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50 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new Dawn for the Golden Sun series.
It wouldn't be quite right to say that the world of gaming was rocked in 2001, when the first Golden Sun game was released. Still, it would also be entirely wrong to say that it generated no enthusiasm; to the contrary, Golden Sun, and its continuation, Golden Sun: The Lost Age, were both solid, highly playable RPG adventures with excellent graphics, catchy music, a fun...
Published on December 3, 2010 by Mary W.

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44 of 56 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It's my own fault, really
It is! It's my fault for being desperate for a good JRPG on my DS. I'm so desperate that I'll pick up the aggressively mediocre spawn of one of my favorite portable RPGs, and you know what? I'll probably even play it to the end. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is a disappointment, made all the more so by the excellent first installment of the series, which came out way back in...
Published on February 18, 2011 by Felllix


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50 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new Dawn for the Golden Sun series., December 3, 2010
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (Video Game)
It wouldn't be quite right to say that the world of gaming was rocked in 2001, when the first Golden Sun game was released. Still, it would also be entirely wrong to say that it generated no enthusiasm; to the contrary, Golden Sun, and its continuation, Golden Sun: The Lost Age, were both solid, highly playable RPG adventures with excellent graphics, catchy music, a fun battle system, and likeable characters, and they were well received by fans and critics alike, the former winning a Nintendo Power Award for Best Video Game in 2001. But for much of the fanbase, a duology just wasn't enough. The ending of the second game left obvious sequel hooks, loose threads were not all neatly tied up, and the ambiguity of the ending only exacerbated the pervading feeling of "then what?". Basically, the story wasn't done. In fact, considering the possibilities unlocked at the ending of the second game, it felt more like it was just beginning. But years passed with no real sign of a third Golden Sun game. There was plenty of talk by the creators of the first two games, and a few hoaxes... but nothing solid.

Not until Nintendo's 2010 E3 presentation, anyway. There it was revealed finally that a new Sun would be rising: There would be another instalment in the series. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is that instalment.

The premise is easy enough to grasp. The world was saved by the Warriors of Vale at the end of Lost Age (in the titular Golden Sun event), but 30 years later, a new threat has risen in the world. Matthew, son of Isaac, the hero of the first game and another character whose identity is kept mum about until well into the game is your player character. Like his father, he is the strong, silent type, a mix of cute young boy and fierce warrior, who is joined by a hotheaded bruiser named Tyrell, a sharp-minded telepath named Karis, and the nerdy scholar-in-training Rief. More characters, some familiar to players of the first two games, will also join up later on to help aid you in your blossoming fight against the world's destruction as the game progresses.

As far as graphics go, Dark Dawn looks nice, with well-matched colors and nostalgic backgrounds. The battle graphics are also rather attractive, although the camera angle here (and only here) can be dizzying, as it tends to move in and out at great speed as characters attack. Things have looked better on the DS, yes, but props must be given for being rather visually appealing while still sticking to the feel of the original two games. In addition to 3D graphics, the game has segments where the display switches to hyperstylized flat drawings resembling illustrations in a child's storybook - Appropriate, as these sections are accounts of the first two games, for players newly picking up the Golden Sun series. More on that in a moment.

Complementing this, Motoi Sakuraba, the composer for the first two Golden Sun games, outdid himself with the music for Dark Dawn, which accomplishes exactly what's needed for the moment without ever being obtrusive or irritating. Old favorites find themselves remixed and interspersed with all-new tunes, and it sounds great.

As a game, Dark Dawn is extremely playable. The menu and field interface is smooth, intuitive and usable, and can be navigated either by touch or control pads. Nothing is particularly novel about the exploration style of the world - standard town/dungeon/worldmap wandering with obstacle courses thrown in - but neither is it bogged down by formula. It's simply not exactly new, and well-travelled RPG fans may yearn for something more.

