1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Not as good as its predecessors.,
This review is from: Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (Nintendo DS) (Video Game)
I enjoyed the first two GS games immensley on the Gameboy Advance. The first was probably the best one, as it was well-paced. The second one, Lost Kingdom, seemed a little over-crowded and confusing, but over-all, it was a good meaty game to keep you exploring for weeks. So obviously I was excited about Dark Dawn, but somehow, it killed the series for me. There may be spoilers ahead, so don't read if you want to avoid them.
The story begins by introducing us to the three main characters who are the children of three of the main characters from the first Golden Sun. During the early stages, they are sent on a quest to find the feather of a Roc. During their travels, they encounter these mysterious dark vortexes that seem to absorb the magical energy our heroes use, which is called Psynergy. So this had me thinking that the vortexes would be a recurring element throughout the game and somehow tied to the final boss. However, the plot of this game pretty much disappears up its own rear end. we end up running into a group of cillains who trick us into doing a bunch of misdeeds which result in us bringing about an apocalypse that we have to put right.
My biggest annoyance with this game is that there are too many cut off points, in which once you progress through a certain area, thats it, you won't ever be going back to the previous areas you have explored. This, for me, is a big fat No-no when it comes to RPGs. In the first two GS games, there were quite a few points where you had to leave a lot of things behind to proceed, but eventually you would find a way to get back to the earlier stages of the game (for example, a broken bridge gets repaired or you use your ship to get back) this makes for a nice non-linear experience, so that if you realise you have left behind certain items, then you can head back and retrieve them. In the case of the GS games, this is essential to making sure you get hold of all of the Djini spirits, which are used to make characters more powerful.
Alas, with Dark Dawn, there are several point in the game's storyline where once you proceed, thats it. No going back. Missed any of those djinnis or unique diety summoning spells? Tough. You'll have continue without them, or quit and start all over again from the beginning. This just makes the game too linear for me to fully enjoy, and makes me think it should not have been designed as an RPG.
The other problem I had with this game is that it becomes so morbid and depressing halfway through. Not that I don't love a good fantasy romp with plenty of dark, intriguing themes, but the doom and gloom that occurs in this game just does not suit the style of GS at all. The first two GS games were very light-hearted. at times, it seemed like certain characters were in peril, but they'd pull through and come back. In Dark Dawn, once the apocalyptic event kicks in (the Eclipse, which causes the Dark Dawn of the game's title) then its all down-hill from there. You wander around towns and find the streets literally littered with corpses. This is very dark indeed for a Golden Sun game. But the thing is, a lot of the death that occurs in this game seems to have been dealt with quite in bad taste. One of the characters you recruit has the ability to communicate with the spirits of the dead, so you actually get to go around talking to some of the dead bodies, and they kind of give these black humoured lines of dialogue. Funny, but again, not what I want from a Golden Sun game.
As for the characters - in total, you get to recruit 8 playable characters (2 for each element) but to me, that just seems like 4 too many. I said Lost Kingdom seemed over-crowded, but that game had a good length. This game is significently shorter than Lost Kingdom. In fact, at one point, I really thought I was about halfway through the game, but it turned out that I was very close to the end! The other advantage that Lost Kingdom had, was that you explored a big chunk of the game with the 4 "new" characters (3 of them were people we met in the first GS) and then later on we'd be reunited with the 4 major characters from the first game. so it patched things up nicely, and there were plenty of side quests to explore with the fully formed group.
In Dark Dawn, half of the group were people I did not give a damn about. In the beginning, you get to do a bit of training with Isaac and Garet (2 major characters from the old games) and I wa slike "Cool! we get to see how everyone has grown up!" but unfortunately, those two are only in this game to give tutorials on how to use synergy and djinnis. Once you leave home, you never see them again, and you don't get to meet any of the other characters from the previous games (exept for their children) I honestly think this game would have been better if half the group were fresh-faced youngsters, and the other half were characters from the previous games. Sadly, for me, it was about gathering a group of mostly new characters and the story seemed very rushed, considering how short the game is over all. I think the other new characters should have been saved for another game (I don't actually know if they have made/ are making another GS game - I do feel we need another one to make up for Dark Dawn)
I also feel I should mention that my inventory was constantly becoming over-loaded with useless items. In the Golden Sun games, we get a large amount of magic points (called psynergy points, or PP in the Golden Sun realm) and they constantly replenish during travel, so we get practically limitless uses of attack and healing spells. Therefore, we don't really need all these herbs and elixirs taking up space in our inventory. We don't need smoke bombs and sleeping gas, either. this may seem like a minor issue, but when i want to give a certain character a new peace of equipment, and he can't take it because his pockets are full, then it becomes an inconvenience, because I have to mess around choosing which items to swap over.
As with the previous GS games, you can alter your characters' fighting classes by aligning different elemental djinni alongside each other. This was a good feature in the first two GS games, which had a lot more exploring and fighting, but in Dark Dawn, it seems virtually useless. Battles are just too easy, for some reason, and the areas we explore are quite small, so you don't exactly get to wander far and wide, encountering many battles. I can't quite put my finger on it, but the class alterations seemed redundant in this game compared to its predeccessors.
So what positive things can I tell you about Dark Dawn? well, the graphics are pretty awesome for a handheld game. while walking around and watching cutscenes, the character sappear as cute stubby polygons, and when you get into fights, the polygons look more mature - they have more human adult-like proportions. Kind of like how Final fantasy VII on the PS uses different polygons from when you're walking around interacting with things, and when you have battle encounters.
The graphics are particularly beautiful on the summon spells. In the first two games, a drawing of a god or spirit would show up and lightning would flash about, and that was it. Very little animation involved. However in Dark Dawn, each summon spell gets its own little cutscene. We see Thor with his mighty muscles and tattoos, and many goddesses in skimpy outfits and flowing hair. Unfortunately, this is one the game's downfalls for me. I don't need 10-40 second long fancy cut scenes during battles to keep me occupied. Once or twice is nice, but after 79th time it gets a bit boring. I don't care what an exotic dragon queen from the heavenly palace looks like when she's breathing flames all over my enemies, as long as it does lots of damage.
Perhaps if the game's creators put as much effort into designing a better world to explore, then my review on this game would be a little more cheerful.
another feature to the game is that you can collect picture books that tell the story from the first two games, with cute little hand-drawn cut scenes depicting major events from the previous games. A dangerous distraction - reminding us that these games were once awesome.
And the dungeons, although they don't quite rival the lengthy dungeons of Lost Age, are quite well done. They are not overly-difficult to the point where you think "screw this - I'm gloking on the web for a solution", but the puzzles in this game rather... fun!
And one of the greatest credits I give to this game is its soundtrack. The music is beautiful and lively (fpr the most part, mind. There's always a few annoying tracks that have us turning down the volume in these sorts of games) but the scores are pretty much on par with the previous games.
Well, thats about all can say about Golden Sun: Dark Dawn for now. The older GS games are not perfect, by any means, but there flaws are little easier to overlook. I found a lot of flaws in this game, which became worse as I progressed through it. Its not a bad game, its just disappointing by the standards set by the first two golden suns.