It has been an unbearably long time between drinks for fans of the excellent Golden Sun RPG series that graced millions of GameBoy Advance consoles in the early 2000s. Rumour after extinguished rumour, the Golden Sun finally rose again and those seeking a substantial quest in the world of Weyard are unlikely to be disappointed.
Golden Sun: Dark Dawn picks up the story 30 years after the Golden Sun event covered in the first two chapters of the game. Don’t worry if you haven’t played any of the earlier games – Dark Dawn will make sure that you are well informed by filling you in on the Golden Sun events piece by piece as you progress through the game in an often annoying “Previously on Golden Sun” fashion. Veterans of the series are likely to remember most of the past details, while the narratives are often of little significance for new players, so much of this serves very little purpose.
Briefly, the Warriors of Vale who saved the world 30 years ago by unsealing the force of Alchemy and causing the Golden Sun event, are now blamed by many because of the destruction caused by this. Ungrateful sods. Unusual phenomenon are causing concern across the land – multiple psynergy vortexes which drain away elemental psynergy (the game’s magical energy) are popping up all over the place.
Our brave Warriors of Vale have been productive in the 30 years that have passed, each bearing a child. Conveniently they number enough to form a party. They send their children into the woods in a trial by fire in search of a Roc feather from a mythical bird, in order to build a Soarwing that will help in the quest to discover more about recent events. So begins an epic adventure with plenty of twists and turns as their quest sends them trekking across the vast land of Weyard, visiting villages, travelling across rough terrains, and puzzling their way through dungeons.
Those familiar with the Golden Sun series will feel right at home from the moment they power up their DS handhelds. Everything feels familiar and nothing has changed significantly when it comes to the controls and combat. There is now support for stylus based controls, but thankfully they are optional because certain actions such as moving around will never work as elegantly as they do with the D-pad. It would seem logical that being able to point and tap through menus rather than pressing left/right/select would make this easier and faster, but ultimately I ended up resorting to traditional controls.
What has changed is that the DS is vastly superior hardware compared to the classic GBA, and considerable effort has gone into bringing the Golden Sun universe alive graphically. The world feels more beautiful and vibrant than ever before, and it is to be applauded that Camelot obviously just churn out a game to ride on the coattails of previous success. Of course the DS isn’t exactly a graphical powerhouse but the visuals are as good anything you will have seen on the platform.
3D cutscenes are used during combat when using summoning powers, and breathe additional life into the already interesting and lively battles. Golden Sun uses traditional turn-based battles but additionally you can call upon companion Djinn (collected during the course of the game much like Pokemon) to aid you in combat. There is an element of risk/reward in using Djinn because doing so allows you to “summon” more powerful attacks (such as summoning a giant dragon to attack on your behalf), but temporarily lowers some of your character’s attribute ratings. Battles are still initiated in the usual “random” fashion for RPGs, but the open-ended nature of how you choose to fight holds the interest more than it might usually.
When you are not fighting, you will spend your time travelling from town to town, exploring villages, and working your way through dungeons, solving puzzles along the way. Puzzles are generally not too difficult, and will often draw upon elemental based psynergy (“magic”). Wind, earth, fire, and water spells blow, burn, or wash away obstructions, or create new pathways – you get the idea.
Even if you aren’t interested in exploring every nook and cranny of the vast land, there will be at least 30 hours of gameplay on offer in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. For anyone looking for a length RPG on a handheld, look no further than this game. It makes no difference if you have played either or both of the previous Golden Sun games – you definitely should play Dark Dawn. Camelot has created a very worthy addition to the series that maintains all the charm of previous games. While it is not without minor faults, it will still be lapped up by hungry Golden Sun fans that have waited 7 long years for this latest chapter.