Camelot’s original Golden Sun series is considered by fans to be the best portable RPG series of all time, and Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is the long awaited third entry that fans have been craving since the closing credits of Golden Sun: The Lost Age. Taking full advantage of the NDS hardware, Dark Dawn promises to be the best game in the series. The question is, can it really live up to the cult-like status of its predecessors?
Dark Dawn is set 30 years after the end of The Lost Age. Now known as the Golden Sun event, the massive release of alchemical power has warped the world beyond recognition. Countries have been destroyed, towns shifted across the continent and new species of both animal and people born. While some hail the Adepts responsible as the Heroes of Vale, many more blame them for the catastrophic destruction that shook the world. Players assume the roles of the children of the Heroes of Vale, and set out to find the reason behind a dangerous phenomena. Psyenergy Vortexes appear unpredictably in random places, and suck the energy from everything around them.
Dark Dawn stays very close to the gameplay of the original games though it does offer full stylus based controls. It’s also retained the systems that really defined its predecessors; both psyenergy based puzzle solving and Djinn class customization are present. Fans will appreciate that the deep narrative style has been kept, which is to say that dialogue scenes are excessively long and detailed.
At its core, the Golden Sun series is about puzzle solving. Despite being an RPG, the bulk of gameplay is spent solving puzzles from dungeon to dungeon with Psyenergy. Draining or refilling lakes, pushing pillars to create paths and so on happen in literally every area and are the post important parts of advancing the game. Though fans will certainly appreciate the beautiful new graphics, it is the hours upon hours of puzzles that evoke the nostalgia of the series. Personally, I was pleased to see that battles kept the same stilted animation style that was so distinctive to the original.
While the puzzles are deep, engaging and thoughtful, many have complained that the battles are far too easy. Compared to the consistent challenge of the originals, many feel that Dark Dawn‘s battle system was simplified to lure in the more casual gamer. I can appreciate the sentiment, but I felt the battles were of average difficulty. Though perhaps not as challenging as its precedecessors, combat is more complex here than in a truly casual RPG.
Dark Dawn fell short of many expectations and exceeded others, and fans are torn. The graphics are gorgeous and the original gameplay systems have all been retained and polished, and the uzzles are harder and more interesting than ever with the refined Psyenergy system. Battles, however, are much easier. It’s not the perfect game fans hoped for, but it is a must-have for anyone who enjoyed the originals.