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Ahead On Our Way
The first Golden Sun game for the Gameboy Advance instantly became one of the most popular RPGs for the console. It had beautiful graphics, interesting puzzles and a very flashy combat system. Now, Camelot has released Golden Sun: The Lost age, a direct sequel to the previous title. This time around, we follow Felix, Jenna and Kraden, the characters Isaac and the others so long searched for in the first game.
The battle system in 'The Lost Age' is almost identical to the one seen in the first game. Your party in battle consists of up to 4 characters, all of which can perform various actions. Once you're encountering an enemy, you can choose between the usual attack, defend, use item, magic (called Psyenergy) etc. Just like in Golden Sun, you earn more magic powers and stats through the infamous Djinn. The Djinn are small elemental animals which can be found almost anywhere in the game. Through equipping these onto one of your characters, he or she will get a stat boost (or decrease depending on what other Djinn you have equipped), and earn some new magic. However, different combinations of Djinn gives different results... so you may want to experiment a little with these, in order to come up with good combinations for each character. There are more than 70 Djinn in Lost Age, quite a boost from the first game, which only had 28. Another thing the Djinn are good for is summoning. In a special menu, you can put your Djinn on standby so that you can summon them in battle later on. As a side effect of this, all stats that the Djinn on standby would've provided to the character will disappear until you have set it to the character again. If you have lots of Djinn on standby, you can use several of them at the same time to perform some really powerful attacks.
Considering the massive loss of stats the characters suffer when putting lots of Djinn on standby, it is a lot easier to have them set at all times, and just go with regular attacks or magic. One of the biggest complaints I have on this battle system though, is how the characters attack. If all four characters are about to attack the same enemy, but the first two characters manages to finish it off before the other two has a chance to attack, the other two will do nothing. Even if there are several enemies left, they just won't attack them... this feels very old fashion, sort of like in the older Final Fantasy games. Sure, it's sort of easy to plan how to put your attacks after a while, but the whole thing feels a bit unnecessary.
While most parts of the interface is great, there are also some things that are very annoying. Searching for items in barrels, opening chests etc. can be very frustrating, as you'll most likely end up at the side of them or bring up a menu by accident with the A button. The controls otherwise are great. Since you'll be solving a lot of puzzles with your different psyenergy-powers involved, it's much appreciated to be able to assign two of them to the shoulder buttons as shortcuts. This way, you don't have to go into the psyenergy list each time you want to cast any of them.
The first Golden Sun game had a very solid soundtrack, and this one is even better. This time around, there are several different battle themes which makes the game feel less repetitive. All town themes perfectly reflect the feelings of the people living there, and the dungeon themes are exciting and mysterious. Actually, that's probably Golden Sun's strongest point; the dungeons. In most RPGs, dungeons are repetitive and monotonous, with only a bunch of corridors and a boss battle at the end. Golden Sun is quite the opposit... every dungeon has amazingly long and clever puzzles for the player to solve. Some of these require quite a bit of thinking, and makes the game more fun and original. Even if you played Alundra and hated it, the puzzles in the Golden Sun series might be worth checking out, because this is something of a kind.
There is no major difference in graphics between the first game and Golden Sun: The Lost Age. It's a bit smoother, and the battle effects are nicer, but aside from that, it's the same. Not that this is a complaint though, because Golden Sun is most likely one of the most beautiful games that has ever been released for the Gameboy Advance. I especially enjoyed the character models, and their portraits that are shown in the status menu as well as next to the text box when they speak.
The dialogue in Golden Sun: TLA might just be the most annoying I have ever experienced. When there's a discussion going on in this game between the party members, there are some things you should know about. First of all, the conversation won't lead anywhere for a long, long time. Second of all, all of the characters must repeat everything the others say. Third, they never, ever shut up. This can be really frustrating... it feels as if Camelot didn't know how to end any of the conversations in the game... so they just went on and on. Fortunately though, the translation is good. I could hardly find any weird sentences or major spelling errors in the game.
The plot might just be one thing that gave me the most mixed feelings about this game. It picks up right after the first game, but with different characters. This time we follow Felix, Jenna and Kraden (and two other new characters) on their journey, which gives the game an interesting twist. It is hard to say anything without spoiling, but their goal is not exactly the same as Isaac's from the first game. The plot also continues the story about Alex, the green-haired villain who mysteriously disappeared after the lighthouse incident in the first game. The plot development is extremely slow though, and it all too often felt as if it veered off from the things that actually mattered. Another complaint, is that I rarely had a clue about where I was about to go. I almost never got any clear directions, sometimes the game just left me standing without a single clue about anything. I like that a game is non-linear.. but there has to be a limit there too. The world map is gigantic, and the encounter rate is quite high (especially towards the later parts of the game), so it's not that much fun running around looking for the right place to go.
Battle-wise, the game is quite easy. Some of the bosses were quite a challenge, but nothing major. The real challenge in this game lies in the puzzles. The game is a lot longer than its predecessor, lasting up to at least 30 hours on a normal run, and quite a bit more if you want to finish off most of the sidequests as well. There are a whole lot more sidequests in 'The Lost Age' than in the first game, and some of them are very much worth the effort. This game was more than worth my money, but I'll probably never play it again. When I know the solutions to all the puzzles, and have already seen all the cool summons and such, there really is nothing to return to.
All in all, Golden Sun: The Lost Age is a very good ending to the series. I can't say that I'm disappointed with the recent news that there'll be no more sequels in the series. If you think about it, 'The Lost Age' was very much like the first game, only from the other characters' view. There were slightly improved puzzles, slightly improved graphics and a similar battle system. Sure, it's still a whole lot of fun, but a third time would have been too much of the good.
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