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Golden Sun

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Camelot
Media: Cart/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:

The graphics seen in Golden Sun can easily be called the most beautiful ever on a portable system. Camelot shows us what the Game Boy Advance is truly capable of and makes full use of the system's 32-bit power. The field graphics, those seen in towns and dungeons, are the most impressive of all. The structures are detailed and colorful; you can easily tell what things are supposed to be (sometimes a problem with portable adventures). The characters are diverse in appearance and the animation is wonderfully executed. However, the world-map leaves a few things to be desired. Your characters appear slightly grainy and out of focus, while the towns appear very floaty and 'placed' on the map rather than a part of it. In spite of these minor irritations, you will still wander around the map for hours just enjoying the scenery.

The battle-graphics are some of the most impressive I've seen in any 2D RPG. The backgrounds are huge and seem to envelop the characters rather than just appearing behind everything. The battle-effects are enough to make your jaw drop. Both polygon and particle-effects mix together in EVERY battle action to create some of the most gorgeous battle moments ever seen; from the simple 'attack slash' to the dizzying colors of the Djinn summons, Golden Sun's battles have it all. The only negative would have to be the slightly grainy appearance of your characters in battles.

The music in Golden Sun stands just as tall as it's graphics. Every song in the game is beautifully orchestrated. But, as always, one needs to have headphones to hear the music as it was truly meant to be heard. Camelot makes full use of the sound capabilities of the GBA. It comes quite close to rivaling the music of such series as Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior, and Lufia. As for the sound effects, from the subtle falling of rain to your character's screaming in battles, Golden Sun delivers it all, flawlessly.


Gameplay:

Aside from a few interesting twists, Golden Sun delivers your typical 16-bit SNES RPG gameplay, which is good for some and boring for others ;). With random turn-based battles, 4 unchanging characters, frequent leveling and searching in every pot and cupboard you can get your hands on, Golden Sun is full of 16-bit goodness. The ability (and requirement) to use MANY spells outside of battles keeps exploration interesting and quite intriguing.

The biggest quirk would be the wonderfully little Djinns. Aside from simply leveling, you must also find elemental Djinns to increase your character's powers. Every character has their own element and giving them the corresponding Djinns increases that characters stats and class. Mixing up elements does the same, but will also alter that character's spell lineup (and certain spells you need to get to locations on the field require this). Also Djinn can be used in battle for various effects and in groups to perform summons. In a wonderful twist, the story isn't as 'typical as one might first assume from seeing the game. While it does have its moments of 'Wow I didn't see THAT coming', it provides enough freshness to keep the story interesting.


Difficulty:

Typical RPG challenges apply. Be of a high enough level, be able to find your way through dungeons, and have some basic battle strategy. If you are familiar with typical 2-D RPG's, you should have NO problem. If not, you still shouldn't have any problems provided you keep up to speed with your levels and equipment. However, perfectionists beware; trying all the different Djinn combinations, to make sure you didn't miss any field spells that you might need to get an item, may drive you MAD. :)

Game Mechanics:

More or less you're typical 2-D RPG menu based system. You move with the directional pad, confirm/talk/search with A, cancel/run with b, and go to your menus with start; also, you can save anywhere (which is a must for the shorter portable playing sessions). You are also able to set 2 field abilities for the L and R button - definitely a plus for the spells you will be using almost constantly, such as mind-read and move. The area transition is typical: Town/Dungeon - Map - Town/Dungeon. The battles are random but not terribly frequent. It's definitely a tried and true system, and all the tweaks made by Camelot are definitely for the better.

Between delivering astounding visual and audio work as well as an interesting story, one may think Golden Sun to be an almost perfect adventure. However, with slightly clichd plot moments and a severely dated battle system, Golden Sun can't QUITE seem to shake the 'been there, done that' feeling that plagues so many 2-D adventures.


-Alucard, GameVortex Communications
AKA Stephen Triche

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