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Golden Sun: Dark Dawn
Format: Video Game|Change
Price:$25.00+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

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.
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on August 26, 2016
The Good: Beautiful visuals and art direction, deep and fun combat, plenty of stuff to do and collect, huge world with lots of optional content, easy to level up

The Bad: Gets complex, obtuse, cryptic, and labyrinthine about 10 hours in, final boss is so powerful it feels unfair, long winded, lore and story are uninteresting, cheesy and cliche dialog

I can count on two hands the amount of JRPGs I have actually finished from start to finish. I'm not a completionist with these games as they are long-winded, difficult, and usually very complicated and complex. Golden Sun is no exception. It starts out like a light hearted easy going JRPG, but then things turn around quickly once you get into the meat of the game.

That's not to say Dark Dawn is bad at all, but it's the only Golden Sun game I've actually played. I dabbled in the first game a bit but never got through it. The first things that got me hooked in Dark Dawn were the visuals, some of the best on the system, and the deep combat system. Golden Sun isn't just about attacks and magic powers. The lore uses elements of the Earth to create Psynergy that each hero can harness and unleash which you will use more than regular attacks. Djinni are little creatures that you can equip to enhance stats, add new psynergy powers, and summon giant creatures. The combat system requires quite a bit of strategy and you can't ignore this Djinn system. You must go around collecting at least half of them or you will never be able to finish the game. This is part of where my issues started to set in.

While combat is deep and complex, and quite fun, the exploration part of Golden Sun is just as deep. Every dungeon is full of puzzles that require you to use your Psynergy powers to pull blocks, grow vines, smash rocks, and slap stuff around. You unlock these powers as you acquire new party members and go along in the game. The game is actually quite large spanning a huge map and a couple dozen dungeons which are quite a lot for a handheld title. Once you get a third through you unlock your ship which allows you to access the rest of this world. There's are many towns to explore, people to talk to, and weapons and armor to acquire. I never had an issue always having the most powerful stuff as the game is generous with money during battles. I also found this was the easiest game to level up in, but more on that later.

So, while the first few dungeons were easy and just the right amount of hard to figure out, they became obscure and downright confusing and labyrinthine later on. I actually needed a walkthrough for the last half of the game. I had no idea where to go, what to do, and the game requires certain objects to be obtained before you can even continue the story. I would never have known this without a walkthrough. When I got to the final boss I actually had to level up 20 whole levels to beat him because I didn't acquire all the Djinn in the game. I had to compensate with much higher base stats even though I had the most powerful weapons and armor in the game. Thankfully, at the final dungeon, the enemies are really easy and I could level up every two battles which are something I've never seen in a JRPG. The 20 level climb took only about 2 hours which is fast compared to most.

How about the story? Well, there's a lot of lore here and I appreciated all of it, but it's just really forgettable and not all that interesting. You start out trying to find a bird feather to power a flying machine you broke then you end up saving the world? The dialog and writing are extremely cheesy and cliche and I just wanted everyone to shut up. The characters are nice, but once again, forgettable. I had higher hopes for the story in this series, the lore and everything is there, but it's just not very fulfilling.

Overall, Dark Dawn is still one of the best games on the DS and one of the best looking. The graphics are fantastic with clean texture, high res models, and so much detail. The game is just brimming with variety and beautiful locales. I can only recommend this game to the hardest of hardcore JRPG players. The game is so complex and full of optional bosses, hidden weapons, and armor, that won't appeal to most players. It's fun and pretty straight forward until about 10 hours in then it gets complex and overwhelming.
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on May 1, 2017
got to my house fine game worked perfectly no rip off nice btw its just a good game in general my favorite rpg game trying to find more like it
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on August 14, 2015
Lore: This is technically Golden Sun 3, with the first 2 games being on the Gameboy Advance. Knowing a lot of people would be going into this game having not played the first 2, they decided to make the children of the previous games' heroes the focus, & include books, an encyclopedia of terms, & a very long opening cutscene that explains the events of the first two games. Unfortunately, "show" works better than "tell" & you might as well just play ROMs of the first two games if you really want to know what the heck is going on. The collectible books do a much better job of filling you in than all of the NPC exposition combined.

