Golden Sun: Dark Dawn Review
Golden Sun: Dark Dawn Box Art
System: DS
Dev: Camelot Software Planning
Pub: Nintendo
Release: November 29, 2010
Players: 1
Screen Resolution: N/A
Golden Sun Rises Again
by Robert VerBruggen

Let's clear up one thing right away: If you're not already a fan of the Golden Sun franchise, and especially if you're not already a fan of JRPGs in general, you should skip Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. To put it bluntly, an outsider will find this game tedious in the extreme. While the RPG genre has taken huge steps forward in the last decade or so, especially when it comes to streamlining the gameplay, the folks behind Golden Sun seem to think the format was perfected fifteen years ago.

You'll wade through oceans of text. Not only are there lengthy conversations between every few minutes of gameplay, but the characters frequently throw around references to series lore, offering you the chance to tap the unknown word with your stylus for an encyclopedia definition. Battles start randomly, because the enemies are invisible until they attack. While there are some interesting combat mechanics (more on those in a sec), the battles are turn-based and feel pretty much the same as they did in Final Fantasy games in the early '90s. You'll have to run back and forth between inns to recharge your health and revive felled party members. Unless you're the kind of person who savors these kinds of things, you will not enjoy playing this for the day or more it will take to complete the game -- and we mean a full day, 24 hours, at a bare minimum.

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn Screenshot

But all of that was true of previous Golden Sun titles, and the franchise developed a diehard fan base nonetheless. For that fan base, Dark Dawn will prove to be a flawed but overwhelmingly enjoyable game. A must-buy, even.

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The story begins thirty years after the events of the last game, and while the Golden Sun has solved many of the problems in Weyard, some new ones have come into being. In particular, Psynergy Vortexes, which drain the energy from the Adepts who are the heroes of the franchise, have spread throughout the land. The children of the heroes from the last game are tasked with ridding the world of this new menace.

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn Screenshot

Your first assignment is to trek across the land in search of Tyrell, a young Advent who flew a hang glider ("Soarwing," rather) before he had the necessary skills and crashed near a cave. It's a training mission of sorts; two of the experienced warriors from the last game (Isaac and Garet, who are your father and Tyrell's, respectively) accompany you, and help you fight the various monsters you encounter if things go poorly. This sequence introduces you to the pattern that repeats throughout the game: You receive an assignment, work your way through puzzles that evoke those in 2-D Zelda games, fight the small enemies that attack you at random, and eventually take on a boss.

Your first assignment is to trek across the land in search of Tyrell, a young Advent who flew a hang glider ("Soarwing," rather) before he had the necessary skills and crashed near a cave. It's a training mission of sorts; two of the experienced warriors from the last game (Isaac and Garet, who are your father and Tyrell's, respectively) accompany you, and help you fight the various monsters you encounter if things go poorly. This sequence introduces you to the pattern that repeats throughout the game: You receive an assignment, work your way through puzzles that evoke those in 2-D Zelda games, fight the small enemies that attack you at random, and eventually take on a boss.

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn Screenshot

In these first few hours, you get a pretty good sense of the game's flaws. We advise quitting if they become unbearable, because whatever the game's positive qualities, a few problems persist through it. In addition to the overall text-heaviness that's mentioned above, there's an awkward facial-expression system that plays out during the conversations. The characters on screen are too small to show much emotion, so instead, smiley, frowny, gloating, and angry faces appear above them when they need to express themselves. Sometimes, you have to choose which emotion to display yourself, but all this normally does is provoke a single-line response ("Don't get angry with me!" or whatnot) from another character. The entire system is weird and distracting, and the game would be better without it. The conversations are burdensome enough with tons of texts and optional encyclopedia definitions (the latter of which are annoyingly easy to click by accident).

Screenshots / Images
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