If any of you have ever moved out of your parent’s house, part of the sad process is that, inevitably, many of your treasured possessions will end up being stuffed in bags and exiled to some dingy part of the house to make way for a study room/shoe room/shrine or whatever. Or maybe that was just my parents. Upon a recent trip back to my former residence I decided to salvage as many of my treasures as possible which happened to include a long forgotten original GameBoy Advance in a lovely shade of purple.
I couldn’t resist hunting down some double A batteries, hiding from any direct sunlight (no back lighting back in the day) and whacking on Golden Sun to really get the retro-vibes going. If you have read many of my other posts, you will be aware that I hold the Golden Sun franchise in high regard indeed, but have never written on the subject specifically. So here goes nothing.
For those of you who aren’t familiar (or are horribly young and don’t even remember when GBA’s were a thing) Golden Sun is a turn-based RPG strategy game following the story of a young Adept gifted in Psynergy, a magic-like force derived from each of the four elements: fire, water, earth and air. Each Adept in your party will be able to draw on a different element of Psynergy which have different effects: air Psynergy grants the power to read minds and summon whirlwinds, earth magic grants telekinesis for solving puzzles etc. Different elements also allow the use of different spells in combat, and can be supplemented in power and effect by collecting and defeating elemental Djinn which can be found on the world map and in dungeons.
These Djinn can be mixed in different ways for each character to grant changes in class and stats, available spells etc. So far, pretty solid RPG fare. However, these Djinn can also be used in combat to unleash powerful attacks themselves, but will cause the users stats to drop the more Djinn are used. Once these Djinn are used they are put into standby, where they can then be used to summon massive elemental attacks. It sounds complicated but really it is quite intuitive and engaging as a battle system and always feels fast paced and rewarding.
In terms of graphics, obviously the GameBoy Advance era isn’t going to cause any jaws in the PS4 era but the characters are all incredibly well designed, the monster avatars are interesting and varied and the bright colours of the world map and battle animations are pleasantly refreshing and, well, artsy in style. In particular, the Djinn summons really are quite spectacular. This is all augmented by a very well composed musical score both on the world map and in dungeons/battle (as many GameBoy Advance had) as well as a storyline which is both interesting and classic (although not necessarily that original, but that’s most RPG’s for you.) Not to give too much away, but the story starts off with your gold old fashioned evil dooers breaking into a sacred sanctum and stealing the elemental stars which causes a chain reaction which destroys our heroes home town. Que dramatic quest to slay the bad guys, retrieve the stars and save the world etc.
The dungeon design in this game is excellent, particularly in the elemental lighthouses which make up the games main story points, but generally the caves and other locations of battle are also to a very high standard. The boss fights in this game are similarly great, both being challenging and fun in equal measure. Again, as I say pretty frequently in these posts, those who are dead set against RPG games are probably not going to warm much to this game, but for everyone else who is looking for a good retro RPG experience you can’t do much better than this. Unless, of course, you go for the sequel, Golden Sun: The Lost Age which is pretty much more of the same but bigger and more streamlined.