Getting lost: The game explains nothing to you after the parents leave, so you'll find yourself going to Walkthrough frequently. The Walkthroughs skip a lot of important things like "ignore this for now, you'll be coming back to it latter" so you may find yourself needing youtube walkthroughs for certain parts. You will also find that you can get cut off from returning to areas entirely, meaning any Djinns & boxed you failed to figure out how to get to will be permanently lost to you.

The puzzles: The puzzles will keep your brain intrigued when the Random Encounter battles start to wear on your patience. They're quite fun, but when it comes to areas you are unaware that you are supposed to skip for now & come back to latter (like the Harapa Ruins), you will be stumped & frustrated, because you're not supposed to solve it yet & therefore can't.

The graphics: Reminds me greatly of Final Fantasy 9. If you've never played that, think FF7 without the hideous Popeye arms. Looks good even on a tiny 2DS screen.

The dialogue: You cannot really make it faster & it scrolls quite slowly. It also makes a very irritating noise that you can thankfully turn off. Words highlighted in red will bring up the dictionary, which is useful for short attention spans or long breaks between the game.

The cast: Despite being called the Leader, Matthew is really more of a mute observer & battle support who communicates with a limited range of emotions. The true leader is Karis; the smart one, the one who makes the first move in battle, & Team Mom of the group. Tyrell is comical lackey. He's less strong than Matthew, bullheaded, clumsy, & irresponsible. He & Karis don't get along, so Matthew is the glue that bonds them together. Latter in the early part of the game, the group is completed when Rief joins the team. He's the team's Glass Canon & Loremaster, giving the party two smart mature magic users & 2 bumbling manchild warriors.
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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 installment in the series. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is that installment.

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 likable 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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VINE VOICEon December 23, 2010
Golden Sun Dark Dawn is a pretty phenomenal RPG for the Nintendo DS. Rather than being essentially an RPG that starts off immediately after its previous entry, it decides to do something unlike other RPGs and have us play as the offspring of the Warriors of Vale from the first game to explore the world after the rise of the Golden Sun.

The game once again allows for eight characters, all of which are related to the previous warriors in some way. This time there are more than 72 Djinn available (the elemental creatures that can bestow difference skills and abilities), there are new psynergy skills (possibly close to a hundred with many that can be used on the field to solve puzzles and dungeons, mind read, and teleport).

The game lasted me about 40 hours, which involved me being able to get all of the Djinn, all of the summons available to get before the ending of the story, and to complete the story and defeat the final boss. It does open up later after beating the final boss to get the remaining summons and rare weapons and to face the strongest boss of the game which will be a challenge in and of itself.

The Dark Dawn is the typical turn based RPG, with the Djinn being able to be summoned and kept in reserve to enable the player to unleash powerful summons, weapons themselves can unleashed multiple skills, making it a pleasure to resort to using psynergy and weapons, and the djinn can be shuffled around to change the classes of characters to reveal more psynergy to use during battles. I also enjoyed how changes to the characters weapons also appeared to affect their character models in the battle area.

Dark Dawn looks amazing and all of the locales are lush and lively. Nonplayable characters had interesting conversations and moved about on the land. The various regional designs of buildings was a nice thing to see. Ultimately, it felt like I was actually exploring the world and it felt immersive.

I really had no cons with the game apart from the game left me wanting more because I had so many unanswered questions at the end, but all in all, this is one of the definitive RPGs available from Nintendo and should be played by all whether or not they played the previous entries
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on January 5, 2017
Big fan of Golden Sun, I played both the original and sequel growing up in the early 2000's, but only recently bought a 2DS to play Pokemon Moon. It was a great surprise to find this game for less than $20, so to any fan of Golden Sun or old-school JRPGs, this is a must own!
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on March 5, 2016
I just bought it pre-owned at Gamestop, and I cannot wait to play it. It should be fun.
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on April 29, 2016
The power of nostalgia is real, and this game packs it all in. My one small complaint is that I wish they had done more to make the characters a little bit less of carbon copies of their parents. I still had a blast playing through this latest installment in Golden Sun, and I'd definitely recommend it to any player regardless of whether they have played through the original GBA series or not. I'm still hoping that one day they'll make another sequel, because this series is gold.
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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.
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