The battle system is turn based, and is mostly unchanged from past games, though the user interface has been slightly modified to better suit the DS's touchscreen system. With fairly standard options for fights, the most dramatic change from the series' early days is that everything is in 3D. As previously mentioned, the camera's tendency to quickly pan and zoom can be quite dizzying. When not swinging around to show who's attacking what, it remains thankfully quite static as players choose between a fairly standard array of either physical attacks, magical spells (called Psynergy), items, or use of special elemental Djinn, which are one of the stronger points of the system.

One of the things the Golden Sun series was known for was its advanced customizability in the form of the Djinn system. These creatures are collected as the party travels throughout the world, and can be used in battle on their own for a variety of useful effects, used to summon powerful attacks, and/or used to give a character a new class, unlocking spells and stats previously unavailable. Otherwise, battling is simple, adaptable to play preferences, and for the most part not overly challenging. Nor are battles particularly frequent. Battling is not the point of this game, and to judge it harshly on how easy or rare its battles, though perhaps valid, is missing the point.

What is the point? Well, first, puzzle solving. Puzzles range from very basic in concept - classic block puzzles, for example - to more complex obstacle courses that must be manipulated using a range of Psynergy, mental energy that can produce a variety of effects and which sets apart your party as special, from starting a fire to summoning a rainstorm. Difficulty varies; most will likely find the puzzles pleasantly challenging without wanting to beat their head against the wall.

Second, story. No, Golden Sun's plot is not Shakespeare... Nevertheless, lengthy, dialogue-filled cutscreens are used to advance the plot rather regularly, and it's not a bad plot, nor are the dialogue sequences usually tedious. Characters are easy to like, some more than others, and, for players who enjoyed the first two games and connected with the characters therein, continuing the stories of the previous generation is at times amusing, at others quite sad.

One thing that must be made clear is that the Golden Sun games, while well-made and highly playable, are not for everyone, and specifically aren't at all for fans of bleeding-edge action-packed adventures. Dark Dawn, like its predecessors, caters to a slightly different type of gamer who prefers their games to be a little slower and less flashy. Fans of puzzle games, story-driven RPGs, and adventure games (or all three) will likely get the most enjoyment out of this game.

Finally, it's important to look at Dark Dawn as a standalone game independent of its predecessors, despite its status as a sequel. It's been almost ten years since the first game in the series was released; Lost Age was released seven years ago. A long time in the world of gaming, this delay means that, while Dark Dawn will have devoted Golden Sun fans from the olden days flocking to buy it, new players who have never picked up a Golden Sun game before may also be trying out this title. Does it pull its own weight as a game? Well, yes, it does, but only just; events of the past are extrapolated on gently, through use of charmingly-animated story sequences as well as an encyclopaedia system integrated into speech, but it's apparent within the first half-hour that, like many games meant to expand or continue older series, the game is definitely improved by having played the previous entries.

Good graphics, ready playability, a fun, unique Djinn system, and likeable characters help to propel this game out of the realm of strictly average RPGs; lower difficulty and lack of particularly groundbreaking exploration are what primarily keeps it from being a masterpiece. Still, as a whole, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is a title well worth the time and money for players drawn to its genre. Fans of the first two games will probably adore it, and an obvious sequel hook should leave them with anticipation for more; fans of RPGs as a whole may find the title at times hit or miss. I adore it, and have rated it accordingly.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For the GBA gamers who still haven't picked this up., April 29, 2011
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (Video Game)
Having played my way through the GBA iterations of the series (and actually reviewing them nearly a decade ago as a 13yr old), I was pretty much doing backflips when I heard they were finally making a new Golden Sun. I even played through the old ones again to get ready for this one. Unfortunately, we've taken a step backwards. How big a step, though, really depends on what you expect from this game.

---------------------
THE GOOD:
The story gains traction at a decent enough pace, and the game provides plenty of opportunities for newcomers to get familiar with the series in general in creative ways. It's graphics are still pretty captivating and cameras are cleverly used to make battles seem 3D. The GBA Music Composer has been rehired for this game and it shows, his music fits in great. There are a lot of techniques, many hidden that are worth finding and can easily be missed. The dungeon puzzles are awesome and a new hint ability helps newcomers. There's a lot to discover.

