Golden Sun: Dark Dawn Review

Golden Sun is traditional RPG. If the previous sentence doesn’tt get you at least somewhat excited, then this might be a good time to turn around you and get back to your online first-person shooter. I implore you, though, even if you are not a fan of RPGs, to give Golden Sun: Dark Dawn a chance. It’s the sort of high-quality turn-based RPG that will entertain Super Nintendo veterans, but is open enough to newcomers so that even those without a history of RPG conquest will be able to get into the fighting system and story.

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is a game that remembers its heritage in many good ways. It’s obvious inspirations are games like Chrono Trigger and the 16-bit Final Fantasy titles. There is also just a little spattering of Pokémon in there to appease those who love to collect tiny, battle-ready monsters. You will be selecting fight commands, working out the best magic attacks to use, and dungeon crawling to your heart’s content. It really feels like a Super Nintendo RPG in all the good ways, and expedites some of the more annoying RPG elements of those all-but-forgotten classics. Even the music is full of memorable orchestrations that accentuate the prodigious nature of your quest, much like the classics.

Dark Dawn does a great job honoring the legacy of the previous Golden Sun games, while refreshing those who have forgotten all the events that took place during the original adventures. More importantly though, it allows players who skipped the first two games, to get right into the world, and enjoy the story of the previous games as as secondary subplot. The games are directly linked, and all of the things that happened in the first games have consequences here.

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn puts you in the shoes of the children of the heroes from the first two games. They have their own mission to carry out, and in typical RPG fashion, it takes about seven hours before you figure out exactly what your true motivations are. As you play the game, you will uncover books that reveal animated cutscenes summarizing the events of the previous games. Along with these flashbacks, you also have access to an encyclopedia of character biographies, term definitions, and location descriptions that is easily accessible anytime, including in the middle of conversations. Words that may be unrecognizable to Golden Sun rookies (or forgetful veterans) are highlighted in red, and a simple button press or screen poke will catch you up very quickly.

The amount of information is somewhat daunting, and there is a lot to keep track of, but it goes a long way in establishing a world where real things have happened, and real things can continue to happen. I hope it’s not too much of spoiler to reveal that the actions of the heroes from the first games had a surprisingly large amount of negative effects. In the worst-case scenarios, they accidentally wiped out entire towns, inadvertently killing every inhabitant. It’s an ambiguous world, and your actions don’t always automatically equal good, despite your pure intentions.

The entire story arc and world of Golden Sun is incredibly compelling, but the one-on-one conversations with the people of the world can often be slow moving, with characters frequently repeating themselves to hammer away at established points. You will often find yourself politely yelling at the game to hurry the hell up and get to the action.

The action of the game is as exciting and graphically stunning as it is commonplace for the genre. You have a team of four fighters with assorted offensive and defensive magic and sword attacks that must be appropriately dispersed among randomly appearing monsters. For the most part, it’s all fairly recognizable, but in a good way. It feels like a classic RPG. The Djinn, otherwise known as the "spattering of Pokemon" I mentioned earlier, are the little creatures that set Golden Sun: Dark Dawn apart.

The Djinn are collectible little monsters used to augment your party, and provide some of the largest and deadliest attacks in the game. You can use these little guys to literally summon gods to defeat your enemies. The animations that coincide with their use are always spectacular, and they really show off the graphical power of the DS that I, for one, didn’t know existed. The Djinn are also the inspiration for one of the worst commercials ever. This does not represent what the game is like at all.

[flash width="540" height="328"]http:/[/flash]

When you’re not beating up on monsters or evil people, you spend your time traversing a deceptively linear overworld and solving environmental puzzles with your psynergy (i.e. magic) powers. Moving from town to town and dungeon to dungeon is a pretty linear experience, but Dark Dawn does a good job tricking the player into thinking that the world is open to exploration. Puzzle-solving is a joy, and forces you to use your special psynergy powers in interesting and sometimes unexpected ways. You have to start up fans with wind energy, grow climbable vines with growth powers, or set stuff on fire, among many other traversal conundrums. It makes the time between battles a whole lot more interesting, and makes the game feel a little closer to Zelda than to Final Fantasy.

It would be a stretch to call the game simple, because it can become complicated at times, but it might be a little easy for old-school RPG purists. Item management is unnecessarily restrictive, and the dialogue can drag, but these complaints make up a small portion of the entire Golden Sun: Dark Dawn experience.

With the 3DS only a few months away, there is a justifiable fear that Dark Dawn will get lost in the shuffle to upgrade. It could end up being one of the forgotten gems that released in the twilight of the DS console. Make sure to not let this one pass you by, especially if you are fan of old-school SNES-era RPGs. Golden Sun is great franchise, and Dark Dawn can comfortably stand next to its excellent prequels.

4 out of 5


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Author: Kyle Hilliard View all posts by

Leave A Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.