Return To A Lost Age Of Boring Storytelling And Enjoyable Puzzle-Solving - Golden Sun: Dark Dawn - Nintendo DS - www.GameInformer.com
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Golden Sun: Dark Dawn

Return To A Lost Age Of Boring Storytelling And Enjoyable Puzzle-Solving

It’s been around seven years since the second Golden Sun game, The Lost Age, was released for the Game Boy Advance, but 30 years have passed in the world of Weyard, home to the Warriors of Vale. In this chaotic world, that passage of time is the perfect excuse for what is essentially a completely new setting. Gamers who played the first two games will run into a handful of recognizable towns and characters, but landmarks have shifted around considerably and new nations and rulers have come into power.

Aside from a few callbacks here and there, Dark Dawn probably isn’t going to provide as much fan service as the hardcore Golden Sun faithful might hope for, but that also means that the game is very easy for newcomers to jump into. In fact, it’s not just the story that’s easy for gamers of all experience levels to get a grip on.

The combat system has been dumbed down from the already simple style of the first two games, making it incredibly easy even if you’ve never played an RPG before. Characters level up at blazing speeds, and within hours you’ll have more powerful spells and Djinn -- elemental creatures that give you bonus abilities -- than you’ll know what to do with. Once you use Djinn in battle, you can call on screen-filling summons that can be used multiple times in that encounter, making even the longest boss battles a cakewalk.

Players familiar with how to play an RPG will find themselves mindlessly mashing through most of the battles, and the plot isn’t going to do much more to keep you awake. By hour 10, I had run into no less than five different ancient civilizations that I didn’t have motivation to care about or keep straight. Both the heroes and villains are shallow, driven forward by fetch quests that pile on top of each other at a comical rate.

The biggest change in storytelling from the previous Golden Sun releases is a new emotion system that allows you to choose how the silent protagonist responds to other characters. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell what choosing a specific emoticon means in any given situation. Sometimes the mad face means he responds with anger and other times with defensiveness, and it’s impossible to discern who the emotion will be targeted toward beforehand. Unlike other RPGs with extensive dialogue choices, your attitude doesn’t actually affect the game in any way, which makes the whole system feel superfluous.

Despite all of these problems, I found myself having a lot of fun with Dark Dawn mostly thanks to one aspect of the game: puzzle solving. The eight playable characters come pre-loaded with tons of magical abilities that are used like tools in a Zelda game. From freezing puddles of water to form platforms to crushing rocks with a giant psychic fist, you’ll need to use all of the powers you have to navigate the various ancient ruins scattered around the world. This blend of exploration and logic takes up a big enough portion of the game to make up for many of its other shortcomings.

If you’re searching for a first-class RPG with great writing and complex combat, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn shouldn’t even be on your radar. But if you can handle an unhealthy dose of JRPG stereotypes and don’t mind breezing through encounters, some fun is waiting to be unearthed here. Gamers looking for an easy introduction to the genre or fans of Zelda-style environmental puzzles should give it a shot.

User Reviews:

  • 9.75
    When comparing Golden Sun Dark Dawn to the previous two titles, you just have to sit back and just look at how far this game has come. From sprites to full 3D models, from the Gameboy Advance to the DS, this game has really progress, and it has taken quite some time to do so. Gameplay-wise, this game...
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  • 8.00
    Golden Sun is nice, decent hand-held game that lives up to your expectations and doesn't do much else. Never having heard of the series too long before the release of this game, I played the first two entries in the series to gear up for it and after playing Dark Dawn, I found all three to be remarkably...
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  • 8.00
    Back in 2001, as the gaming world was entering a new generation of consoles and games, the "golden age" of the RPG was fading into memory. And then a little game called Golden Sun for the brand-new GBA came and rocked our worlds with its stellar graphics, mind-bending, intuitive puzzles, and...
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  • 8.00
    It's been several years since the last entry of Golden Sun, and this year, we are finally able to play the next part of Camelot's RPG series. Golden Sun, Dark Dawn takes place thirty years after the golden sun phenomenon of the previous game when the Warriors of Vale helped to save the world...
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