OPINION: “Golden” Games Should Stay in the Dark

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

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The role-playing game is a well-traveled genre by now. Since its rise to fame courtesy of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, dedicated players have come across countless titles, all which vary in quality. Some of these games become franchises that are destined to stay strong for what feels like an eternity. And others, despite being great, never really catch fire, only manage to fade into the shadows. The latter types of games tend to develop a cult following that both reflects upon the good times…as well as hopes for some sort of revival. Most times, fans lament for a quality title lost, should the opportunity never arise.

The Gameboy Advance was truly a renaissance device for all of handheld gaming. It wasn’t quite the Golden Age that the Nintendo DS / PSP (collectively) would usher in a little later, but there was no shortage of fun to be had, especially in the realm of RPGs. Square threw a handful of Final Fantasy games from the SNES era onto the system, as well as offered original games like Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. The Gameboy Advance helped to ignite the niche that Fire Emblem has taken in the west, too.

   

But none of these titles resonated more deeply with me as a gamer than Golden Sun (2001) & Golden Sun: The Lost Age (2003). Published by Nintendo and Camelot, these games collectively blended everything I loved about the RPGs of the past—from effective use of the “silent protagonist”, to a story that emphasizes places, people, and events even more than its actual characters.

I’ll offer a quick summary of both games, since the crux of what I have to say will come later. Golden Sun tells the story of Isaac, whose goal is to stop a mysterious group from lighting the beacons of four mystical lighthouses that would unleash the power of Alchemy upon the world. He is joined by three friends who share the gift of Psynergy, the land’s unique take on magic that aids players in battle and helps to solve the puzzles of the various lighthouses.

At the end of Golden Sun, you’re left with a “To be Continued” screen as the plot is turned on its head. For the second game, you end up in control of Felix, one of the people Isaac was in pursuit of for the entire first game. Although Felix was quite chatty in the first Golden Sun game, when the player gains control of him, he does not speak. And Isaac, who was dead silent for the first game, develops a voice and a strong personality as soon as you come across him during the second game.

Battle is reminiscent of the early SNES era of RPGs—random, turn-based, simple to control, filled with magic and summon spells. But the game offers a unique twist in the form of Djinn, some 72 cute little creatures spread across both games that allow each member of your party to obtain a unique set of Psynergy skills, or enhance the ones they already have. There’s a lot of versatility that made me feel refreshed as a longtime RPG fan.

Continued on Page Two


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  • As unnecessarily convoluted as the Kingdom Hearts story has become, I think the reason most people (myself included) wants a Kingdom Hearts 3 is because we want some fucking closure, already.
    Although, I’m still waiting until they make a Toy Story world. That would make my inner child squee.

    • If people actually play through the games and not just say stuff they hear about KH’s story, they would understand the story and stop saying it’s complex, because it really isn’t. Saying a series is “unnecessarily complex” can apply to any deep story and it’s just an overall unfair accusation.

    • This also goes for Nintendo series. I seem to be one of the only people who didn’t find the Zelda timeline to be “confusing” or “complex”, which is what brought tons of people to say there was no timeline since it was “so convoluted”.

      When Nintendo revealed the triple timeline, the ONLY surprise was the existence of a 3rd. The actual order of all the games was exactly the same as what I had pieced together from all the stories and generic, public interviews. And anyone following since ALttP would’ve been watching it unfold in obvious directions.

      I’ve also seen people say Metroid’s was confusing, which blows my mind. Not only do 4 of the games have numbers indicating their positions, but Nintendo released a mini timeline showing where the Prime games took place, and it was blatantly obvious where Other M took place.

      Seems like a cop-out to paying attention or thinking just a little when saying a deep/involved story/timeline is “confusing”.

    •  Honestly, I love the Zelda timeline presented in Hyrule Historia. It’s complex, but not unnecessarily so.

    • I’ve played every single Kingdom Hearts game since the
      beginning. I even made a point to play through some of the…lesser-quality
      titles like 358 / 2 Days and Re:Coded.

      Without revealing spoilers as to how certain characters came to be (or rather,
      came back to life), the way the series treats life and death went from
      something simple (one dies, becomes a heartless) to…creating an infinite loop
      in which no character can ever truly die (if you defeat their heartless, then
      their nobody, they come back to life—does the cycle repeat itself
      indefinitely?).

       

      It’s just an opinion, but I find my label of “unnecessarily
      complex” to be completely fair.

    • caleb1993

       Actually, the heartless/nobody loop only worked due to the false Kingdom Hearts Xemnas had created in 2. It was due to that, that those who had their nobodies defeated were able to return.

