Review: Golden Sun (Wii U, GBA)
There’s evil out there, and it’s coming to get you, destroy your world and everything you know about it. It’s coming soon and only you can stop it. Yes, this is almost a cliché build up to the game, and it’s one that Golden Sun uses as a premise, but it goes a lot deeper than other games with a similar tagline and that’s where Golden Sun shines brightest.
Golden Sun is an old school JRPG, much like the early Final Fantasy games, the Pokémon games and the likes. Personally, I loved the early Final Fantasy games back in the day, but lately I struggle with turn based combat and the long text chat, the forced battles and the grinding needed, and some of the silly moments that get caught up between the brilliance. For this reason I struggled at the start to get into Golden Sun, but pushing through is well worth it.
Once you get into it you can see just why Golden Sun is so highly rated. Yes, it follows the same formula as many other games and that can at times prove frustrating. At the start, when I got thrown into a forced battle, I could literally feel my teeth grinding at the disturbance to my quest, but you get used to it and the need for grinding and levelling up is well worth it in the end.
That’s because the combat system is just so solid in Golden Sun. In the game you get four characters to play as, each with different strengths and weaknesses in attack and defence. The great thing is that none of the characters feel completely overpowered that you end up not utilising the others, and it’s this balance that makes it so great. You will actually find yourself wanting to grind and pick up new attacks because it just adds so much to the game.
One of the things Golden Sun was praised for was its expanding on the combat system with the introduction of elemental creatures called Djinn. The Djinn are scattered through the world and locating them adds a certain boost to your team in many different ways. Each Djinn has a different benefit such as its own attacks or special skills or even adding to stats of your characters. The balancing and use of the different Djinns is key to success in the game and something that adds a completely new layer of strategy to the turn-based battle system. Experimentation is key (thanks Kyle!) with the Djinn, and finding the correct balance and using the right Djinn at times is absolutely vital to getting past some of the harder levels and boss battles.
Between the Djinns, standard attacks and the Psynergy attacks (basically magic attacks) you have a whole lot at your side to take on the forces against you. Mixing and matching is a real treat in an attempt to find the best fit and really makes it all very rewarding.
I decided to leave the actual story of the game until the half way mark, and even at this point I am hesitant to reveal too much. I can say at the outset that Golden Sun surpassed my expectations in terms of the story it tells. Given the dated graphics and design I was surprised at how intense the story got and how immersed I became in the tale and how much I related to the characters.
Even the emotional aspects of the story hit hard and right from the start. Without revealing too much, your main character is a kid called Isaac, an ‘adept’ and after a tragedy in your home town, and I do mean tragedy, Isaac discovers the source. Now, together with fellow adepts, Isaac must prevent a power called Alchemy from destroying the world as he knows it.
This sets him on the journey, along with other adepts, to stop the enemies who plan to create chaos (or do they?). Isaac meets some interesting characters along the way, and the game is as focussed on building characters as it is throwing you into the action and creating epic battles. It might feel like a bit of a slog at the start, but you will be thankful for it at the end as it ensures you really do get to know each character. It just feels as though so much hard work went into creating personalities for everyone you meet that you can’t help but fall in love with the world and its inhabitants.
Revealing more of the story feels like a bit of a sin, so I suggest you play it to know more. My only frustrating is that it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger which continues in the sequel game and that sadly isn’t on the Virtual Console just yet.
The graphics are hard to judge given the game is 12 years old. For the type of game it is, the graphics are standard for what you expect. It has a great retro feel to it now in its almost top-down view on things. The visuals in the battles are typically turn-based but have some pretty cool effects, and the music compliments it in every way.
Golden Sun is probably a game I would never have chosen to play myself, but I am grateful that I have experienced it now. It’s a quest, journey and adventure that you will be thankful to go on if you decide to play it, and it’s also pretty great value for money considering the time it takes to finish it. I clocked in at a little over 20 hours or so and I really rushed through it a bit. There’s much to explore and even more to love in Golden Sun.
If you are looking for a cheap game that will keep you busy for a long time, you love a good story and can tolerate turn-based combat with forced battles, then the game you are looking for is right here.