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SummaryOne of the best original RPGs on the GBA.
The GoodI have very fond memories of playing Final Fantasy Legends I-III on family road trips years and years back. FFL III in particular gave you great flexibility in developing your characters how you wanted. Playing Golden Sun, I had pleasant flashbacks to the FFLs of yore. Golden Sun is every bit as much fun as those older games, and a whole lot prettier to boot. You're placed in the cliched RPG plot in the shoes of a young man (default Isaac, but you can change it to Assmaster or some such if you wish) with extraordinary powers. And those powers are what makes Golden Sun stand above the rest. You must use them not only to do battle with the thousands and thousands of monsters roaming the land, but also to interact with the game world in a variety of ways. See that little sprout by the ledge? If you have the growth power, you can make it spring up into a vine, thus creating a very efficient little rope ladder, opening up new areas in the game world to explore. In order to achieve these powers, you must amass a collection of Djinni (think Pokemon with less personality). Each one confers one of four elemental powers (earth, water, fire and wind), augmenting your characters and giving them new Psynergy (magic). By combining different Djinni on a character, you change the types of spells and powers he or she can wield. This is a nice touch to the typical magic system, which is usually the weakest part of electronic RPGs. You are forced to make tough decisions when determining which powers your characters will wield. The graphics are Super Nintendo-quality, with nice spell effects and impressive character animation. Your little guys (and gals) emote in ways that previous GB RPGs couldn't manage. Finally, the challenge level begins to ramp up quite nicely later on in the game. You are actually forced to use strategic thinking in some of the later boss battles, which is a good thing - most RPGs seem to be designed to please the least common denominator.
The BadUnfortunately, the package is not completely free of flaws. Worst of them is the insane amount of low-level monsters you have to hack through to navigate even the smallest of mazes. I would rather see slightly less combat with higher experience point awards. Be prepared to spend a lot of time ridding the land of moronic entry-level baddies. Combat graphics, strangely enough, are not nearly on par with those of the isometric view. Some monsters, especially the big ones, are chunky and ugly. Dialog is excruciating, as you would expect. I found myself rapidly pushing buttons to wade through several inane NPC conversations that I was forced to overhear, despite their apparent complete lack of relevance to my quest. This smacks of self-indulgent programming, and does not make for enjoyable gaming.