Yeah, after a crazy-long hiatus, the Golden Sun series came back on the DS. My impressions, after I beat the game.
*start pre-recorded stream of consciousness in 3, 2, 1, … *
So, I finally finished Golden Sun: Dark Dawn.
Really, the game is what one would expect out of the series. Pretty solid combat coupled with some light puzzle solving with Psynergy powers. A few of them are tricky, but anyone that’s been gaming for any length of time won’t get stuck overly long. Several of the log-pushing puzzles pretty much solve themselves.
Graphically, the game looks good. I’m not a big fan of 3D on the DS, but they do an excellent job, at least with the zoomed-out overworld / towns and battles. The former looks pretty chunky and very kiddish when zoomed in, though. It’s kind of the Final Fantasy VII-syndrome, where the models are super-deformed, except in battle. In battle, the characters look quite a bit older, and the models are substantially more detailed. It’s a little blurry, though, which I think was intentional to mask what is probably some sketchy texture work and lower polygon counts than it actually seems.
Sound is okay, but not some of Sakuraba’s best. In fact, I’d say the prior games are much more solid in this category. But some of the areas take the cake for creepy factor, though. I was having flashbacks to the temple stage in Double Dragon II, which also managed to make me cringe back in the day.
Interestingly enough, the game is not very combat-heavy. The random battle rate has been reduced significantly from its predecessors. This also makes it pretty easy to power-level, if you so desire, as experience values have been adjusted upwards a pretty decent amount.
No Golden Sun would be complete without collecting Djinn, and this one’s got it in spades. Trouble is, it’s pretty easy to miss a bunch of them for good. Not cool for anyone that OCDs over this type of stuff. I checked beforehand to see if anything was missable, and there are no less than three points-of-no-return in the game. So I played with a guide to make sure I got all of them, although I didn’t use it to actually figure out how to get them.
The story is just okay. It’s not earth-shattering by any stretch, but it does have at least a few intriguing elements. Much like the other Golden Sun games, your tolerance of the dialogue is going to be directly proportional to your patience. It’s a bit long-winded. I didn’t mind it so much, as the localization is superb, but those who want their RPG to get straight to the point would probably be better served playing something else.
Overall, I’ve got to give it… an 8.75 / 10.0. Great, but nothing new. It scratched the RPG itch. Those that want something a little stronger in the story department are probably better served with Dragon Quest V. And honestly, the Golden Sun series has always felt like a fusion of Shining Force (Camelot’s strategy-RPG series created for the Sega Genesis / Saturn) and Dragon Quest. Not a bad fusion at all, and it certainly explains the series’ continued popularity, despite the extended hiatus between this one and the last in the series. Expect it to last you around 30-35 hours. Longer than the first, a bit shorter than the second. And a cliffhanger ending, to some degree, which might indicate the possibility of a 3DS sequel. That might be pretty sweet.