In other words, NOTHING about this game is "lazy" and that's oftentimes the number one symptom of an average, 3-Star game. It's a very thought-out adventure and much time has clearly been put on making this a first-rate adventure. All-around, It looks and runs just like a first-party Nintendo Game or something from a respected publisher like Square Enix.

The not so good...two things:

(1) The story, specifically its pacing. Dark Dawn expands on a bad habit that began on the GBA games in that it offers a lot of filler to supplement a story. This one takes that to new levels. Think of the story of this game as a teenager learning how to use the brakes on a car. The game begins with a search for a very important item, for example. (Flooring the pedal) Before you can find it, though, you must find something else. (BRAKE!) In the process of finding that something else so you can get what you needed in the first place, a completely unrelated event or character happens and you're now tied to that. (ANOTHER BRAKE!) This process is the entire game. Even worse little of it is connected to the previous games or this one is general. You find items to go to the next place. The explanations behind finding the items and the conversations your heroes have about them were so irrelevant to the general story I often skipped them. The game unexpectedly darts to a conclusion after, I kid you not, about 25 hours of this. You DO find that very first item, though. I wanted to scream at the game when I found out the item is never used.

(2) The gameplay, specifically the difficulty level. Dark Dawn simply offers the player too many ways to win now. This is particularly disheartening because fantastic battle mechanics fail to poor execution of the mechanic itself. Imagine fighting enemies, always choosing "Attack" and winning 9 times out of 10. Baddies, Bosses, Bosses with Baddies. No thought, no risk, no challenge. Having just played the GBA iterations, this isn't me.

Now, imagine yourself in a battle where only two out of four of your guys are still alive and you're debating whether or not you should risk bringing somebody back to life fast enough in hopes of the slower guy healing all three of you before the boss knocks everything out. The guy you bring back to life is a speed demon if it all works out and she/he can protect all three of you from damage the following turn.

Doesn't that sound a little more interesting? The game CAN DO THIS like the GBA Golden Sun games did. Battles got to be exciting in the GBA games! But Dark Dawn never truly eggs you on until the final boss. And by that time, you've gotten so used to basically pressing ATTACK MAGIC MAGIC ATTACK to WIN WIN WIN that you're mad at the game for the sudden unexpected challenge.
---------------------

A CONCLUSION:
It's a 5-star game restrained to a 3-star performance at all times. A sports car that always goes 5mph below the legal speed limit. It's not a bad game at all. It has everything you could ever want in an incredible RPG. Rather, for one reason or another, it chooses to never push its envelope. And that's really frustrating.
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40 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly fun & worth the wait!, December 1, 2010
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (Video Game)
I've been playing this almost steadily for the past day & a half, but haven't yet finished the game. (I'll try to update this review after finishing the game.)This entry into the Golden Sun game follows the children of the "Warriors of Vale", which may disappoint those who were hoping to control Issac & company yet again on their journey. Not to worry though, the game creators did a great job of fleshing out these characters & animating them. So on to the review:

Animation: Better than the older games, but that's to be expected. Taking into consideration the time period differences between the three games, players can expect this game to keep up the tradition of having excellent graphics for a handheld game.

Story: Excellent. It's a little slow to start off, but quickly picks up the pace as you play. Like another reviewer has stated, the game is pretty wordy but then, you should expect that from a GS game.

Game Play: Players will be glad to know that you can operate this without a stylus, although using the psyenergy is easier with the stylus than without. The fighting is still turn based like the previous games were, so fans of this style of gaming (like me) will have fun with this. (Additional: I'm further in the game & can see where others are saying that this is an easier play than the previous 2 games. Still some challenge to it, but so far I haven't seen anything along the lines of the Lighthouses or the Gondowan statue so far, though.)

