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Golden Sun: Dark Dawn
Golden Sun: Dark Dawn

Nintendo DS
Genre: Role Playing
Developer: Nintendo Official Site: http://www.nintendo.com
Publisher: Nintendo Classification: PG
Release Date:
2nd December 2010
Golden Sun: Dark Dawn

Genre: Role Playing
Developer: Nintendo
Official Site: http://www.nintendo.com
Publisher: Nintendo
Classification: PG
Release Date:
2nd December 2010
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Golden Sun: Dark Dawn Review
Review By @ 12:37pm 03/12/10
To both newcomers and old-school Golden Sunners alike, it’s going to be a stretch to get into this gloriously awesome game. See, clearly I did do the stretch (because that’s partly my job), but really, the first hour or so of gameplay is a slog; wrought with far too much conversation, which is then repeated ad nauseum, along with a lot of arbitrary first-person expressive options that don’t hold much barring a different response regarding the same outcome. But honestly, that’s it. That’s as much as I can belittle about this game, because the rest is pure JRPG bliss, in stunning handheld form, pushing the DS to its very limited limits.

If you are a Golden Sun veteran, the game is going to be much of the same with a lot more exploration, new powers and abilities to discover and some deeper puzzle-solving overall. You play as the children of the first two games’ protagonists, but beyond references to being “Isaac’s son” or the offspring to the “Warriors of Vale”, everything is essentially the same. The big main change is in the game’s presentation, which pushes the DS to render fully 3D environments ala the last two Legend of Zelda DS titles along with some stunning art-direction that truly brings the game’s world to life.

Everything else here is spot-on. It’s as tight as this type of game is ever going to get, with the competent Camelot Studios behind the wheel. There’s a deep and complex story to be had (albeit delivered with a slight archaic tone), myriad towns and dungeons to explore, people to interact with, items to collect, equip or sell, books to read, encyclopedic entries to add, old faces to meet and, of course, the puzzle/action quest and collection of, Djinnis.

Not to be confused with Pokemon, Djinni are ancient spirits in Japanese-inspired creature form. They wonder the land, tantalising you from their unreachable perches, but nabbing one sets it to the character its elemental power is aligned to and then you can utilise it to enable new and various abilities and powers for battle or puzzle-solving. Djinni can also be used to summon huge, mythical god-like beasts into battle, decimating your foes with their unique powers and impressive visual representations.

you can swap Djinnis around between characters, and try different combinations of Djinni set to specific characters which then reveals an equally complex list of varied powers and abilities, though not always for the good (in that they could can drop warrior attributes overall, thus rendering your random battle grind annoyingly obsolete, to a degree).

Like so many other JRPGs of this nature, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn offers an over-world map through which you and your party travels, where you will almost always be swept into random battles. If you’ve ever played older Final Fantasy titles or the like, it’s all very familiar. Everything is completely turn-based, offering you a tactical approach to each engagement - you can straight up attack with your equipped weapon, use Psynergy (each character’s unique, elemental-based power), call upon your Djinni individually to attack with you, Summon a Djinni-inspired battle deity or dig into your rucksack to play with any number of items to use against your foes, or for your party’s benefit.

These battles also occur in the more detailed places you go (dungeons, the outskirts or towns, etc), but the majority of battles you face will be in the over-world. You can grind out here if you like, but the higher in level you become, the longer you’ll need to grind to keep levelling. The game scales excellently in this way, and I didn’t suffer my first death in battle, that is a single team-member falling, until some five or six hours in. It was a neat way to get me all geared to where I was going, only to remind me to make full use of all the extras the game offers in the way of Djinni exploration, items, new equipment and Psynergy.

Psynergy is the power of Adepts (the base class of all the game’s characters), and is essentially their magic. You have a PP meter alongside your HP meter, meaning you can only perform so much Psynergy in battle before needing to replenish (done so at Psynergy Stones, or through various items collected along the way). Each character starts with normal-enough abilities (for Adepts, anyway), such as Move that allows you to push or pull certain obelisk-shaped spires (the game is heavily scripted and directed in this way, but you get used to it), or Grow which allows you to grow suspicious-looking leaves in equally suspicious-looking places, creating a vine to breach the impediment, but the further in you get, the more moves you’ll come across that allow for lateral thinking so as to explore the game proper (there are actually quite a lot of tricky little paths) to collect the ever-elusive Djinni scattered about the place.

The other thing Golden Sun: Dark Dawn offers is longevity. The game is absolutely massive, with a huge game-world to explore and a lot of information to swallow. You’ll travel over treacherous mountain passes, into dark foreboding caves and through intricate and complex dungeons. Fans of the likes of the last two Zelda games can add a bit of play-time to this in its overall length, and the boss fights (which are, in my opinion, the meat of the battle portion) are spectacular given the platform.

Aurally the game’s soundtrack is also among the best in the DS biz; serving up an orchestral score that’s ever-changing thanks to the variety of game’s locations and major events. It always feels epic, no matter what you’re doing, while the rest of the blips and beeps throughout serve their handheld JRPG purpose.

My only other gripe, however, is that we get the game now on DS, and not a few months later on the 3DS with a 3D presentation. As it stands, visually it probably wouldn’t work, but the entire game presented as a third-person adventure ala Ocarina of Time would have been spectacular, and I doubt Camelot wouldn’t be up to the task. I can only surmise Nintendo didn’t give them a look at their forthcoming handheld soon enough, but hopefully the obvious sequel to this lands on the new platform, because with the Djinni Summon powers, it would look incredible.

Everything else here though, is spot-on, and if you don’t mind a fair bit of reading or the entrapment of random battles, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn could be the lengthy adventure you’ve been looking for. It’s among the best games out there for the Nintendo DS; a solid JRPG that does its thing better than most and will keep you glued to your handheld for a long time to come. Highly recommended.
What we liked
  • Massive game-world to explore
  • Looks stunning
  • Deeper puzzles than in previous iterations
  • More advanced dungeons
  • Djinni create a tangible magic system
What we didn't like
  • Should have held out for 3DS
  • The game's intro can be grating
  • Lots and lots of text to read through
  • Nothing ultimately new to the genre
We gave it:
Latest Comments
Posted 05:45pm 05/12/10
Good review.

I agree with most things, however something I dislike about this game that wasn't mentioned is the inability to 'backtrack'. Basically, there are certain Djinn that are missable. Namely, the first Mercury Djinn 'Mousse'. Or something.

I hate having an obviously imperfect gamesave!
Posted 06:13pm 05/12/10
Isn't that true of nearly all of these style of rpg though, if you want a "perfect" save you have to play with a gamefaq beside you, and if you have that you wouldn't miss that Djinn anyway.
Posted 09:05pm 05/12/10
I suppose so. I just don't like how the Djinn are pretty major, and I missed one. I wouldn't really care if I missed some weapon or armor or something.
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