It’s time to look at a fairly legendary RPG from back in the day. While Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest tend to have most of the popularity right now, Golden Sun used to be pretty big back in its day. It’s only got 3 games, but the series still got quite a lot of fans. I’ve had this game on the back burner for an extremely long time so it’s good to finally be able to jump in and experience the story in all its glory. It reminds me why I love the RPG genre. Fighting games will ultimately still reclaim the top spot, but RPGs are always fun to play with. It’s partially because the idea of grinding your stats up is always a good one and the games last long enough for you to really enjoy the characters.
So in this world there exists a few select people who are called Adepts. They are able to harness elemental powers like fire and water to increase their strength or to be used as projectiles. Some already had these abilities while others are triggered once a meteor storm occurs. There is a group of enemies who want to light all 4 of the lighthouses. Isaac and the other heroes don’t exactly know why they want to do this, but they can’t allow the villains to do as they please. They decide to stop them, but along the journey they end up finding out that there is more to their plan than meets the eye. Is stopping them from lighting the lighthouses really the best move?
The game is fairly long and it took me around 22 hours to beat it. This is partially due to how big the map is, but also how difficult the enemies get. Golden Sun’s no joke and the difficulty really spikes towards the second half of the game. Suddenly the enemies are able to take you out in a few hits and that’s just the minions. The bosses basically one turn KO you so you need to level up a lot if you want to beat them. I got everyone up to Level 30 and that made the battle pretty manageable. I think if you want it to be a little calmer getting up to level 32 would probably be a good bet. Also, a big part of the game revolves around the Djinn so you are going to want to grab those guys.
There are 28 of them in the game and they are like power sources that allow you to summon. There are 4 types and 7 per type. The strongest summon of each type is worth 4 orbs so you can summon 4, 4 level summons in one match and then 4 level 3s. I only got 25/28 of the Djinn, but I can guarantee that without them I would not have been able to beat the final boss. Initially I didn’t go after them and even avoided obtaining them unless they were directly in my way. I figured that they weren’t all that important, but they are crucial. Aside from the summoning just owning the Djinn increases all of your stats as if you got multiple level ups. So once you have 25 you’re way stronger than if you didn’t have them. For example one of my characters went from having 200HP to over 500 with them equipped. I can’t stress enough just how useful these guys are.
Golden Sun is definitely an RPG with a pretty intricate gameplay system. The turn based combat is pretty much the same as always, but then you’ve got the element system. This also ties into the Djinn. Depending on which ones you’ve got equipped and your element ratio, your attacks per character will be different as well. Likewise they will also change depending on if you have your Djinn set or on standby. There’s a whole lot to consider as a result and it does make you have to re-think how you want them arranged on the board for each fight. You’ll want to think over every fight very carefully. Even by the end of the game I can’t say that I really understand the system perfectly. It’s also hard to tell which attacks are best to use since the type advantage system isn’t always obvious. By the end of the game using a normal attack is typically better than using almost any of the magical abilities which is pretty interesting.
The game definitely holds up quite well with the visuals. There’s a lot of nice backgrounds here and the game even gets a nice 3D effect during the credits. The attacks are all a lot of fun to look at and in general everything is pretty bright. Then the game also has a dynamite soundtrack. There are a lot of great themes to listen to here that range from being fairly heroic to setting up a moody atmosphere. It’s all exactly what you want to see here. Golden Sun just holds up well in every area. There is almost nothing to dislike about the game.
While the story may not be quite as exciting as some other RPGs, I did like it overall. You can tell that there’s more to this story than your usual heroes vs villains story. The villains definitely have their own reasons for doing things and don’t seem to be inherently evil. Of course there are many villains who believe they are the hero, but since the heroes don’t know what will happen if the lighthouses are activated, it’s possible that it is the right thing to do. Of course, it would be easy to tell the heroes this, but none of the villains ever feel like talking. The heroes also get lucky quite often as the villains could have easily won on a number of occasions. They just prefer to split up rather than fight as a team.
Isaac doesn’t really have a personality in this game as he is just the player. Garet is a good ally who basically acts as the leader of the team even if he is a bit impulsive. Mia’s a solid medic who joins on later. We don’t get a whole lot of time to develop her personality but she seems nice. Then you’ve got the young mage who seems really nice even if lacking in experience. The childhood friends are all suspect though with how they don’t tell the heroes much. They basically miss the entire game as they just get a few scenes after being kidnapped, but they seem to be taking it in stride. It seems like the villains ultimately start to convert everyone.
The game ends with quite a lot of loose ends for the sequel. While there are probably one or two that you could finish through side quests, there are definitely some that can’t be. There’s a scene after the credits for example which shows that the adventure isn’t quite over yet. It makes sense since there’s a big villain who doesn’t show up in the climax. Also, in general it just doesn’t feel like a conclusive ending because there are more lighthouses left and more villains so the heroes can’t rest easy now. As I already own the sequel you can bet that I’ll be jumping on that one pretty soon.
If there’s anything that’s a bit iffy here, it’s that the game isn’t always clear on where to go next. It actually has a map with town labels on it so that’s a big upgrade from something like Final Fantasy VII, but at the same time there are usually multiple routes to choose so you end up wasting a lot of time looking for the right one. The good news is that it gives you more time to level up though. Once you’ve gotten strong enough then you can also just flee the battles, but it takes quite a while to get to that level. Another thing I do like is that if you die you are taken back to the temple, but don’t lose any data. It costs money to revive your teammates, but that’s a fair price. A lot of little things like that help the game overall because it takes away the irritating nature of a game over. Dying and being forced to restart the area is very fair if you ask me.
Overall, Golden Sun is definitely an excellent RPG and deserves to be known as one of the greats. It’s aged really well and made for a very fun 20+ hour experience. I look forward to seeing how the sequel goes since it should feel pretty similar. I’m also ready for Isaac to talk since that would be awesome, but even if he doesn’t I’m sure the story is going to be really good. If you haven’t played this game yet then I highly recommend changing that. It’s just a great all around title with no real weaknesses. You’ll be engaged from start to finish even if you might end up with a slight headache from how complex the gameplay mechanics are. The important thing is that you’ll feel a sense of pride and accomplishment because this is definitely one of the tougher RPG titles out there.