reviews\ Jan 2, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn Review


There was a time when I had wanted nothing more than a third entry into the Golden Sun series for any Nintendo platform. At a dire time as it is right now for the role-playing genre, I had always envisioned the follow-up to Camelot Software’s Golden Sun: The Lost Age (Game Boy Advanced, 2003) filling a void that has been growing increasingly larger the past half of a decade. The results for Golden Sun: Dark Dawn are as pleasurable as I imagined, even if it’s not as memorable as its predecessors.

Let’s talk about what works with the Nintendo DS entry: it looks good, employs a lengthy quest to conquer evil, and the gameplay is rather attractive for hours-on-end sessions.

The visuals rank among the best looking Nintendo DS titles in recent memory. Dark Dawn continually progresses towards providing more fantastical environments as the game delves deeper into the storyline. While the GBA titles were in a 2D world, Dark Dawn transitions the franchise into full 3D environment and it’s a wonder why it has taken this long. From summoning Djinn to performing complex attacks, Dark Dawn never relents on dazzling the player from the minute it starts with the introduction of one of the characters hang-gliding into the forest. Also, similar to Final Fantasy VIII, expect summon cutscenes that often bite away at the time of the player, but, thankfully, Camelot has permitted the player the chance to skip the cinematics.

Dark Dawn doesn’t just take the original plotlines and throw them out the window, but instead, it harbors them with love. Players are pitted into the role of Matthew, the son of Isaac, the hero from the first two games, as he is sent on a journey to become a man to mature and discover his true self. Set 30 years after the chain of events from The Lost Age, Dark Dawn also provides a cast of a handful of other heroes who are, in fact, also children of protagonists from the first two titles; Tyrell, son of Garet and Karis daughter of Ivan. If players are unfamiliar to the Golden Sun world, then they should fret not: Camelot has created an in-game knowledgebase to catch up on who is who and their relation to one another.

So while the storyline to save the world from chaos isn’t exactly groundbreaking by any means, it still held my fascination until completion. Perhaps it was the combat that helped string along the plot as there were times when I desired for the story arc to be catapulted forward to reach the end-game in quicker fashion, but I’m a sucker for summons and Dark Dawn’s Djinn delivered excitement all throughout the title.

Capable of setting Djinn to each character for statistical benefits, players can mix and match to find out what beneficial abilities each grants. Elements such as earth, water, fire, and wind come into effect as each Djinn has a level, resistance to other elements and power to analyze before selecting them for battle. More than 70 Djinn are found throughout Dark Dawn, so any Pokemon player should know the addiction that is “gotta catch ‘em all.” This, too, is one of the main reasons why a repeat visit may be warranted; to ensure that all Djinn are found and discover their abilities.

Among the reasons not to play Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is that it’s not a truly inviting RPG for newcomers. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as veterans will find their fulfillment with what is provided, even with the user-friendly puzzles that aren’t challenging whatsoever. In addition, the pacing is a bit off and might have players with not a lot of time on their hands putting it down to never return for a second look.

Strictly as an RPG though, Dark Down is a worthwhile endeavor. Hours upon hours of entertaining combat are there for the enjoyment of the player. It’s not nearly as clever or original as the first Golden Sun, but Nintendo should be praised for their efforts to move the franchise to 3D on the Nintendo DS.


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