Golden Sun: Dark Dawn follows on from the absolutely fantastic Golden Sun and Lost Age games on the Gameboy Advance. After a 7 year absence the series finally makes a welcome return for the Nintendo DS. Too say I have been eagerly awaiting this is a massive understatement. Is it a shining example in the series or will I need a Djinn and tonic?
Anyone who has played a traditional RPG will know what Dark Dawn is about. The game does follow on from the last game, set 30 years afterwards. You play as the children of the Heroes of Vale, Isaac and Garet. After a rather lengthy intro sequence, the game kicks off with the quest. Cue vast landscapes to explore, random monster battles and more side quests than you can shake a stick at. Soon enough a simple quest turns into prophecies and talk of the end of the world, well it wouldn’t be Golden Sun without one. Controlling a party of young heroes, you travel the world acquiring magical items, using your Psyenergy powers, battling huge bosses and helping those in need.
This is a fairly typical RPG formula as we all know. Dark Dawn’s trump card is the mystical creatures known as Djinn, which are scattered across the land. These Pokemon type creatures are found by solving complex puzzles, plots or through battle. One acquired, they power up your characters, even changing their classes in some cases. All characters have their own set of magic skills, Isaac for example is an Earth Psyenergy Adept, meaning he can summon huge boulders to crush an enemy. If given different Djinn, of say water and fire elements, his magic attacks change to summon deadly demons and dragons. This element of collecting and customization is fantastic and allows different battle tactics for each change.
Graphically, the game is fantastic. The Gameboy Advance games were 2D but looked lovely. Here the same style is used but with the added power of the DS the landscapes, characters and battles are all lovely 3D. Summon magic attacks, in particular are brilliantly animated. The sound too is a marvel. Each town has its own theme tune and the music as you travel the world map will instantly raise a smile to die-hard fans. Every time you equip a new weapon or armour, you can see it on your character, which was not as clear on the old Gameboy Advance games. The top screen displays a map and item screens, but not used to full extent.
As I am such a fan, I feel biased to the game. In order to review fairly I will note negative points which I feel are particularly important. There are close to 80 Djinn to collect in the game, which is awesome, but many of them have the same abilities. The developers could have picked some new attacks. Also, the summons in the game are the same as in past games, some new ones would have been great. Also the conversations are sometimes far too long, with no skip option. There are also annoying ‘points of no return’ meaning if you missed any item or Djinn, you can no longer get them after a certain scene. You control 8 characters at one point, and can switch in battle, but too be honest, their Psyenergies feel a little tacked on, used once or twice throughout the game. The first couple of hours are very puzzle based and it doesn’t really get tough until the battling starts later on.
Golden Sun: Dark Dawn without a doubt was my favourite game of 2010. It is an epic, fun and unforgettable entry in the series. Even with a couple of flaws, it is a mini masterpiece. I just prey we do not have to wait 7 years for the 3ds version.