Quality Old School Fun.
Turn based JRPGs are a little thin on the ground now days. Not an utterly unreasonable thing, after all for all things there is a time, and some of the newer real time JRPGs have been pretty good. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn though, mmmmm, yeah baby, that brings it.
Dialling down the perv factor a bit , this game is good. Its basic mechanics are at least 15 years old, it characters and setting archetypes much more so. Does it feel stale, over done, used? Nope, not a bit of it. It is probably the best out and out old school JRPG I've played since Dragon Quest VIII. Like that game GS:DD takes a solid and well worked formula and polishes to a glistening sheen. Almost every game mechanic works beautifully. The fighting, the exploration, the loot collecting, it's all there and done superbly. Throw in some nice environmental puzzles and you have a lovely game.
What lets GS:DD down a trifle are two points. First it has a desperately long winded opening. The series so wants us to care about what has gone on before in the previous iterations. You have to sit through near on a quarter of an hour's exposition before you get to play, then you have to plod through a pretty tedious bit of character development before the game proper starts. The less patient will have put down their DS's before ever getting to the action. Once you do though it works like a charm. You fight, you explore, you work your way through puzzles which require you to figure out which of your magic spells will get into a new area r to a treasure. You level up, you find or buy new weapons. It's all there just waiting for you to get past the first half hour of tedium.
After that about the only flaw is the game's emoticon system. You, as the MC, have four different emotional states (laid back, peppy, sad or angry) which you can communicate to various people in the world, be they fellow party members, or strangers met along the way. But, crucially, they don't make a wit a of difference to how the story pans out, or how the characters interact with you, it's just pointless and worse it frequently make absolutely no sense.
If you can look past this and the awful opening twenty minutes there is a terrific game here to play. One which will give you hours and hours of fun. If you're not an old school JRPG fan, then it might not be a bad game to pick up to find out if you like the style and if you are.... hell why haven't already got this gem?