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Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (Nintendo DS)

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Written by  :  Bregalad (916)
Written on  :  Apr 13, 2011

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Summary

I have mixed feelings about this game

The Good

After releasing two instalments on the Game Boy Advance (in fact it was more one game split into two cartridges), Camelot waited about 7 years to release a sequel. You bet everyone was waiting that for a very long time, and that the expectations for such a come-back were high. Now that it has been long released I'll take some time to analyse it with an objective viewpoint.

You control a party made mostly by the children of the previous Golden Sun games. All the key elements of the gameplay, battle system, djinnis, summons, psynergy, elements, etc... are back unchanged, and that's really great !

The enigmas are still as intense and as great as they were in the first two games. The psynergy palette has changed quite a lot, and those that come back (such as "move") are different, in this case "move" can work from a longer range, and you can move objects with the stylus.

The graphics are quite top-notch for the NDS standards. The backgrounds are mostly pre-rendered and the characters are detailed. The animation in battle are still very cool, truthful to the style of the GBA games. The summons' FMVs are amazing.

A good point is that there is some bonuses available once you beat the game, such as an extra labyrinth containing treasures and hard bosses.

The Bad

The major problem I have with this game is that it is somewhat not compatible with both original Golden Sun games (which are actually one single game split into two cartridges due to memory limitations in my eyes).

The story itself is at first glance coherent, but the continent of Angra has completely changed. I mean in 30 years it would be ok to have towns destroyed / rebuild, changed etc... But here, in addition to that, mountains COMPLETELY re-arranged themselves and ancients ruins appeared. Almost no town/village were preserved, and those who were are actually on completely different spots on the map ! I won't even mention a new race making an apparition in only 30 years.

The most the game progresses, the less the story make sense. At first everything seems ok, but toward the end of the game you figure out that the villains had absolutely no reason for their evil actions, other than a lame excuse for a game.

The game itself ends abruptly and in a total nonsense ending. At first I thought I got the "bad" ending and forgot to unlock something to get the "good" ending, but apparently no, there is nothing better available. So that's probably another cheap trick for an incoming cheap sequel.

What is specifically disappointing is an event during the middle of the game which is physically impossible (even in a fantasy world filled with magic, the basic physics and geometry rules of our words still applies I guess...). I found that this event makes total nonsense and make the game look particularly ridiculous. This event is irreversible and thus if you missed something (a djinni for example) you are not getting it back. You have to put an end to this event for the game to finish, and that's all.

Another complain I have is that, considering the music was composed by Motoi Sakuraba which is usually an amazing composer, the soundtrack is disappointing. A few songs (battle themes for instance) are good, but other than that I guess this guy is getting out of inspiration (no offense to him, but seeing how amazing he was in the past, I had high expectations).

Another major problem is that the first hour of gameplay is a tutorial for little 10 years olds who never played any RPGs in their live, and have no idea what the first two Golden Sun games are. In short it's basically the children of the former heroes which are like "Hey I want to be like my dad !" and their dads trying to tech them (you) how to play the game. They should have at least given the possibility for old timers to skip this annoying tutorial that assume the player is an unresponsive kid (not that I lack respect for younger gamers, it's just that they could teach their tutorial a better way and/or make it skippable).

Last thing, the difficulty was really watered down for this installment. I remember that early in the game you have to do a whole quest to be able "to be strong enough to go into Ouroboros Labyrinth, which is full of awesome treasures, but nobody ever came back from it".

The truth is that this particular so-called "labyrinth" is in fact a 2-floor small dungeon with a linear path and without any enemies or traps. Only two treasures and one djini with some enigmas leading to them. How could all those other brave warriors "never come back" if there is no way to die in here ? Oh well maybe they just slipped on the floor and fell in the stairs.

Even if the game was mostly a piece of cake, I remember that many bosses came at totally unexpected places, and that I found myself loosing without having saving for a long time. On the other way around, at places you expect something to happen such as a boss attacking you (for example in that "labyrinth", nothing happens ! They did some weird design choices like that all the way through the game.

The Bottom Line

While the gameplay of the game is very good and satisfying, this game is totally incoherent with the first two games. It feels short and rushed overall, it's likely Nintendo and Camelot decided not to release any sequel and that they suddenly changed their mind, announced this and rushed this as fast as possible.

I read somewhere that "this game gives more questions than answers", and this statement describe this game very well. They just didn't put much (if any) thoughts in the storyline and focused more on making an open ending for more sequels rather than answering what was unanswered in the first two games.

I have mixed feelings with this game. It is definitely nowhere near a masterpiece like both GBA Golden Sun games, and I would recommend them instead (for people who haven't already played them !). If they ever decide to release a fourth installment I sure hope they will make it more coherent with the first two and will correct what went wrong with this instalment.