Liam Collins ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Style: 1 player
Developer: Camelot Software Planning
Release: November 2001
Game Boy Advanced (GBA)
The world of Weyward is unforgettable, even 13 years on. Stepping into the life of Isaac, players enter a 2D role-playing masterpiece. As evil forces pursue the lost art of Alchemy, seeking it to accomplish their foul purpose, the fate of mankind’s future hangs in the hands of four heroes. You and your companions are the last hope. Armed with powerful weapons, the mysterious creatures known as Djinn and the ability to manipulate magic known as “psynergy,” Isaac and his companions adventure into an uncertain future. Developed by Camelot Software Planning and published by Nintendo, Golden Sun is classic.
In true adventure taking key elements from the greats, games like Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda, Golden Sun builds upon the traditional gameplay of Japanese role-playing games. Taking part in Golden Sun’s ongoing narrative, players are thrust into an epic story. Players interact with a variety of characters, combat monsters, solve puzzles, and acquire powerful magic and equipment as they progress. With four characters in your party and 28 Djinn to collect and allocate, a golden sun rises for gamers and role-playing game fans alike in the first installment of Camelot’s Golden Sun series.
From exploring an expansive world map to scouring dungeons, Golden Sun offers several unique features. From utilizing pipes to guide streams of high-velocity water or using psynergy to maneuver obstacles that block the path forward, tricky challenges are abound. The game’s own turn-based battle system is a new take on the traditional. Players not familiar with turn-based role-playing games may find the combat mechanic complex. Golden Sun’s combat offers players varying options between attacks, items, and Djinn use. Although the focus of the use of magic attacks laces Golden Sun with an innovative touch, the majority of options are easy to access. Players are given physical and magical attacks, mid-battle item use, and the ability to use collected Djinn in battle. The Djinn, personifying the four elements and adding a welcome change to the turn-based formula, can be activated for devastating attacks and summons. Their influence further extends into the manipulation of your character’s statistics and character class throughout the game.
Golden Sun’s combat is painstakingly balanced in difficulty, crafted by developers to ensure that adequately leveled up and equipped characters are given a proper challenge. With every victory the spoils of coins, experience, and the occasional item provides a satisfying experience. With added levels of strategy, and the option to choose an attack’s targeted enemy, players combat a menagerie of foes in both random and compulsory encounters. Defeating a boss, however, certainly comes with a memorable feel of accomplishment and the thrill of victory. You can’t help but feel like a hero as your opponent fades to gray and pixelates into oblivion.
You can’t help but appreciate Camelot’s work when it comes to the design of the gameplay. New mechanics make all the difference in adding a refreshing feeling for the players. With the customization of character class and gear, Camelot’s game is just as easy to pick up as it is to come back to and play over again.
Golden Sun also squeezes in a battle mode for the change of pace. The battle area allows players to battle monsters in an arena or against a friend via the link cable for a little 3-vs-3 action. The arena provides a fun diversion from the story mode, but it does require that both players have a copy of the game and a Link Cable.
After more than a year spent on the development of Golden Sun, Camelot provides players with the classical Super Nintendo style that is regarded as paramount in 2D graphics. Using mode 7 graphical effects, the detail in Golden Sun is truly a sight to behold. Psynergy attacks sparkle and delight as attacks such as plasma storms or calling down the ßdivine sword “Ragnarok” obliterate opponents. With tremendous summons, drawing you in with beautiful 2D cinematography, and impressive character design, Golden Sun brings you back to the golden age of handheld gaming. However, the frame rate does take a hit during a few of the more elaborate animations within the game. Even so, the attention to detail as players move forward is tremendous and stunning.
Golden Sun is not only a visual marvel, it is an impressive 32-bit orchestrated presentation. While the game delivers beautiful art direction in spades, its impressive audio is magnificently composed to convey the mood of both setting and story. The music captivates as much as the art, being diverse throughout. Although there are people who may criticize Golden Sun for its lack of voiced dialogue, it is an understandable omission given the limited storage of the cartridge format. Given the ambition within every other facet of the game, it is minor and is quickly forgotten after taking the time to listen to the amazing musical tracks varied throughout.
Golden Sun undeniably stands at the apex of the Game Boy Advance experience. It’s an intricate experience worthy of being called the best role-playing game to have ever graced a handheld. Players can easily sink 20 plus hours in this gem, taking on side quests and questing for the best equipment. Fans of RPGs will feel right at home playing Golden Sun. With its expansive quest, gorgeous looks, and vivid sound design, Golden Sun is an epic audiovisual experience. For me, nostalgia only makes every play-through finer than the last. Great heroes always forge their own path.
Overall Grade: A+