Replay value: I haven't finished it yet, but I can say that this will have some replay value to fans of the GS games or those who like completing all the little tasks they didn't catch the first time through. (I'm going to assume that this game will allow you to go back through the game with your powered up players like the previous two games did.) I will say that the only thing holding some people back from replaying it will be the massive amount of dialogue. If you've played the previous games then this won't deter you, but occasionally I did long for a skip button akin to the one in some of the Zelda DS games.

Standalone: You can easily play this without having to have played the previous two games. In fact, that's probably why part of the game is devoted to defining key players, locations, & events in the game. (It doesn't interefere with game play, with the definitions showing up on the upper screen of the DS while the action takes place below. Looking at the definitions is completely optional.) If you look hard, there's also books that you can pick up in various places in the game that give you the story of what happened before. Of course I recommend playing the first games, though- they're worth tracking down!

Overall this is an excellent game & I'm glad that I stalked my local GameStop on the day this released so I could be one of the first to get it. While there's some recycled content from the previous games as far as puzzled go, overall this was a pretty fun game to play. Better than the first two? No, unfortunately those who are looking for something to beat the first two games will be slightly disappointed. Is it good as a game on its own? Yep- as a stand alone game this is pretty good. I just hope it doesn't take them another six years to put out another entry in the game!

Annendum: (after finishing game)

I just wanted to say that after finishing the game, my opinions are quite similar to what they were when I started & wrote this review. I had a lot of fun playing this game & while it isn't as challenging as the original two were, it's still a pretty cool game.

There is a replay option, but it is rather limited in comparison to how it was in the previous two games where you could replay from the very start of the game. :(
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44 of 56 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It's my own fault, really, February 18, 2011
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (Video Game)
It is! It's my fault for being desperate for a good JRPG on my DS. I'm so desperate that I'll pick up the aggressively mediocre spawn of one of my favorite portable RPGs, and you know what? I'll probably even play it to the end. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is a disappointment, made all the more so by the excellent first installment of the series, which came out way back in 2001. The sequel, Golden Sun: The Lost Age, well-reviewed but unplayed by me, came out back in 2003. I'd always wanted to pick it up if I found it for cheap, but haven't had the opportunity. Now I'm not so sure.

The gameplay of Dark Dawn is fairly standard turn-based RPG fare, which is just fine with me. There aren't enough games of that description coming out anymore, and even Square's Final Fantasy series doesn't really fit the mold anymore. The problem isn't with the underlying system, which hasn't evolved much since 2001 and doesn't need to, but the balance of the game. Somehow, and I have no idea how this happened, Dark Dawn manages to have very few random battles and simultaneously be easier than just about any RPG I've ever played. I'm not asking the game to make me grind, but at 15 hours I have yet to use an item for healing. I also have yet to have a character knocked out. The last 2 boss battles are the first ones where I've needed to heal at all.

I never thought I'd complain that an RPG had too few random battles, but here it is; Golden Sun: Dark Dawn has too few. Since they're so easy, one can blow through them by tapping A over and over again to use the regular attacks with no strategy, no peril, and no challenge.

And that's not getting into the lack of boss battles. It used to be standard procedure- finish a dungeon, there's a boss. The bad guy shows up? Fight his underling, and/or him. Creepy plant look at you funny? Kill it dead. But for some reason, modern RPGs miss this, and Dark Dawn is a particularly bad offender. Somehow, the developers thought that after a long conversation with the game's villains, we would be all geared up to... exit the dungeon and return the world map. How hard is this? Color swap some late-game enemies, add a single line of dialogue ("Enough talk! Face this thing I found under my sink!" or some such), and cue the special music. You can even skip a couple of those steps if you're lazy. Just give me more bosses! Or stronger regular enemies! Anything to make the game more challenging!

The basic strategy for any boss battle can be summarized by this; unleash all your djinn, cast the highest-level summon you have, and if the boss is still alive, attack until the djinn are reset and repeat. I've fought one boss so far that lives through the first step. I assume the game thinks that unleashing djinn is a trade-off to the increased stats that they grant, but honestly? I never even noticed. A risk-reward system of this type would be an interesting was to improve on the old RPG formula, but it's a wasted opportunity here.

