A Good Game That Is Held Back,
This review is from: Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (Nintendo DS) (Video Game)
Golden Sun Dark Dawn is a turn-based Japanese Role-playing game (the game is in English. Japanese Role-playing game is the genre/style).
The mechanics are overworld exploration of continents and sea, turned based combat, and puzzles that use Psynergy ("Powers" or "Magic"). Unique to this game is the mechanic of "Djinni" who are small creatures that represent each of the traditional elements of alchemy (Wind, Fire, Earth and Water). They augment your party of characters by giving your characters a boost to stats, or affecting what Psynergy powers the character knows. Each of the 8 total playable characters represent one of the 4 elements.
You can choose any combination of Djinni on any character. For example, you can have a few Earth Djinni on a Fire character (Adept). Since each Djinni (even within the same element) buffs different stats, you can mix-and-match to craft your perfect character. This adds a surprising amount of depth to the game. Unfortunately, the controls for doing this is rather fiddly. You navigate lots of menus to compare and contrast different Djinni combinations. Especially when you acquire a new Djinni. As a result, you'll probably end up making your Adepts purists. e.g. Putting only Earth Djinni on an Earth Adept. It's a shame.
Another area which is a hit and miss is the storyline. There are several points of "No Return" through out the story. This by itself isn't bad. It's a change from the very-open world of the first two games but it helps direct the story and reduces the likelihood of you getting lost. Unfortunately, the problem with this system is the fact Golden Sun has a "Collectable" aspect to it. You can only get certain Djinni and Summons in certain parts of the story. If you progress past a "Point of No Return", you will *never* be able to obtain those Djinni or Summons ever again. Which means if you want to 100% Djinni and Summons, you must refer to a Walkthrough guide. Which isn't enjoyable as you risk reading spoilers and it takes away the decision process of where to go.
The puzzles compared to the previous games are improved and at the same time made worse. There are no more annoyingly obscure puzzle solutions. However, on the flip side, some puzzles are insultingly and patronisingly simple. However, it could be that since I had played the previous two games, I can instantly see what needs to be done.
The story is different from the previous games. If you had played the previous games you'll appreciate any returning characters/places x years on. But the story isn't focused. Elements are dropped and ignored whilst new agendas appear. Despite the game being more linear, the narrative is less focused. The game feels more like series of events than an over-arcing plot.
The 8 playable characters are nicely varied with personality and gameplay. However, encountering them is sprinkled across the story. Which means when you encounter the last two, you are very far into the game and comfortable with your preferred choice of 4 to battle with. Which is a shame.
The game makes improvements over the previous two games. However some of the changes to make the game less punishing instead has made some aspects too simplistic. And ironically, this game now punishes you for being ignorant about Djinni and Summon locations. I gave this game 4*s because the previous two games are 5* material. It is a fun game. However, if you're expecting Golden Sun 1 & The Lost Age then you will be slightly disappointed.