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Platform

GameBoy Advance

 

Genre

Role-Playing

 

Publisher

Nintendo

 

Developer

Camelot

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q4 2001

 

 

- Beautiful animations
- Polygonal effects
- Nice soundtrack
- Old school RPG storyline and game play

 

 

- Small Characters

 

 

Review: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (Gameboy Advance)

Review: Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (DS)

Review: Dragon Quest IX (DS)

 

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Golden Sun

Score: 9.0 / 10

 

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If someone were to say that during this crazy time of system launches and blockbuster debut’s you’d be looking no farther than the palm of your hand for a great experience, usually they’d be either crazy or talking about something totally unrelated to videogames. Yet Golden Sun for GBA, created by the same geniuses who made the beloved “Shining” series for the Sega consoles, is laying to rest some aspects of the 2D vs. 3D conflict with gorgeous graphics, dazzling audio, a charming storyline and overall appealing game play -- and it all fits neatly inside your pocket!

While Nintendo inductees marveled over Final Fantasy, Sega lovers were creating a niche with the beautiful and imaginative “Shining” series. It never quite broke

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- GameBoy Advance Game Reviews

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through to the masses but it refreshed the RPG landscape along with it’s many spin-offs. Golden Sun is the last of a long line of great RPG’s and it innovates like its predecessors bringing much-needed depth to the GBA line-up.

Adhering to the tried and true formula you begin with the story of a young man from an isolated village called Vale whose shoulders carry the burden of not only saving his village but the entire

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world. The village of alchemists called Adepts has been guarding a sacred temple called Sol Sanctum since ancient times. When the sanctums seal is broken and the sacred stones are stolen our hero Isaac and his friend Garrett are asked to retrieve them before the culprit awakens a power capable of destroying the planet.

Even while the story doesn’t smash any statues it’s delivered at a comprehensive pace with condensed believable text and plenty of personality. The pleasant, thoughtful spirit of the entire experience is reminiscent of Camelot’s old adventures with a few new embellishments. Equipped with a special power called Psynergy that can be used to move objects, read minds or conjure up various alchemic attacks, Isaac and his crew set out on a journey that spans the whole continent of Angara.

As one of the first Game Boy Advance RPG’s Golden Sun uses a great deal of the systems power. The environments feature 3D scaling and rotation effects on par with the best offerings from the SNES although the characters are tiny on an already small screen and it can be a little hard to maneuver. The graphics are among the sharpest yet seen on the handheld during exploration of towns, caves and castles but they especially excel in battles where players unleash elaborate, polygonal magical effects and vivid sprites sprinkle the screen. Add to that the old-school balance of strategic game play and character level-ups and you have a 2D hand-held RPG rivalling those of the “next generation”.

 

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One of Golden Sun’s prime assets is its fully orchestrated soundtrack with lovable tunes slightly more textured than the normal tinny handheld RPG music. The dark, stringy classical compositions played during times of distress and when entering caves are noteworthy and imaginative for any console. Even through the GBA’s weak sound system, the rest of the games sound effects are satisfying.

The games format is pretty typical. You’ll travel from town to town and stumble upon characters that provide plenty of supplemental side-quests.

There are many items, weapons and power-ups to search for and a variety of separate sub-plots circulate simultaneously. Unlike Shining Force, the battles are randomly encountered and avoid becoming protracted and boring with a quick interface and rotating transition. The majority of the frequent battles are fast paced making it easier to explore deeper.

Players can catch elemental monsters called Djinni that unleash special attacks and change character stats and class. Psynergy and Djinni are skillfully woven into the progression of the game. Psynergy can be used to complete puzzles by moving remote objects or clearing passageways. Djinni strike with the force of their element and enable the player to use a scenic summon attack after their initial use.

Luckily, Camelot was thoughtful enough to include the option to save at any point in the game which is very useful with a portable system. Additionally, there is a link-cable mode so you can pit your characters against friends once you build them up.

Overall, this is the RPG that every GBA owner has been waiting for. Beyond the traditional pleasures of Role Playing Games, Golden Sun is a particularly pleasant backward glance at the reason why we all loved them pre-FFVII. It shines not only because its portable -- it’s the same kind of game that kept us glued to the television way back when and it still would.

- Doug Flowe
(December 8, 2001)

 

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