Golden Sun caught me completely by surprise when I first learned of it as a wee lad, back in 2003. I had seen glimpses of the first game here and there, both in Nintendo Power and in the infancy of the internet, but it had never really grasped me as a must have game. Later, when The Lost Age came out, I was deeply entrenched in internet communities and received more exposure to the hype surrounding the game. I began to look up screenshots and reviews and other info about the game, and quickly became more and more intrigued by its colorful design and focus on the Greek elements of Fire, Earth, Air, and Wind. Of course, during this time, I was also an amoral pre-teen, so I downloaded the ROM of the first game and began to play the opening segments on Visual Boy Advance. I was hooked. The game was pure old school RPG goodness, and I quickly realized it was developed by Camelot, the developer of the beloved Shining Force series - the trademark little Yes/No options you get during dialogue tipped me off. I got to the end of the opening - where you leave Vale - and I decided that I was going to ask my parents if I could buy the actual cart for GBA. I barely ever got games as presents back then, so this was a big deal. I ended up barreling through both the original and its sequel within two weeks or so, and I was completely blown away by how much I enjoyed them. I adored the OST, as well, and I didn't even find out it was composed by one of my favorite game musicians, Motoi Sakuraba, until after I'd beaten both games.
The elemental focus of the game is one of its greatest strengths. It individualizes each character in a similar way to superhero comics or shonen manga, where everyone has a set of "special powers" that only they or a select few are able to use. Playing on the Greek elements of Fire, Water, Earth, and Air, although taking names from Roman mythology to refer to them in Mars, Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter, each Adept was confined to a single element, and often bore physical traits of their element in their design, such as blue hair for Mercury Adepts and red hair for Mars Adepts. The fact that there were four different types of adepts meant that each "special" person was drawing from a limited pool of powers, which only added to the appeal of their abilities, as they felt unique, but still relatively grounded - they were different than others, but they were much less so than, say, your average superpowered comic or manga protagonist. I love how each type of Psyenergy is assigned a certain color, and how its adepts and djinn work within that color scheme. Color is a huge element of these games (pun intended) and the coloring style itself is very striking, especially in its artwork but also in-game. Each element also had a particular type of Djinn assigned to it, with each Djinn remaining visually distinct from one another yet retaining common elements among the same type.
|The party from the original game. Their goal was to stop the elemental lighthouses from being lit.|
|From left to right, clockwise: Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Mercury Djinn.|
The limited party was also a fantastic idea. You got one adept of each element, further exemplifying the "specialness" of the adepts in the Golden Sun world and allowing you to appreciate each character for their unique gifts. The small party size also led you to become attached to the characters in a way that many RPGs with larger party sizes do not, as well as give each character time to shine during story segments. You get them all towards the beginning of the game, so you have a lot of time to fall in love with these characters.
|Isaac, the party leader of the first game, uses his earth magic.|
|Promo art for The Lost Age, featuring Felix and his group of adepts. Notice the darker and more subdued color scheme, reflecting the tonal shift in the story.|
|Promo image for Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, featuring Matthew, Karis, and Tyrell.|
|See here; mention of 30 years ago. Get used to seeing that.|
I still want a fourth one, though. Dark Dawn ended on a cliffhanger, and it seemed like the plot could become promising. Maybe someday...?