57 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2010
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.
29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2011
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 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.
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.
42 of 52 people found the following review helpful
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. :(
46 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2011
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2010
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2012
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2011
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.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2010
I have been playing Golden Sun since the first one came out and I cant count how many times i have beaten both. For years I have been waiting for a new GS game to come out and I was so excited when I heard about Dark Dawn. I preordered it and picked it up the day it was released and started playing. I have beaten the game and I have to say that for me it is not better than the first two because they are classics. But Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is an amazing game. The storyline is very well made and the game is fairly challenging. My only problem was that the beginning is very slow, you dont actually play for about the first 20 minutes of the game. But after that I found it impossible to put the game down. It is so well done that I am very excited about playing through the game again. The game is long enough that it is worth the money but not too long that you feel like its a waste of time, I went through the game collecting almost everything and beating all the sidequests in about 30 hours. The graphics are extremely well done for a DS game and the music has been tweaked but still holds the nostalgic feeling I was hoping for. This is a great game whether or not you have played the first two games. I highly recommend getting this game if you enjoy RPGs or any game with an immersive and deep plot.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2011
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2015
I've been ruminating about this disappointing sequel for a few months since I finally tracked down a copy and played through it. There is so very much wrong with this game that dishonors the legacy of the first two Golden Sun games. And yet, I find that it's received a rating on here as high as the first two Golden Sun games. I am stunned. STUNNED.
Golden Sun and Golden Sun: The Lost Age were made back to back, and flow with seamless, well-integrated, consistent brilliance from one into the other. Cohesive, focused yet intertwines plot elements, a diversity of memorable and deep characters, unique and atmospheric lands, a polished battle system, and a breathtaking array of music themes. This is the foundation on which Dark Dawn had a responsibility to build on, to grow on, expand on, all while upholding the original integrity of this series.
Dark Dawn doesn't feel like a Golden Sun game. It just doesn't. Maybe the long wait after Lost Age made the makers lose sight of their muse. As well as respect for world of Weyard (and its characters) they had had built. Rather, it feels like an entirely new game which cheaply references the history and characters of the old games and exploits it for the purpose of trying to give authenticity to a new and alien world that lacks any familiarity compared to the old games, and feels shallow as well. There's even a "theme park" in one new town that is based on the events of the original adventuring adepts of the first two games. They demoted those past journeys to a tourist trap! Preposterous!
As mentioned, this world feels unrealistically unfamiliar for taking place on the same continent, 30 years later. There are only one or two towns from the original games, with every other town and kingdom being brand new, situated in an Angara that is completely, incomprehensibly unrecognizable. We are introduced to entire EMPIRES and CIVILIZATIONS which are apparently "ancient" but were somehow newly discovered in the wake of the Golden Sun event. This is totally unfeasible! And what's more, unnecessary and inferior. The nation whose citizens are all childish-looking, cute "animal people" especially didn't sit right with me. It brought the series into a much more immature direction and didn't feel as natural as the majestic werewolves of Garoh in the Lost Age.
Additionally, there is a striking lack of new magic and items. Don't expect the thrill of finding exciting new summons around every corner. They're mostly all the same. And get this: literally almost EVERY SINGLE artifact item (be it weapon or armor), is an exact duplicate of the items from the original game? WTF? Did the original eight characters of the first two games see fit to travel all over this new world, sowing the new lands and dungeons with their hard-fought, hard-found gear for their successors to find later, like johnny appleseed? Not only does this make no sense, but it's lame and boring. I repeat: WTF?
Regarding the pacing and story progress, it babies the gamer from the beginning, assuming that those playing this game have no knowledge of the previous structure and battle systems, just as it takes pains to inform the gamer about the "story-book" events of the past games. Also, the difficulty and depth of the game is dumbed down and made much, much easier than the first two games. This is not a sequel geared toward the loyal, die-hard fans of Golden Sun who were pining for the sequel this series deserved. It is geared toward a younger crowd who never played the original games, and who are thus ignorant of how inferior this game is to the originals, and to the fact that this game rips off the few great elements it has from the original games.
And now for the most egregious offense: the main characters of the original games largely are ignored, written off, and forgotten about, with only vague references to their existence. Jenna is Isaac's mother, and NEVER MAKES AN APPEARANCE. Ivan fathered Karis, and Mia is the mother of one or two of the predictably blue-haired protagonists. AND THEY NEVER MAKE AN APPEARANCE! What's more, WE DON'T EVEN KNOW WHO THEIR SPOUSES ARE! What the hell! Apparently it's completely unimportant who Ivan took for a wife or who Mia's husband is, or whether Sheba and Felix even still exist, or to meet up with good old Piers again. The original wonderful cast of the first games is nothing more than an afterthought, and a mysteriously, awkwardly vague one at that considering that they saved the frickin' world.
Now this game does have its value. It was good enough for me to play it to the end, and it was nice to see a few nods to the characters and events of the past games (Eoleo and Briggs were cool to see. But once again: where's Chaucha?). If you haven't played the first two games, this'll probably seem like a pretty good game. But it does NOT honor the memory of the first two games. Its story is weak, poorly reasoned, fractured, and uninspiring. The music is... forgettable. The new adepts are either cookie cutter copies of successful ones from the first two games (Matthew and Tyrell look and act WAY too similar to Issac and Garet) or are tacked on additions who undergo zero character development.
I can only guess that those who have given this game such high praise haven't experienced the glorious majesty of the original two Golden Sun games, and if you haven't, you have no idea what you missed. Enjoy this game in blissful ignorance if you wish, but it fails miserably to live up to the integrity, character, and atmosphere of the first two games. My advice to anyone new to Golden Sun is to seek out the first two games at all costs, and write off this sequel, just as it disrespectfully writes off those first two great games.