Rides the Epoch and Reviews:
Golden Sun: The Lost Ages
In the years I have gamed, I have found myself in a love hate relationship with JRPGs. I usually dislike turned based combat, the stories generally associated with Final Fantasy hold no interest to me and I have trouble relating to any of the characters. This is not to say that all JRPGs are not my cup of tea; I have found a few that have held my interest and have propelled themselves to the top of my favourite games. One of these said games is Golden Sun: The Lost Ages, hereby known only as its franchise name of Golden Sun. Golden Sun is found on the Gameboy Advance System and was released in 2003.
Golden Sun's story follows immediately after the events of its predecessor and puts you in the shoes of one of the reluctant antagonists of the previous game. His name is Felix and the following story takes you through a new continent in the land of Weyard as you strive to light the elemental lighthouses in order to bring Alchemy back into the world and bring a new golden age to humanity. Along the way you meet old characters from the first game, as well as new allies and foes. The story is well told and well paced. Despite being for a handheld, the game has astonishing length to it and the story remains captivating and emotional through the entirety of the story. There are a few moments that can feel stretched out and dry, but they are far and few in this game. Camelot, the developers have done well to create interesting three dimensional characters that the player can relate to with ease.
The characters in this game are infused with elemental powers called "Psynergy," and the different types of powers are divided into the four elemental groups. Fire is related to Mars, water to Mercury, earth to Venus and air to Jupiter. Along with the basic elemental powers, there are other powers that can be used out of battle to solve the various puzzles around the world. The proper use of said powers results in new areas of the dungeons and towns being revealed for you to explore. This can mean new treasures and summons for you to use in the upcoming battles. You can collect a number of small beasts known as Djinn, which are used in two ways. The first use is their individual powers that vary from physical attacks, to healing powers, to buffs for the characters. Using the Djinn in such a way brings them to their standby state, which allows their second use, summons. Using a combination of various Djinn can result in powerful summons that inflict heavy damage upon the enemies in the game. It is an interesting spin to combat that is fun and interesting to use.
The battles are your standard random encounters along with the plot related bosses. The battles are turned based and bring nothing new to that area, save of course for the relationship between the Djinn and the summoning mechanics. In addition to those the player can use physical attacks with the various weapons you acquire throughout the story and the various offensive and defensive psynergies that your party has. Between these four options battles remain fresh and can avoid the feeling of repetition to a certain extent.
The world you are set to explore is, for the most part, the Eastern part of Weyard with most of the Western Continents being blocked off from the player. Not to say that the world is small though, if anything it is the opposite of that. There is a large sprawling ocean to explore as well as the various islands scattered throughout it, each with something to offer to the player, whether it be Djinn or Summons. These are usually located in various dungeons that require puzzle solving and use of various Psynergies to get through. This adds a refreshing change from the combat and challenges you intellectually while offering interesting rewards for completing them. The game is an interesting and fun mix of puzzle solving and turn based combat and neither feels like it over shadows the other.
As with any game Golden Sun does have its share of niggling faults that stop it from being a perfect game. The first and most prominent is the extreme use of text based cutscenes at the beginning of the game that may turn off many players. The plot of this game can also be confusing to those who have not played the first game, which can be seen as an almost understandable shortcoming, but does detract from the experience for some. There is also a steep difficulty curve with boss battles, usually resulting in a lot of grinding between boss battles that can make the battle system outstay its welcome. The final flaw is that when shown the huge scope of the map you can explore, there is sometimes little direction in where you are supposed to go in order to advance the plot. These end up being small nitpicks that can be overlooked for the outstanding narrative and interesting story presented to you.
There are few JRPGs and few games in general that manage to find themselves on the same level as Golden Sun. This is an outstanding game and even more impressive that it remains a simple handheld game. If you are a person who enjoys the occasional JRPG or RPG in general, this is one to look into. It has a large amount of features that easily outweigh the few flaws that the game has and makes an excellent collection to any handheld's assortment of games. My advice would be to play the original first, but even on its own, Golden Sun: The Lost Ages is an excellent game and has my recommendation for immediate purchase.
This game was purchased and played on the Gameboy Advance System. 100 hours were devoted to the single playthrough