There are only a handful of times where there was a game I absolutely HAD to have when I finally had the console I wanted. Mario 64, Pokemon, Final Fantasy VII were all great reasons to have a console and damn sure came close to selling me on them alone but when it came to a hook line and sinker title that I absolutely needed the console to play one game totally rings in my mind. Golden Sun. I remember that Christmas clearly, my new pearl white Gameboy Advance, a copy of Golden Sun, and a copy of …Doom? This was all for nothing as I would consequently go on and lose the console between the cushions of the couch for a solid year and some change before being given another. This was when I was actually able to sink my teeth into the game. That is what we are here for. To look at the good, the bad, and the nostalgic.
The game was an early release to the Gameboy Advance library, coming out only mere months after the console’s launch, made by Camelot, I am going to be 100% honest the one thing I remember about the press for this game was the visuals. And all it takes is one or two screenshots to understand why. The game was absolutely beautiful. A crown example of the GBA’s power for the time, sure the console had a Mario, hell it even had a port of Doom (One of the better overall ports of the game). What made it all the greater was that the game launched well before the next Pokemon game had come out. It was quite the time to be a handheld gamer and even better for someone like me who wanted a new and shiny JRPG for their shiny new handheld
The story, all things considered, is really basic yet it does enough to get you interested, that’s not exactly a shot against the game, but it’s more or less the case. And that to a degree is the fact of the matter, The game is built around the main characters Isaac and Garet and their quest to stop their town from destroyed, during their quest they meet up with 2 other characters, Mia and Ivan who join them on their quest. Look, I realize this seems like an overly simple synopsis of the game’s story but I am being 100% honest when I say the games story beats are not in the least bit complicated, and while the game is old Id sooner you play it for yourself.
The gameplay is absolutely fantastic, mixing what you would expect from Final Fantasy and a nice twist. each character is capable of using this games version of magic called Psynergy this magic works in conjunction with special creatures you find in the game called Djinn. These creatures are found throughout the world in towns, dungeons, and even on the world map itself. One for each of the corresponding elements of the game (and character). Allowing you to create and give your characters new spells that they normally wouldn’t have. For instance, if you gave, Issac (A earth magic user, a fire Djinni, he would be able to use a spell like “grow”. Which allows Issac to make saplings grow into vines and gain access to areas and items. It’s surprising that the game sets itself up as open-ended in that regard. If I were to be 100 percent honest I wish they did more with these abilities outside of a few occurrences. Some of the cooler abilities they allow you to play with only are used once or twice and then left to never be used in any other meaningful context.
The game doesn’t give you A LOT of reason to experiment with the mechanics. Outside of quickly swapping out Djinni simply to get items or access to areas, such combinations tend to lead to a weaker team in general as opposed to just giving each character their own native element. As much as I hate the idea of min-maxing I can’t deny its obvious results. The larger issue is that giving characters their native Djinni you end up with a stronger spell pool, better stats, and all around more powerful team. The bigger question would be why WOULDNT you do it?
Now we can’t talk about an epic RPG without touching on the length and well that’s a touchy subject for such a great game.
The game is super short
Short, I say? Oh very short. To this day I have beaten the game’s story in a short and breezy 15 hours, from start to finish, with little to no grinding ( barring two bosses). Id say most of the game goes at a brisk pace. If you decide to take on the games extra dungeon, and two special bosses. Maybe you would be playing the game a grand total of MAYBE 25 hours or so, and even then that’s being pretty generous. This isn’t a major issue if anything the game is more accessible because of its short length.
You see the game is sequel bait, clear and simple by the time you hit the final “boss” of the game you clearly know the game isn’t “Over”. After the credits roll and you realize “So did I just miss out on half of my video game?”. Now I haven’t been able to prove this If I were to speculate, I’d say the game was rushed out the door to have something really good on the console as early as possible. It feels like they cut the complete game down 4/5ths of the game, leaving the rest of the game for the sequel. What fuels my conspiracy theory is the password system to transfer your progress once you finish the game! YIKES! Sure, the follow up came out a solid year after the original but that still feels little grimy if you ask me. Especially if you shelled out good money for the first game expecting a lengthy epic adventure only to get a glorified beta test and proof of concept as a sold product.
Thankfully these days the game is easily playable with emulators and at least the Wii U offering it for sale there are at least a few ways to still experience the game outside of owning the cartridge. Because you absolutely should play the game, without a doubt, while I admit I have my gripes with the game, It is an experience that RPG gamers should have at least.