And that's not even touching that statuses hardly have any affect on gameplay; I've been "wrapped in delusion" more times than I can count and I still don't know what it does. Locking an enemy's psyenergy sounds useful, but why bother, since the game is so easy? And once again I have the question of why regular attacks don't wake sleeping enemies or party members. The game also seems to think that packing dungeons with items that heal these will somehow balance this, when really it just makes me think, "Aw, I wanted new armor."

AND money is a joke. I never had to sell equipment or anything else in order afford new equipment, and the one time I couldn't afford new equipment for everyone, it didn't even matter because the game is so easy. Since there's no point in buying healing items, and the statuses that actually do something (like being haunted) can't be cured with items anyway, I am sitting on a big pile of money that can't be used. The buying and selling interface could be better, too, but it's a minor complaint among these others.

But let's step back from all that. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn's dialogue is wretched, even by JRPG standards. I expect some of this. I expect people to talk too much in these games, as a rule. I still don't know what happened throughout most of Final Fantasy XII. But that game was great. There's a sequence in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, in which the characters indicate that they are rushing to save someone's sister, and that she will be boiled alive if they fail (really). During this section of the game, the characters WILL NOT SHUT UP. Forgive me if I can't sweep this under the rug of "RPG conventions," but can ANYBODY play this sequence and doubt for a second that the sister will be rescued? Can anyone think that their actions will matter in the slightest as to whether the sister will live or die? There are times I can buy this; I understand that Sephiroth's Meteor will hit earth "sometime soon" even as I endlessly force chocobos to mate for my amusement. But there are sequences in that game that involved real urgency, where the player's actions could actually make Cloud and friends fail.

It doesn't stop there. Dark Dawn's dialogue endlessly repeats itself, even when it writes in sequences that seem designed to avoid doing so. An example; the character Sveta can read minds, and once she does, what does she do? Repeat the same thing that all the other characters in the room, we, and everyone else in the game world ALREADY KNOWS. AND THEN THE OTHER CHARACTERS, WHOSE MINDS HAVE JUST BEEN READ, REPEAT IT TOO. Who can defend this writing?

The game's puzzles are marginally better than its dialogue. That is, until one picks up the "Insight" psyenergy, which literally puts a filter on the screen that shows you the solution to puzzles. Some of them overcome this by being about positioning and/or some other cleverness, but they are the exception when they should be the rule. Stuck? Use Insight. Now you're not.

The looks great and sounds pretty good (though many of the tunes are less memorable than in the first game, and the color palette seems a bit muted compared to that, too), but art design can only go so far. At this point, we need better than competent and good-looking. The only reason to consider Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is if you're like me; starved for a traditional JRPG on a portable system. Lord knows I won't blame you for picking it up, but if you do so before getting the infinitely superior Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 4 remakes, you've lost your will to be entertained.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Golden Sun: Dark Dawn..., December 8, 2010
By 
blackaciddevil (in the USA somewhere.....) - See all my reviews
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (Video Game)
I know everyone is entitled to their opinion but some of these professional reviewers are just being way too hard on Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. The way some of them were going on about the game online and otherwise, I was expecting this game to be less than spectacular...in fact, I was expecting it to not be any good at all. They way they talked was like the game was way too easy, lacked scope when compared to other games in the series, and was, basically, more of the same(not adding anything new to the mix). I'm glad I decided not to listen to them and purchase the game, anyway. While the game is somewhat more of the same, that's not a bad thing. That's what made Golden Sun special in the first place. However, everything else they went on about...well, that's their opinion. I think the game is great. I love it. I think, given time, it will become a classic just like the first two. If you look back when the first game came out, it never sold bookoodles once the game came out. It took a little time but people caught on. I think the same will happen with this game.