  • Kyle Bue

    I adore the Golden Sun series so much. Some of my favorite games of all time. The first real RPG I’d ever played. I played those games for hours every day when I was a kid. But despite all that, I actually do agree that it should be put to rest. Dark Dawn was still as fun as ever, but I didn’t feel the same magic I had when I played the predecessors. The fanboy in me would just go crazy for another Golden Sun game, but the realist in me just thinks that it should be done and over with.

  • Meryc

    I agree with you on the Chrono series. Trigger and Cross were both amazing games, but I doubt a third one, after so much time, would be as good.

    I don’t have an issue calling Dark Dawn a full-fledged successor to the Golden Sun series. While it was inferior to both GBA games, it wasn’t a terrible game. I recall reading that the new Golden Sun games are supposed to be the actual story. In that case, Dark Dawn should be establishing, not evolving, the new world. I believe it managed to succeed there.

    And we kind of just want some closure on Kingdom Hearts. While the story is convoluted, once you understand everything it’s actually pretty interesting. I’m thinking that Nomura might want to visit Kingdom Hearts again after the conclusion of the Xehanort saga, and that’s why everything’s explained as it is. 

  • ybeast10

    I feel the same way about Pokemon. Ever since Gold and Silver, I just have become more and more disappointed with each new game. They definitely should have stopped after Diamond and Pearl. Black and White have been intolerable. I cringe at the thought of Black and White 2.

  • You talk a lot about the bad results from revivals/sequels of old great classics, but what about the successful sequels/revivals? For example: Donkey Kong Country Returns, Castlevania Lord of Shadows, Fallout 3, Rayman Origins, Street Fighter 4, and the list goes on. There’s both successes and failures when talking about all this, and we just hope for the best when it comes to whether or not an old game we love is getting a new addition to its series.

    • There are exceptions to every rule. I’m sure Mega Man
      Legends 3, like the games you’ve named, would have been highly successful /
      engaging.

      But that’s the difference between reviving something like a platformer or a
      fighting game versus reviving an RPG. Too much can go wrong, which is why I
      would rather remember good games for what they were—good versus “tarnished”,
      however harsh a word that appears to be.

  • The trap was set when Nintendo/Capcom waited so long for a third installment. Of course Dark Dawn wouldn’t be everything it could have been… by then the expectations were insurmountable, but since the ending was really a ginormous cliffhanger, it felt as though Dark Dawn was an altogether necessary prologue to another, possibly a couple or few, installments to come. By no means was this a bad game: it had everything that made the first two work, but it more or less served to remind us where they left off, and tell us the direction they are heading with Golden Sun. 

    And I like the direction. 

    The one thing I really do agree on is the soundtrack, but even through all of the underwhelming scores of music, Belinsk Ruins/Luna Tower, ESPECIALLY when the gears started turning, was intensely amazing, and wonderfully fitting for that dungeon. 

    • I really hope you guys are right, which is why I would still get
      behind a sequel to Dark Dawn 100%. Nintendo / Camelot still has a chance at
      redemption by creating a sequel to the game. But, as it was, Dark Dawn felt TOO
      safe to me.

      I may end up changing my mind if the sequel turns out to be polished, tying up
      loose ends, but… for now, I just feel like they shouldn’t have even tried, you
      know?

      Also—if a sequel never comes, we went from the “wow” ending of The Lost Age to
      a sort of “…Really?” ending with Dark Dawn. They really should make a sequel,
      if only to provide fans with closure from Dark Dawn, however people thought of
      it.

  • Definitely some good points, and another example would be NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams.

    The original NiGHTS into Dreams was a cult classic, and actually had a lot of room for improvement, but Sega decided to design decent levels for the sequel, and then basically stopped there, tacking on horrible motion controls and a terrible platforming mechanic.

    Now, at the same time, I don’t mind if companies try to come up with sequels to long anticipated games.  It is really the gamer’s fault for leading himself to believe a game is going to deliver on everything he could possibly imagine.  Despite the let-down of the NiGHTS sequel, I still feel fondly toward the series.  And, I enjoyed Metroid: Other M (probably in spite of the fact that so many gamers complained about the game.  I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of Other M.)

  • If they are going to do a fourth Golden Sun, I hope Felix is in it and gets the credit he’s due ( Dark Dawn boasts Isaac as the hero of the past games when really Felix’s party were the ones restoring the lighthouses).

  • Kellyn Stephens

    The problem with wanting Golden Sun to end now is that they’ve left the story at another “To Be Continued.” I agree that Golden Sun should end and be left alone as the gem that it is, but we’ll need one more game, for better or for worse, before it can be laid to rest.

  • No i at least want GS 4