Golden Sun is a pretty average RPG, but still a good game.
Golden Sun was a good game overall, there's nothing extremely bad about it or extremely great, but it does everything right and hardly anything wrong, does that make sense? Well I enjoyed it for the most part, it's far from being original, it took alot of elements from Dragon Warrior and a ton from Wild Arms, but that's hardly a bad thing. You had to keep taping the A button to scroll through each message during battle, the game was short and the dialog scenes were long, that's about the only major complaints I have. The compliments however is the dungeons had a ton of fun puzzles to figure out, the graphics were top notch for the most part, and it pretty much felt like a classic SNES RPG down to the bone.
Golden Sun is a traditional turn-based RPG with random encounters. Your turns are set in rounds, so you set your party members moves all at once and watch the round unfold, the person or enemy with the highest agility goes first. Your party is a total of four, once you get your characters they'll stay with you until the end, with the exception of one character at the very beginning of the game.
Your party will get the help of Djinni, which are elemental monsters that can change your stats or gain new abilities when equipped. You can use these Djinni in battle aswell as a Summon that can cause massive elemental damage to the enemy but only if they're unattached to your characters, after a set amount of turns he'll return to your character.. You can also unset them during battle and cause a various of status effects or attacks to enemies, but you'll lose whatever stat boosts the Djinni gives you. You can then use the Djinni as a Summon, since he's not equipped to a person anymore.
Each character will gain Psynergy, some are unique, some go with which Djinni you equip. The Psynergy is used as magic in this game. You can use it during battle like any other magic spells in any RPG, with status effects, elemental attacks or healing effects. The best part about Psynergy is you can use special ones outside of battle that can be used to solve puzzles. For example, you can use a "Move" spell that will push a pillar you couldn't reach, or a "Force" spell that can knock an old tree stump into the water so you can hop on it and cross a river. There's a ton of Psynergy spells you can learn with a ton of fun dungeons to try them out on. The coolest thing about this game is you can assign hotkeys for 2 spells at a time with the L and R button, so if you're primarily going to use a "Lift" spell, then you should hotkey it. Each spell will of course cost magic points, called PP in this game. When your characters runs they will slowly regain PP, I think this was added so you couldn't get stuck by running out of PP, but it does make the game a little easy if you can heal your self after each battle with little penalty.
Each party member can only hold 15 items, which includes their equipments or special crystals that enable them to use Psynergy powers. There's no special inventory to store items, so that only leaves 60 spaces in total for items, which is mostly used for equipment and healing items. You'll often come to times where you have to drop stuff or endless rearranging to fit new items into your inventory. This was the most annoying thing about the game.
----------Characters / Story----------
You play as a silent hero name Issac an Adept that can use Psycnegery. With his friend Garet and Jenna they go on a small adventure to learn more about Psycngery but find a secret dimension that unleashed more than they bargained for. They run into the thugs of the game in this area, along with Felix, a long lost friend. This is where the bad guys steal the special crystals that they need to re-light the Lighthouses and gain extreme power. Jenna is kidnaped and Issac and Garet go on the main adventure to save her and stop the bad guys from lighting the four Lighthouses.
The story started off really interesting, but then you fall into a pattern of going to a town, finding out what’s wrong (which usually doesn't have anything to do with you) and fixing it. The first 10 hours had me hooked, then the repetitive nature of the game finally hit me and it slowed everything down for me. The dialog scenes are looong, with little said, for a handheld game to play on the go, it can get a little annoying. For the most part this game just feels like a set up for Golden Sun 2, which was alot more fleshed out and interesting.
For an early GBA title the graphics are very solid. The towns, dungeons, and character designs are bright and colorful with a ton of variation. The game gets a little shady when you're on the world map, because it has this faux-3D look to it that just makes it look extremely pixilated and ugly at times. The battle system has a similar pixilated feel to it, I think they're pushing the hardware a little hard on this, but the enemies look pretty cool for the most part, they're always in motion, some were huge.. it's just they're really pixilated and the game zooms in on them when you attack and shows ever little pixel. Some special moves are really big and over the top, nothing to long, which is pretty much perfect. During the dialog scenes the characters have an avatar bubble next to your text, and an emotion bubble at times, which every game without voice work just have by now.
The music is pretty good, similar to Dragon Warrior, the text bubbles have that annoying text sound Nintendo likes to throw in, but you can easily remove that.
The map is a standard Final Fantasy-esque overhead view map. You can walk to town to dungeon and even find Djinni hiding in special areas. You can zoom out to get a better view of the area, and even get a picture of the world map displaying each town and your current location. There's no warps or flying ships or anything to speed up transportation.
You can save anywhere in the game aslong as you're not talking or in a battle.
----------Time to Complete Game (save before final boss)----------
It felt like I missed some stuff, but I got all the Djinni and did all the sidequests I could find. The game saves after you beat it, but you can't really do anything else with your data until you get Golden Sun 2 and transfer your data over, either with a cable hookup and 2 GBAs or with a long and complicated password system.