So, what's my take on the game? Well, first off- I think the game looks absolutely amazing. Way better than any Final Fantasy game I've seen in recent memory, that's for sure(yet, those look pretty amazing, too). Considering that the original Golden Sun was intended for the Nintendo 64, I imagine this is how the game would have looked(if left up to Camelot). Second, everything you loved about Golden Sun has returned and I got to say that the puzzles are pretty clever this time around. Do I think this game is as epic as the first two? Well, it's a little more personal than epic but still worth checking out.

You definitely need to check out Golden Sun:Dark Dawn.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A flawed version of Golden Sun, January 22, 2012
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (Video Game)
Golden Sun: Dark Dawn has a few huge problems that prevents it from being quite as good as its predecessors. In particular: its predecessors are what gives it trouble. I'd probably rate it higher if I weren't able to predict the entire plot, know exactly how to solve every puzzle, and know all of the "big twists" ahead of time (there is a masked man whose identity will be ABSOLUTELY OBVIOUS to anyone who played either of the first 2 games) just by playing the first 2. There's a small amount of new Psynergy and some new Djinn and Summons, but none are spectacularly different.

The storyline basically involves the children of the heroes from the first game going on an adventure all while being manipulated by several shadowy figures that seem to be following them at every turn and causing trouble.

The puzzles are near identical to the ones in previous games with a few new ones thrown in to abuse the new Psynergy, but it will always be obvious (even to new people with the "Insight" Psynergy that outright tells you) which to use. None of the enemies are particularly difficult, and I never had to do anything besides autoattack to beat all non bosses, and most of them would die to a "set all djinn and summon" turn 1 play.

In short, the difficulty is a joke, the puzzles are the same, the story is bland and seems to "hide" obvious facts, and it commits the cardinal sin of allowing you to permanently miss things (and not telling you when the points of no return are). It is STILL a Golden Sun game, which gives it a small amount of credit, but unless you're a diehard fan you should just skip this one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A clear lead-up to a sequel, February 9, 2011
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (Video Game)
Man, this game is fantastic, because it tugs on all of the right heartstrings. It's almost identical to previous titles in the series, and with good reason, there's not much in the formula that needed to be tweaked. Visually it's very impressive, and the summons are cooler than ever. Mechanics are identical to the earlier titles, and the puzzles are still present.

The only problems with this game are that it's waaaaaaaay too easy. Not a single boss was hard to beat. I didn't lose once during my original playthrough, and that's without collecting all of the Djinni or summons. None of the puzzles stymied me for more than a few minutes, and the one particularly tough puzzle was easily solved with the use of a power you gain in the game that literally just helps you solve puzzles. Given the difficulty of the GBA titles, this is a bit of a letdown.

The other problem is that the entire plot, while somewhat compelling, ends in a ridiculously obvious cliffhanger, leaving so many questions unanswered that the game may as well have been subtitled "part 1." The game isn't short (took me about 24 hours to beat) but plot-wise, it feels like it's over when you'd just begun. This is very similar to the original golden sun, though, so there's probably some sort of weird Japanese repetition/imitation thing going on here.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Sequel!, January 31, 2011
By 
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (Video Game)
I played both of the original Golden Sun games. Dark Dawn definitely lived up to its' predecessors' greatness. I guess I'm not terribly good at games, but I was definitely stumped several times in the storyline, even though reviews I've read online said this game was too easy. I hope a fourth one comes out soon! I don't feel like waiting another 8 years.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still Golden After All These Years, December 26, 2010
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (Video Game)
The first Golden Sun wowed gamers on the GBA by being one of the most amazing RPGs to ever grace a handheld. Golden Sun: The Lost Age continued this amazing series in 2003. But after that the series went on a seven year break. Now that the third one is finally here one has to wonder if it's worth it. The good news is that it is. Even if it hasn't really evolved much. But this also means that much of what made the original two great will surely make this one great as well.

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn takes place 30 years after the events of the second game and you'll play as the offspring of the heroes of the previous two games. The second game in the series ended with the release of Alchemy back into the world of Weyward and it's changing things in several ways across the world. The story actually has promise, but it takes a while to really get going. If there's one thing about Golden Sun that might've been best to change, it would be how the story paces. It takes several hours for the story to really get going.

