The first Golden Sun was a really great game. Definitely one of those RPGs you probably won’t be forgetting anytime soon. As The Lost Age is the direct continuation (Even called Book II in the opening credits) I expected more of the same. Unfortunately, it does suffer from it’s unclear directions and a slow first half for the plot. The second half picks up quite a bit, perhaps not enough for me to call it a great title like the first, but certainly good enough that it’s still worth getting to complete the saga.
Last time we followed Isaac as he and the gang were sent to stop the villains from lighting the lighthouses. A cosmic being told them that if this happens the world could be plunged into darkness. Unfortunately the villains lit up 2/4 of them and so the game ends with a whole new level of urgency for the heroes. This one picks up with the villains on their quest to light the final 2 houses. The game keeps their reasoning hidden until we get near the end of the game but you’ll probably suspect that something is up. These guys used to be friends with Isaac and the others so how could they defect so completely? Then you’ve also got the more supernatural villains who seem a lot meaner than the humans. It’s definitely a game where some communication would have gone a long way. Can you help these guys light the final 2 lighthouses or will you ultimately throw the fights and lose on purpose to protect the world?
The plot is definitely more expansive than that but the rest is pretty heavy with spoilers so you need to experience it for yourself to really appreciate it. I will say that the game does give you a lot to think about on which side to root for. Also make sure you stick around past the credits as there are quite a few scenes and they are all massively important. The third game definitely looks like it’ll be starting a completely new story in the saga.
The best moment in the story is definitely when Isaac and the gang return though. In the first game since you played as Isaac you didn’t really get to see his character so now that he talks you really get into it. Seeing his team take on the villains is definitely hype and I dare say that Isaac would have won if he didn’t get distracted. The game’s best theme popped up for the scene as well. There aren’t a lot of plot heavy moments until the end of the game so this was definitely one of the best scenes. I also like how Isaac’s group made it before ours, showing that they are still the best adventurer group in the biz. The other best scenes all involve the big villains as well.
The game took me a little over 40 hours to complete but from that time the villains only show up for around an hour or two. Surprisingly most of the game is pretty laid back. It’s not filler as we explore the world and light up the lighthouses, but the main plot surprisingly doesn’t come into play for quite a while. As a result the stakes feel a lot lower than the first game even if that isn’t actually correct. It’s just the way that it goes. I have no qualms with the story though. The main issue I have with this game is that it can be very hard to know what to do next.
Part of why this is the case is because The Lost Age is supposed to be more of an open world RPG. You can actually tackle most of the islands in any order you want as either way you’ll need to do a lot of backtracking once you get more abilities. You do have a map, but the issue is just that you don’t know what direction to go. Of course you will eventually go the right way, but that can feel like a small consolation when you are wandering aimlessly. Even when you do go the right way you can go for hours without a single cutscene. We do get more cutscenes once the second half starts though.
Without an online guide I probably still would have not beaten the game. There’s also the matter of the data transfer. The game has a cool set up where if you played the first game then you could transfer your data into the sequel. Since Isaac and the crew don’t show up til near the end it wouldn’t make a difference until then but it’s pretty neat since you keep your abilities. Of course, that does mean you get heavily penalized if you didn’t play the first game. There are whole areas that you cannot explore and multiple Djinn and weapons that you can’t obtain. It’s a little harsh, but I do like that the developers really wanted you to play both games. It did make this feel like a true saga and seeing the characters you were playing as from the outside is cool. It’s a missed opportunity that the two groups didn’t get to fight though.
The graphics definitely still look good like in the first game. I also enjoyed the soundtrack. In particular the villain theme was downright amazing and I listened to it on loop for over an hour. It really ramps up the tension for whenever they appear. This game definitely didn’t pull any punches on a technical level. Make sure you stick around after the credits as there are quite a few extra scenes and bonus content to absorb. It changes the ending entirely and makes it so that a sequel wasn’t really needed. There are some plotlines that could become loose ends, but if they never continued you could also interpret them as a full ending.
I didn’t really mention the gameplay but it is as solid as ever. The turn based system works really well here and I like the added dynamic of choosing to get your summons ready or just making the base character stronger. In the first game I went with the latter while in this one I did the former with the exception of the final boss. Both strategies definitely have their merits and there are so many different ways that you can approach a single fight. The gameplay is really advanced and while I did have to spend a lot of time leveling my characters up for that sudden spike in difficulty with the final boss, you get the level ups pretty quickly at the turtle cavern. Whenever you spend 40+ hours on a game you know that the length was quite good.
Overall, Golden Sun: The Lost Age is a solid game. It’s a big drop down from the first game thanks mainly to having a weaker main cast and less of a focused plot compared to the first. (The Ancient One’s final test still makes no sense even after you think about it) I think making an RPG non-linear isn’t a bad idea in theory, but it should still be a little easier to know where you’ve got to go. One of the big benefits of being a long game though is that your good memories quickly overwrite the rocky start that the game has gotten. Even if the first 10 hours are pretty rough, if you get a great 30 hours after that then it’s easy to let bygones be bygones. It still does hurt the score compared to the first one, but at the end of the day I’ll still give this game a thumbs up. I’d recommend checking it out, but you should definitely get the first game before this one so you can take advantage of the data transfer.