In this first retrospective I’m looking back at one of my favorite role-playing games of all time, Golden Sun for Game Boy Advance. I loved it from the start and the story really takes you in. It released back in 2001 and the graphics were really good at that time. Especially the spells really did it for me. By now I have finished Golden Sun four or five times with the last time being the Wii U Virtual Console-version last year. If you are not familiar with this underrated gem be sure to read on.
Golden Sun is a typical Japanese role-playing game. If you love JRPG’s and haven’t heard of Golden Sun before you are missing out. Golden Sun is for me what Final Fantasy VII is for many RPG-fans. The story is a standard JRPG one with there being four elemental lighthouses which are deactivated because activating them will bring forth the end of the world. The bad guys try to activate them all and you are “the chosen one” to stop them. This might seem a bit boring but the storytelling in this game is absolutely great. The story constantly surprises you and there are loads of side stories implemented in the main storyline. All these side stories have the depth they need and make your characters progress towards their ultimate goal. Isaac, Gareth, Mia and Ivan are the main characters in this game. Isaac is a Venus adept, Gareth is a Mars adept, Mia is a Mercury adept and Ivan is a Jupiter adept. In Golden Sun these equal earth, fire, water and wind meaning each character can use elemental psynergy (the name for magic in Golden Sun) fitting their affinity. In the main storyline you really get to know these four characters, learn their hardships and learn what their view on the world is. This really draws you into the story.
Golden Sun’s four element-theme
Besides the awesome story and the great characters, the gameplay was topnotch as well. Many classic JRPG’s fail to implement gameplay while running around dungeons and cities. Golden Sun does a great job at implementing puzzley gameplay-elements outside of battles. The four elements-theme is everywhere in Golden Sun and all spells are based on one of the elements or a combination of those. Not only in battle do you have to use these spells but also to complete the puzzles in dungeons. You have to use an Ice-skill on a puddle of water to create a pillar to step on while sometimes you have to use fire to smelt the pillar because it’s blocking your way. The puzzles weren’t really hard but were different every time meaning you had fun solving them.
Having finished the game at least four times everything starts to get a bit easier as I know what places to go, what items to get and where to find all the Djinn. The Djinn are small elemental beasts which you can find everywhere in the world of Weyard. Some will join you by just “talking” to them while you have to beat some others in battle for them to join you. The Djinn-system makes Golden Sun unique as it adds a lot of depth to the battlesystem. You could use the Djinn to add powers from different elements to one of the characters creating new skillsets. This also made it possible to get some otherwise unobtainable skills which you needed to grow plants for example. You could only get this psynergy by combining Venus (earth) and Mars (fire). It makes for interesting choices and gives you new ways to defeat your enemy’s. Djinn also upgrade your characters stats meaning you really have to find all the Djinn to make your life easier.
The boss fights in Golden Sun are really memorable. There are some really hard bosses in this game and the hardest one is a secret optional one. This boss will completely destroy your party if you are not prepared. Each area has its own boss which could be a real wall if you didn’t collect all Djinn. On your first playthrough there will be moments that you have to grind a few levels but its really minimal compared to most other JRPG’s. What is even more memorable than the bosses however are the summons you could do by using the power of some of your Djinn. You can drain your Djinn meaning they wont give you a power boost for a couple of turns to make summons available. These summons are outrageous attacks with great visuals that deal tons of damage. I can still remember the first time summoning the strongest earth summon. It looks like it destroys the whole world as you can see in the video below.
There is so much more to tell you about Golden Sun, the world of Weyard has it’s secrets, the music is legendary, there are loads of skills, the items have special attacks and in the end you find out there is a second game to play. Golden Sun is still a very enjoyable JRPG to play. Time doesn’t really affect JRPG’s which means the gameplay and music is still as good as any other experience you can get. The graphics are like any other old JRPG but better. The spell effects still look great and the character design is still very likable. If you enjoy JRPG’s I insist you go get Golden Sun and try it out as it’s one of the best out there. Be sure to get the original one for Game Boy Advance tho as the reboot on Nintendo DS wasn’t too good. If you don’t have a Game Boy Advance but do want to play this epic JRPG be sure to check the Nintendo eShop on your Wii U. Golden Sun has been available for a while there. When you finish Golden Sun you can also get Golden Sun: The Lost Age as well! Do you have any fond memories of Golden Sun? Share them here!