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Capsule Review - Golden Sun

Title Golden Sun
Developer Camelot
Year 2001
Platform GBA
Capsule Rating
Capsule Review:

Here's a fairly pointless RPG for Nintendo's portable console, the Game Boy Advance. This game doesn't have any fatal flaws, but that's mostly because it doesn't try to accomplish anything. It's good to see that people are still interested in making 2D RPGs, and this one looks good - the sprites and backgrounds are bright and cheerful, the characters have detailed portraits and so forth - but the thing is, it contains nothing original. How many times have you heard this before? The protagonist's girlfriend gets captured by bad guys, so he has to go and save her, while discovering great secrets about his own abilities and about the inner workings of the universe. There are scenery-chewing villains in capes! Dumb but well-intentioned supporting characters! Wise old men! Cute summoned monsters! And a turn-based combat system in which you deplete the enemy's HP by a devious combination of magical and physical attacks!

In some ways, this game reminded me of the first Breath of Fire and Lufia titles. Both were 2D RPGs that tweaked the style in very minor ways. Breath of Fire let you transform into dragons and shoot animals on the overworld map, whereas Lufia had some puzzles, but overall the action was extremely generic, full of random battles against cookie-cutter fantasy enemies. In Golden Sun, you get to interact with your environment by using Psynergy for telekinesis, but the random battles pile up like it's 1988. Seriously: remember how, in Final Fantasies I and II, if two of your characters targeted the same monster, and the first guy killed the monster, then the second guy missed with his attack, thus wasting his turn? Well, it's like that here, except he'll defend instead. Why they made it that way, I'll never know.

Now, some games have unashamedly embraced the traditional RPG style, and deliberately don't try to come up with amazing new gameplay systems. And that's fine, but the best of those games, like LUNAR or the first two Suikoden games, usually have more fast-paced gameplay, as well as a well-written story with well-developed characters. In Golden Sun, the quality of the translation is quite good: the days when American gamers had to settle for grammatical mistakes and incoherent one-liners are gone forever. But that just underscores the fact that the game has nothing to say. The story contains many cut scenes, which consist of the very generic characters walking around and ponderously discussing standard plot devices, or asking obvious questions. So, this game is competently made, but it's totally uninspired.