The story is also drowned out in tons and tons and tons of dialog. One of the things the Golden Sun games have always been bad about is being much more dialog heavy than your average RPG. Characters will take lots and lots of time to explain the simplest and most basic of things. Understand, however, that the problem isn't "too much talking," the problem is that much of the dialog is superfluous. There will be moments where you get the feeling your characters are talking about nothing or talking in circles. This probably comes to light most in some of the conversations where there are encyclopedia entries for you to click on and learn more about Weyward. For example, early on it'll mention Vale. You click it and learn that it was a village that was destroyed alchemy was released (something already told to you in the opening crawl anyway). In spite of clicking on it to learn about it, the characters will actually explain it to you anyway. Even in moments where they ask if you understand something... even saying that you do will prompt the characters to explain it anyway.

Golden Sun Dark Dawn stays familiar in more ways than one. If you were acquainted with the first two Golden Sun titles, then Dark Dawn is like squeezing your hands into a familiar pair of gloves. Much about Dark Dawn operates in the same manner. The Djinn system is back and it's more or less the same as it's always been. As you travel the world you'll meet several Djinn who will give your characters powers. There are four types: Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Mercury. Each with their own elements of Earth, Fire, Wind and Water, respectively. When you set a Djinni to the character they'll grow more powerful and be able to cast some powerful spells. This is also how they'll change job classes. There's nothing quite like it in any other RPG. It's still unique to Golden Sun.

Likewise, the game's battle system hasn't really changed a whole lot either. It's the same old turn based affair where you select all your characters actions and then watch them proceed in battle. Golden Sun's battles are fairly fast paced, although much of it is on the easy side. There's not a lot of deep strategy involved in Dark Dawn. There are plenty of ways to dispatch your enemies. Either by normal attacks or by Psynergy (Golden Sun's form of magic). The animations in battle are great--especially the summons. It's definitely easy on the eyes. While the battles may not be hard, the dungeons can sometimes keep you busy with their puzzles. Most puzzles are pretty straightforward and simple, but others will have you scratching your head and really challenging you. One of the other unique things about Golden Sun is that there are a lot of spells that are actually used outside of battle as well. You'll cast spells to help you put out flames, or move objects around or make vines grow. The puzzle element can often be more fun than the battles.

It's the story that doesn't balance rather well with it all. We talked a little about the ridiculous amounts of dialog and exposition, but another thing that's a little annoying are some of the responses you have to give. The game has a way of presenting you with choosing which mood to respond in, although you don't always know how you're supposed to respond. In the end the only thing it changes is how characters respond to you. You'll also be asked lots of yes or no questions. In most cases your response doesn't matter here either as you'll still get an earful anyway. In the other instance they'll keep posing the question to you until you choose the response they want. In a way this is charming. You have a silent protagonist (it wouldn't be Golden Sun without a silent protagonist) but the "Yes/No" questions weren't much to write home about in the first two anyway and here the extra layer of choosing a mood doesn't add a whole lot to the experience.

In spite of all this, Golden Sun is still a fantastic game. The dialog may be superfluous at times but the story and the characters within it are still charming in their own way. The game also utilizes a lot of 3D which is something a good deal of DS games still don't do. Make no mistake: Golden Sun Dark Dawn is beautiful and it runs rather smoothly. The environments are colorful but the best is definitely the detail put into the battles, with characters moving fluently. The summon animations really showcase what Golden Sun is capable of. From a production standpoint, Golden Sun Dark Dawn is one of the best looking games you can find on the DS. A game on the DS has simply never looked this good, and it certainly hasn't sounded this good either. There aren't really any voices to speak of but the melodies the soundtrack provides will make you glad for that.

