well with his Earth affinity and could result in lower stats. Another thing that Djinn's effect have on your character, is Rank. Your characters Rank is defined by their level and the amount of Djinn set. Sega's first introduced character Ranks with their Shining series.

    Unlike Shining, the Ranks in Golden Sun can improve in the field, to save you visiting a church. Also, you can improve your Rank by setting Djinn, and can even go to changing your character's affinity. This isn't permanent though, it's only while the Djinn are set. This is a welcome addition in my opinion, as it can seriously help you for your adventure.

    The music is very good, and really adds to the feel of the game, so when you play it, try not to have the sound too low, or you could be missing out. The sound effects are pretty impressive too, with mostly everything sounding like you would expect it to. Some of the music is so good, it can even sound better than, dare I say it, Final Fantasy. Golden Sun has taken a page out of the Shining series in the graphics department. The usual manga style looks of the characters, and of course large anime hair. The level of detail that Camelot have gone into with Golden Sun is very impressive, even more so seeing as it's a handheld game.

    The best graphics appear in the battles, which is the norm for most role playing games to this day. It's pulled off very well, and you get better effects the further you get. The perspective changes with some attacks, and the best I've seen so far is one of the Summons, where you basically see the effects of what looks like a nuclear bomb. There are also quite a lot of shops in the many villages. There are the basic places, like Weapon, Armour and Item shops, and then there's Sanctums. Sanctums are basically churches, in them you can revive team members, remove poison from allies, and expel ghosts who haunt you and remove curses from your equipment. Usually when you buy an item from a shop, you're given a Game Ticket. These can be used later on in the game to gamble with, and win better equipment and items.

    The range of mini games is pretty high, and is pretty distracting while you continue your quest. Not that this is a bad thing of course. Although not one of the mini games, there's even a Metal Gear Solid style section, with you creeping around caves and trying to stay out of the light from guard's torches.

    There are however, a few annoyances, the first of all, being the story. Once again, you're the hero who has no father and always keeps his mother happy. You have to avenge the damage done to your village, and get revenge against Saturos and Menardi, who defeated you and your friend when you were much younger. Then you must also rescue the love interest, and save your mentor. This story, manages to mix the three stereotypical rpg plots all in one.

    The other annoyance, is the size. Fair enough, it's a small cartridge, but I can't help and think that they could have at least developed the plot a bit more. You're restricted to one island throughout the game, and don't even get to use any vehicles during the fairly small time that you get to play. It can take you about 30 hours for the experienced role-playing fanatic out there, around 40 for the rest of you, but that's without all the secrets. You're also mainly given the annoying chore of "rescue this" and "find that", which can get a bit tedious after a while. Then, there's the hero's dialogue. This is, "yes", and "no". Not exactly what you'd call a wide vocabulary. Fair enough that Shining got away with it, but it's annoying none the less. A small warning though, before you start the game, try not to read the manual until you leave the first town, or risk reading a minor spoiler.

    All in all, Golden Sun is a great buy and will probably be renowned as a classic in the time to come, it will probably only be truly surpassed when the sequel comes out much later this year. You'd be missing out on quite a game if you didn't buy it. A large range of sub quests is also available, and heaps of secrets and puzzles, especially when it comes to catching those elusive Djinn. So if you're willing to stick by it while you get through those few annoying pieces, then you've got a great title in your hands.

    A review by Peter Grant
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