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Golden Sun: The Lost Age Review

Developer: Camelot Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: April 14, 2003 Also On: None

I can remember when I first played Golden Sun having bought it on clearance. Having only ever been accustomed to turn-based RPGs at the NES level, I was nervous about playing a newer one. I was worried that the special features would make the game too complicated for me to comprehend fully, and I was also worried that I would get annoyed by repetitive spell and summon animations. Luckily, Golden Sun proved to be close enough to what I was familiar with that I was able to enjoy and ultimately beat it.

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Fast forward a couple years. Even though I bought Golden Sun: The Lost Age upon its first price drop, I somehow managed to become lost in it near the beginning and consequently gave up on it. Yet my fond memories of the original caused me to go back to it a few weeks ago, and this time I was able to figure out what I had missed before and ultimately come out victorious. Even though not much of the premise of the game has changed, I must say that I found The Lost Age to be as impressive, if not more so, than its predecessor.

For those of you who have played the original but have not played this one, it is sufficient to say that very little of any major significance has changed. If you enjoyed the first Golden Sun, you will enjoy The Lost Age as well, and if you disliked the original, you will likely dislike this one as well. For those of you who haven’t played the original, allow me to go into more detail.

Although the graphics were barely touched at all compared to the original Golden Sun, having been improved ever so slightly, if at all, they still look quite good for 2003. I’ll admit that they might not look the best on a Game Boy Player in all cases, but on the smaller GBA or DS screen, they look excellent, easily rivaling the quality of the other best games of the period. It is sufficient to say that the graphics are quite good.

What can be said about the sound? True, most of the sound effects are borrowed from the original Golden Sun, but they still sound just as good as they did in the original. Some of the music is also borrowed from the original Golden Sun, but it is very good music, as is the music that was specially created for The Lost Age. Each dungeon has its own melody, each boss seems to have its own battle melody on top of the normal random battle melody, and even the melodies for the towns vary. All of the music feels very appropriate for the situation, whether it is a situation of melancholy nature or of celebratory.

Before I get into the gameplay, I should say something about the story of the game since this is an RPG after all. This game suffers from the same flaw that its predecessor did, namely, that the cutscenes are overlengthed and tell a story that sometimes seems to lack depth. Most of the cutscenes are quite lenghty, and this will annoy some people, especially in the situation of a long cutscene right before a boss battle that has to be sat through each time you face the boss if you don’t win the first time. I should also mention that you will be a bit behind on the story in some ways if you haven’t played the original Golden Sun since this game’s story is the continuation of the story of that game. As I said earlier, I am accustomed to NES era turn-based RPGs and thus don’t expect much in terms of story, but if you are expecting an epic with fifty million unexpected plot twists, look elsewhere.

Anyway, the gameplay is fairly standard RPG fare. You have your typical menu of options, including physical attacks, magic (called Psynergy in the Golden Sun universe), item use, and parrying. You also have the ability to use Djinn or summon them. Since I am confident you all know how a normal battle system works, I will just say that the battle system in this game executes itself well and that the spell and attack effects, while they can get repetitive after a while, are not so long as to induce boredom on the part of the player.

With that said, only the Djinn system needs explaining, as it is the only unconventional feature of the Golden Sun franchise. As you progress through the game, your characters will collect Djinn both on the overworld map and in towns and dungeons. Each one has a specific impact on each character should it be set to them which varies depending on the elemental classes of the character and the Djinn. A character can unleash a Djinn at any time, but they lose whatever advantages having that Djinn set to them had.

After Djinn have been unleashed like this, they can be summoned singularly or in groups to cause attacks, the larger of which can bring massive damage upon your enemies. After being summoned, a Djinn will need to recover for a few rounds before he is set again. This system will take a while to get used to, but once you get used to it, random battles in particular, and even many boss battles, will become an absolute joke.

That is the main problem with the gameplay in terms of the battles is that the Djinn can be abused to make battling easy if you know what you’re doing. However, there is just enough plot to this game to make you want to keep going, to keep a sense of urgency before you. But the true fun of this game isn’t in the random battles, but rather in the dungeons.

You see, this isn’t a game where all you have to do in a dungeon is walk from point A to point B without an enemy group killing you. Instead, you will have special Psynergies for such things as moving objects, forming ice statues out of water puddles, and a multitude of other such things. These Psynergies will be used for puzzles within the dungeons, most of which have only one set way to solve them. These puzzles aren’t the type of thing that you’ll necessarily need to have a walkthrough for all the time, but they are not blatantly obvious either.

These features make this game worth playing even if you have never played its prequel, but I would still recommend picking up and playing the prequel also, and for good reason. You see, as much as there is to do in this game by default, more will be available for you, particularly in the area of sidequests, but also in the area of Djinn and other things to find, if you are able to transfer clear data from Golden Sun to this game, which can be done either through a link cable or a password. Some Psynergies that are unique to the first game are necessary to get into some areas or to some items in The Lost Age, and the first game’s characters will not carry over those Psynergies when they join you later in the game unless you transferred data over before they joined you.

All told, even without the extra accesible stuff from transferring data, this game clocks in at forty hours or more depending on how you do on the puzzles. For a GBA game, that is simply phenomenal. The plot in this game is a bit thicker than in the last game also, and more summon options and class combinations have been added. As if that isn’t enough, there is even a multiplayer mode available where you can link two copies of the game together and have your party fight another human opponent’s party, or you can enter this arena against random monster combinations and see how many combinations of monsters you can beat before you get wiped out. This all serves to make Golden Sun: The Lost Age a game that has few flaws and that is therefore highly recommended for any fan of turn-based RPGs.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 8.5
Written by Martin Review Guide