So was the long wait worth it for fans of the first two Golden Sun games? Definitely. Everything about Dark Dawn is purely Golden Sun. The game hasn't evolved much in its jump from the GBA to the DS, however. Purist of Golden Sun probably won't mind this. For others it means that Golden Sun reveals certain aspects about the JRPG that might seem a little dated. In spite of that, while some of the mechanics may be dated, they happen to mesh together really well and stick to what really works for Golden Sun. Meaning the only REAL letdown Golden Sun: Dark Dawn might have is that the game doesn't do much to reach above what the first two achieved. Is this a bad thing? Not exactly. For handheld RPGs, the original two gave several console games a run for their money by being so well constructed. The third game does the same thing. Even if there isn't much change in that construction. At the very least, it shows that Golden Sun has aged rather well. Especially considering it had a seven year break. There's still nothing quite like it.

In spite of some of its flaws (which aren't really big--especially one you settle in and get absorbed) the important thing is simple: Golden Sun Dark Dawn is just a lot of fun to play. There's no reason for an RPG fan not to play it. It's big, it's epic and it's a blast to play.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A game made for the fans!, December 11, 2010
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
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This review is from: Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (Video Game)
I am going to do my best to keep my review as spoiler free as possible. If there are times where I seem vague, it is only because I do not wish to ruin the story for anybody. The true strength of the Golden Sun series is the story and it is best experienced on your own.

While the game's story does draw heavily from the prior two games, you do not need to have played them in order to enjoy Dark Dawn. In fact, this new entry in the series utilizes an encyclopedia to remind you of key places, people and events in the games' combined history. Simply tap the shoulder button when an obscure reference is made and the top screen will display an entry to help refresh your memory.

While I wrote that the story is Golden Sun's strength, it is also the game's Achille's heel. Gamers with short attention spans may be stunned at the amount of dialogue and exposition are packed within a Golden Sun. This is not a game you pick up and start blasting enemies. As an example, your entire party will stop to talk about a given course of action. They will weigh the pros and cons, people will express their disagreement, they will ask you what you think of the matter and talk some more. You will then take that course of action only for your party to stop and talk about what just happened.

That isn't a bad thing though. This is not a bland RPG where you have to rescue a princess or some other oft repeated story line. This is a game that explores consequences for actions taken and how heroes are not necessarily loved by all. While the characters do talk a lot, the dialogue helps to establish the personalities of the characters. These characters aren't just collections of statistics. They will actually have their own unique viewpoints and may even disagree with you from time to time.

The gameplay mechanics are very similar to the earlier games and long time fans will be able to pick it up and play without even looking at the instruction manual. The graphics are lush and colorful and the camera is more dynamic now. This is very recognizable as a Golden Sun game.

For those of you who are new to the series, I would describe the gameplay as a mix between the classic SNES Final Fantasy games and a top-down adventure game such as A Link To The Past. Monsters are fought with a turn based battle system where your characters can attack, defend, use items or cast psynergy (the equivalent to magic). Your characters gain psynergy from mystical beings called djinn which represent the four elements of earth, air, fire and water. Attaching different djinn to different characters will change the psynergy available to that character as well as their statistics.

The overworld and dungeon parts of the game contain puzzle elements; mostly these are about getting your party from one area to another. For example, to reach a path out of a forest you may have to climb a tree, hop over to a mountain ledge, walk down a path, slide down to a lower level, push a log into the water and then hop across to the exit. You might also find yourself having to use psynergy to cause a plant to grow into a climbable vine or to destroy an obstacle in your path.

The biggest innovation for this series is the use of the DS touch screen. You can use a stylus to access the game's menus, move your character or choose a direction to cast your psynergy. Traditionalists can still choose to use the d-pad and buttons. It's up to you.

I give this game 5 stars but I admit that I am very fond of this series (I've played it since the beginning.)If you loved the SNES era RPGs, if you thought that A Link To The Past was one of the best Zelda games or if you want an RPG with a well written story that can be light hearted yet still has its dark moments, I think you should check this one out.
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Golden Sun: Dark Dawn
Golden Sun: Dark Dawn by Nintendo (Nintendo DS)
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