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Golden Sun: The Lost Age

Anyone who knows me will tell you how much I loved the original Golden Sun. Usually, I don’t bother to play through a game. However, Golden Sun was a different story. Having played through it three times, I was quiet tired of it and ready for a worthy sequel to such a great game. I’m still waiting for that one, but in the meantime I have Golden Sun: The Lost Age. Now, don’t get me wrong, GS: The Lost Age isn’t a bad game. No, GS: TLA had the potential of easily surpassing its predecessor, with only a few minor changes and a story that was more together and thoughtful. Camelot however did not fix anything from the original Golden Sun, and only added more annoyances into the game, rather than rethinking some of the questionable decisions of the first. The result: a game that feels nearly 2 years old that just isn’t fun a majority of the time.

GS: TLA picks up right where Golden Sun left off. For those who haven’t played the first, I strongly suggest that you pick up the first Golden Sun and play through it, for two reasons: first, it’s better than this game, and secondly, it will make the story in GS: TLA much easier to follow. GS: TLA picks up right at the end of Golden Sun, from a different perspective however. You begin by controlling Jenna and Kraden, whom you were supposed to rescue in the first. Deep inside the Venus Lighthouse, they are told that the lighting of the lighthouse is about to begin, and it’s time for them to go outside. Well, with the lighting of the Lighthouse, all hell breaks loose, and a massive earthquake tears apart the continent. Of course, the island that Jenna and Kraden are upon is torn from the mainland, and begins drifting out to sea, only stopping when it runs into a new continent…

*YAWN*

I really wasn’t expecting something like that to happen. Of course, our adventurers awaken on the new island, talk for a bit, and decide to explore. Now, I’m a fan of exploration. One of my favorite games is Morrowind, a game completely built around exploration. But at least there is a point to it, that being bettering your character and finding new, exciting areas. GS: TLA doesn’t do this very well. You see, I wandered for a good long while until I finally found a town, and I learned practically nothing, except some bit about a rock. So, I sought out this rock.

One of my favorite things about GS was all the dungeons and puzzles. They were challenging and often required you to go through a number of steps to solve them, unlike other games. They’re back in GS: TLA, but instead of keeping the same formula, Camelot decided that they would just make the dungeons much bigger and the puzzles much harder. It took me five hours just to figure out the first dungeon alone. That’s disgusting. The really neat thing about that is I discovered that’s not even the area I was supposed to be in. I wasted 5 hours wandering about a place I didn’t even need to be. I found where I was supposed to go, and the dungeon didn’t take too long, because at this point I was mad and bought the strategy guide.

Once I figured out where the hell I was supposed to go, the game progressed as expected. The story line revolves around the same purpose of the first game, that being the lighting of the four elemental Lighthouses. Once these are all lit again, alchemy will flow freely again around the world. Two were lit in the first GS, and now the last two are about to be lit, once they’re found. The story also progresses the same way that it did in the original GS, through long, drawn out, often cryptic periods of dialogue that lead to more questions than answers. The dialogue is especially bad because the character development is practically non-existent, so not only is it boring, but you don’t care, an especially bad scenario. 

Gameplay consists of the same formula as in the original GS as well. The Djinn are back in action, which are still pretty fun to collect. For those who don’t know, Djinn are little creatures that you can collect that aid you during battle, providing you with increased stats and new magic, or psyenergy as it’s called in GS: TLA. There are over 35 new Djinn found in GS: TLA, all waiting to be collected. One of the coolest things with the Djinn is the ability to summon an elemental after using them. Just like the summons in the Final Fantasy series, you can call upon the Djinn to deliver a powerful attack on to your foe. This has been kept in the sequel, however now you can combine different element Djinn together to have a wider-variety of attacks.

Nearly everything outside of the characters and some of the environments is the same as it was in the original, and that extends to the battle system. The battle system is incredibly basic, and most battles involve you just using your most powerful attack over and over, and then summoning, and then if the creature is still around using your most powerful attack again. Perhaps it’s just boring to me because I played the hell out of the first one, or perhaps it’s because they didn’t even fix the main problem I had with the original battle system. Nearly every RPG, outside of Golden Sun of course, allows you to have your characters all gang up on one enemy. If that enemy dies before all your characters attack, the character that hasn’t attacked moves on to the next foe in line. This makes the battles go much faster. However, if an enemy dies in GS: TLA and you haven’t attacked, than the character that hasn’t attacked just defends, slowing down the battling. It’s a minor annoyance that could have easily been fixed, but it wasn’t.

Graphically, GS: TLA looks nearly exactly like GS, which isn’t a bad thing at all. The battle animations are incredible, and summons still look incredible. Character animations are fairly well done as well; in battle they raise their arms up and are easily distinguished, as are the enemies. The world map is a little pixilated still, but the map is even bigger than it was in than in the first game, so I can’t complain. Towns and dungeons are equally well done, but the NPCs don’t really do anything except stand in the same spot, which is kind of strange.

The audio is a mixed bag. One the one hand, you have a bunch of incredible songs, and on the other you these annoying character voices. When they’re talking, they make this stupid high-pitched noise that just bothers me. Fortunately, that can be turned off, and the music shines through. I seriously thing that GS: TLA has the best music of any game on the GBA, which really isn’t a challenge in retrospect.

Perhaps I’m just tired out of the same old GS formula, or perhaps Camelot was just lazy and released the same game again with just a few minor changes. I’m thinking it’s the last part. Perhaps they were rushed, but I doubt it, considering they’re owned by Nintendo and they don’t rush anything. Overall, it’s the same GS with a new coat of paint sadly.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

Gentle persuasion

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