Developer: Camelot Software
Release Date: 11/29/2010
Rating: Everyone 10+
Available Exclusively On
The Good: Beautiful visuals and art direction, deep and fun combat, plenty of stuff to do and collect, huge world with lots of optional content, easy to level up
The Bad: Gets complex, obtuse, cryptic, and labyrinthine about 10 hours in, final boss is so powerful it feels unfair, long winded, lore and story are uninteresting, cheesy and cliche dialog
I can count on two hands the amount of JRPGs I have actually finished from start to finish. I’m not a completionist with these games as they are long-winded, difficult, and usually very complicated and complex. Golden Sun is no exception. It starts out like a light hearted easy going JRPG, but then things turn around quickly once you get into the meat of the game.
That’s not to say Dark Dawn is bad at all, but it’s the only Golden Sun game I’ve actually played. I dabbled in the first game a bit but never got through it. The first things that got me hooked in Dark Dawn were the visuals, some of the best on the system, and the deep combat system. Golden Sun isn’t just about attacks and magic powers. The lore uses elements of the Earth to create Psynergy that each hero can harness and unleash which you will use more than regular attacks. Djinni are little creatures that you can equip to enhance stats, add new psynergy powers, and summon giant creatures. The combat system requires quite a bit of strategy and you can’t ignore this Djinn system. You must go around collecting at least half of them or you will never be able to finish the game. This is part of where my issues started to set in.
While combat is deep and complex, and quite fun, the exploration part of Golden Sun is just as deep. Every dungeon is full of puzzles that require you to use your Psynergy powers to pull blocks, grow vines, smash rocks, and slap stuff around. You unlock these powers as you acquire new party members and go along in the game. The game is actually quite large spanning a huge map and a couple dozen dungeons which are quite a lot for a handheld title. Once you get a third through you unlock your ship which allows you to access the rest of this world. There’s are many towns to explore, people to talk to, and weapons and armor to acquire. I never had an issue always having the most powerful stuff as the game is generous with money during battles. I also found this was the easiest game to level up in, but more on that later.
So, while the first few dungeons were easy and just the right amount of hard to figure out, they became obscure and downright confusing and labyrinthine later on. I actually needed a walkthrough for the last half of the game. I had no idea where to go, what to do, and the game requires certain objects to be obtained before you can even continue the story. I would never have known this without a walkthrough. When I got to the final boss I actually had to level up 20 whole levels to beat him because I didn’t acquire all the Djinn in the game. I had to compensate with much higher base stats even though I had the most powerful weapons and armor in the game. Thankfully, at the final dungeon, the enemies are really easy and I could level up every two battles which are something I’ve never seen in a JRPG. The 20 level climb took only about 2 hours which is fast compared to most.
How about the story? Well, there’s a lot of lore here and I appreciated all of it, but it’s just really forgettable and not all that interesting. You start out trying to find a bird feather to power a flying machine you broke then you end up saving the world? The dialog and writing are extremely cheesy and cliche and I just wanted everyone to shut up. The characters are nice, but once again, forgettable. I had higher hopes for the story in this series, the lore and everything is there, but it’s just not very fulfilling.
Overall, Dark Dawn is still one of the best games on the DS and one of the best looking. The graphics are fantastic with clean texture, high res models, and so much detail. The game is just brimming with variety and beautiful locales. I can only recommend this game to the hardest of hardcore JRPG players. The game is so complex and full of optional bosses, hidden weapons, and armor, that won’t appeal to most players. It’s fun and pretty straight forward until about 10 hours in then it gets complex and overwhelming.