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Golden Sun: The Lost Age

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Camelot
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: RPG/ Turn-Based Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Often you find that sequels are compared to the originals in terms of graphics. Comparatively, there is not much different graphically about the original Golden Sun and Golden Sun: The Lost Age. The enemy and character sprites are still excellent looking for a portable console, and the backgrounds are great works of art. The levels are very consistent with the first game in terms of eye candy.

As in Golden Sun, the battle system in The Lost Age is a 2D/3D hybrid, which makes a technically flat game look 3D. The character models look very good, even scaled down to fit on a GBA screen. The spell effects are absolutely gorgeous. From fire effects to lightning and water, the art department should be proud of this iteration of Golden Sun. Most spells go off without a hitch, but some still slow the GBA down slightly. This is more a hardware limitation than anything, although it could possibly bring you out of the game ever so slightly.

As with all good games, if they don’t invent it, they make it better. The Djinn summons in The Lost Age are a step up from those in Golden Sun. Along with the basic summons from previous games, there are a slew of new ones, all of which attack enemies in unique ways and with unique effects.

The soundtrack also continues in the footsteps of the original. There is a lot of new music, with a sprinkling of the old. The soundtrack, while not comparable to the quality of a brilliantly orchestrated soundtrack on most modern console games (and not really expected to be), still shines through the list of GBA games. The tracks are wonderfully composed, and the sound effects are clear. An orchestrated version of the soundtrack to this game would make for some of the best game music I’d ever hear.


Gameplay:

Golden Sun: The Lost Age is the sequel to the popular Golden Sun, also for Game Boy Advance. The second game is a continuation of the mission that ended abruptly in the first game. The world is peaceful because of the exclusion of alchemy, the power to control the elements, is locked away. However, the sealing of the elements is causing the planet to slowly rot. In The Lost Age, you take on the role of Felix and his group, whose goal is to release the power of the elements from their prison before the world withers away.

While this is an actual continuation of the first game, those who haven’t played the original are provided with enough back-story to deal with what comes in this game. To gain the full experience though, it is recommended you play Golden Sun first.

The unleash system in The Lost Age replaces what many RPG fans are familiar with in the critical hit system. Instead of characters randomly getting a stronger attack, there are two stronger forms in which you may strike. Critical hits still take place, however; every now and then your character “lets out a howl” and strikes the enemy with a special attack unique to their weapon called an “unleash.” These can be elemental or physical attacks, but they are usually very powerful. Some even kill the enemy instantly. Not all weapons have an unleash attack, though.

Characters in the Golden Sun series are more balanced than many are used to in an RPG. Typically, a party will have one or more magic users, pure fighters, and a sprinkling of average characters. The Lost Age starts you out with fairly even characters. Some can wield better weapons or wear better armor, but you can always count on even your weakest physical character to be effective in battle without magic, which is called “psyenergy” in Golden Sun. All characters may attack using psyenergy, each character having a different element that they can use.

A third type of offense and defense in The Lost Age are the Djinn. Djinn are elemental spirits that you can get to join your characters to aid during battle. You may mix and match the Djinn on your characters in any way you like, although different combinations may make for more powerful characters. Mixing odd Djinn (water and fire, air and earth) may actually decrease your character’s strength, so be careful.

Djinn that have been set to a character can be used in battle. Some Djinn can perform offensive attacks, while some can heal or defend for you. If a Djinn is used during battle, the character temporarily loses the bonus associated with having that Djinn set. In order to re-set a Djinn after using it, you have to perform a summon. Summons are the most powerful form of attack that you can use in the Golden Sun series. Summons can be performed on one Djinn at a time, or in combinations for devastating moves.

As with its predecessor, The Lost Age is a satisfyingly long game with an emphasis on exploration and discovery. There are things that you can do in the game that aren’t required, but will help you along your way. Forgeable materials can be found that you can bring to a blacksmith for powered up weapons. There are several side quests that you can go on if you’re stuck. Also present from the first game is the two-player battle mode, where a team of three of your characters can challenge a friend in a fight to the finish. Also, as with Golden Sun, you may save cleared game data so you may continue (in a future sequel) with the items and weapons you found throughout your quest.


Difficulty:

The difficulty in RPGs is what sometimes puts them out of the sight of many gamers. A game can be made difficult for the wrong reasons, usually brought about by a lapse in judgment by their designers. This artificial difficulty is facilitated by just beefing up enemies in a game, forcing you to level up for hours by pointless fighting to beat a game. The opposite can sometimes be true, where if you rely on a special super ability, you can beat the game almost effortlessly. The Golden Sun series takes care of this by adding puzzles.

The Lost Age’s exploration is akin to Zelda outside of battles, in that you have many puzzles that you must complete in a level, so you cannot win on just strength alone. You must also keep a sharp eye out in the game for the various Djinn, as they play a large role in your strength. A character that is 20 levels under another character may still be more powerful if they have more Djinn. If you don’t collect Djinn very often, you may find that you need a much higher level to beat the game, and thus use up more time than if you just searched for all the Djinn. Your more powerful attacks also depend on how many Djinn you have, however in this case, the most powerful attack requires that you have collected almost all of the Djinn from the previous Golden Sun, and transferred your game over.


Game Mechanics:

Both the battle system and the menu in Golden Sun: The Lost Age are neither too complicated nor counter-intuitive. A dysfunctional menu cripples many a strong RPG, but The Lost Age keeps it simple. This makes it a strong game even for beginners to pick up. In order to make using spells outside of battles easier, you can make two shortcuts (using L and R) for spells used frequently. I have accidentally cast spells because of this, but then again, I am clumsy.

The battles go smoothly, and you aren’t ever left in the dark. Perhaps some could call the systems of The Lost Age too simple, but there is a certain greatness in simplicity. I just found that it played well, and that is something that I can’t say about many games that I play.

Golden Sun: The Lost Age is one of the games I think every RPG fan should have in order to call their library complete. It’s a great game in a fresh series in whose genre is notorious for stale games. For those who love the puzzle solving in Zelda, I would also recommend The Lost Age. In fact, as long as you don’t hate RPGs, and you have a Gameboy Advance, this is a recommendation to buy.


-Z64freak, GameVortex Communications
AKA Bret Hall

Nintendo GameCube Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean Sony PSOne Hardball 99

 
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