Anyway, I didn’t love the game, but I didn’t hate it. I loved some parts and hated others. Overall, I think I think it was a decent game, but nothing special, especially if you didn’t grow up playing with it.
That being said, I started playing it over a year ago, got very far and was rather enjoying it, but then hit a point where I needed to grind. Normally, I don’t mind a bit of grinding, or even a lot of grinding. What I don’t enjoy is a game that requires absolutely no grinding until a random point in the game where a tonne of grinding is suddenly needed. So, after repeatedly attempting to win this particular battle, I gave up and stopped playing. I only picked up the game again over a year later. I grinded for two days and tried the damn fight again and beat the game. Seriously. I quit the game for a year when all I had left was one, single, damn fight.
I would be annoyed about all this, but it did force me to relearn how to play the game, which allowed to notice some things about the game I had gotten used to or stopped noticing. The first thing I noticed was how convoluted the combat system was. First, there’s the Djinn (fun fact: I googled “Golden Sun Djinn” to see if “Djinn” is capitalized, and not only did I write “Fire Emblem Djinn” while doing so, but I also did it at the beginning of this sentence.)
So the Djinn. You can find them here and there throughout the game. They have two or three purposes, or four (I forget). First of all, you can “set” Djinn to one party member. This will alter the character’s class, which changes their stats…I think. Setting a Djinn to a particular character will also give them psynergy (basically, what the game calls magic). This is fine. Psynergy is divided into four categories, each named after a planet, but essentially representing the four elements. Each character can have a total of 7 Djinns set. In a battle, you can use psynergy to attack enemies, heal, boost stats, etc. All the stuff you’d expect to be able to do. However, the Djinn can also be summoned for more powerful attacks, and the more Djinn of a certain element you have, the more powerful what you summon will be. This is great, buuuuuuuuut… If you use a level 4 Mars/fire summon, 4 of your Mars Djinn will no longer be “ready.” This means the characters who had Mars Djinns set lose stats AND spells.
Part of me thinks this is almost a neat idea, but most of me thinks the game just should’ve stopped with this nonsense and simply had a cooldown period on summons, as simply going through a few turns in a battle will make the Djinns ready again. Where it got more annoying was in the dungeons while trying to solve puzzles. Setting certain Djinns or combinations of Djinns granted certain abilities that allow you to manipulate or alter the environment, but if you’d used a Djinn for a summon, after a battle, you had to run around a little for it to be ready again, which meant you were just begging for another random encounter.
Another problem was that you might be having some trouble with enemies, so after a battle, you set your Djinn in a manner to gain access to some cool psynergy. Or maybe you did the same thing just to get some good healing psynergy. The problem is that often, the setup for good attack psynergy was the wrong setup for the best healing psynergy, and that neither set up gave you access to the right ability you needed to solve a puzzle. Replace the Djinns here with a special piece of equipment. Imagine having access the game’s menu and equip some gloves to heal yourself, then changes gloves to solve a puzzle, change them again for a second puzzle, but before you solve it, you get a random battle and need to heal after it. Now you have to change again to heal, then another change to solve a puzzle, and then another battle. These battles are tough. It sure would be nice if I could equip the gloves that help me fight. Also, after a fight, the gloves won’t work until you walk around a bunch. I don’t know about you, but I like to think that most people would call this fucking bullshit and hate it. I know I did.
Anyway, here’s a nitpicky list of things that bugged me about the game:
- Characters are always nodding and shaking their heads. It’s like a modern version of the Faxanadu blinking.
- The fate of the world is entrusted to two 17 year old kids who kind of caused the problem to begin with.
- Various squeaks used for “voices” are annoying.
- “Don’t drink the water if it smells funny.” Ok, this didn’t bug me. I just thought it was funny.
- Sound effect for Djinn joining you sound like machines gun sound effects from other games.
- Soooooooo much talking and camera moving around.
For a perfect example of the painfully boring and utterly unnecessary dialog and animation, here’s an example. In Tolbi, you can sleep for free in a certain room in the palace. So, you walk over to a woman who tells you they have enough rooms for everyone and tells you to follow her. She then walks over to the beds. Once she’s there, you can move again, so you walk over to her and speak to her. “You can sleep in these four beds,” she says not pointing anywhere while there are six beds in the room. She then asks if you’ll be sleeping now for no real reason because even if you say yes, you are still free to walk away and not sleep, which is what I did the first time. I think I looked at my tablet or talked to my wife for a second and assumed my characters went to sleep and woke up while I looked away. Sadly, no, as after the woman walks away and you are able to move again, you actually have to walk over to a bed, hit the B button to be asked if you want to sleep now. When you say yes, your character will walk over to the middle of the room to have each of the other three characters in your party separate from you, say something about being tired, and slowly walk to their bed, one by one. THEN, each character will wish everyone a good night and FINALLY get into bed. The screen will then go black for a few seconds and come back for you to have every character wish everyone a good morning before each walking over to the main character again. The whole process, which took seconds in a game like the original Final Fantasy, takes over a minute here.
Here’s an animated GIF of most of this scene, courtesy of Oceanity:
The game isn’t all bad. One thing I liked was its interesting solution to explain enemies getting stronger. The eruption at Mount Aleph (that thing you kinda caused that is ruining everything), threw psynergy stones all over the place. These stones are affecting the animals, turning them into the monsters you fight. The longer the animals are exposed to the effects of the psynergy stones, the stronger the effect, so the enemies keep getting stronger as you progress to new areas.
The story is alright. The music is pretty good. Overall, the game is mostly fun, despite the little things I’ve complained about. What I think really might’ve pushed the game into “great” territory is the “sequel.” Golden Sun and Golden Sun: The Lost Age were supposed to be one game, but it was too big for one GBA cartridge (if Wikipedia is to be believed), so they were split up. In The Lost Age, you actually replay the same game, but this time as the bad guys, giving you a completely different perspective on the same story. Camelot Software Planning, the games’ developper, apparently did the same thing earlier in a couple of the Shining Force games I haven’t played. Still, if I had grown up with a GBA and these two games, I would’ve thought it was pretty amazing, too.
So that’s Golden Sun. I wouldn’t put it on my own list of games I think everyone should play, but I think I can understand why the people who listed it chose two include it on their lists. If someone was a hardcore RPG fan and had played most of the great ones, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it, but if it was someone new to the genre, I think there are many better or more important games to get to first. I will add that the game is rather pretty, I guess.
When I started playing the game, it was somewhere around 130th place. Since then, I’ve been posting forms to make it easier for people to send me their lists. As it stands, the GBA list will be posted next week, followed by the PS2. At that point, all of the console lists will have been posted, which means the GBA list will be the penultimate. A lot of people have been filling out these forms, which is great in general, but not so much for Golden Sun. As a result of these forms, a couple hundred NES, Atari 2600, Genesis, GameCube, and many other consoles’ games have leap frogged it. Golden Sun is currently way off making the cut, sitting in 340th place. It’ll certainly see itself move up quickly as people fill out the GBA form next week. Right?