The return of the prodigal sun
This review originally went live in 2014, and we're updating and republishing it to celebrate the game's arrival in Switch's Game Boy Advance library via the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack.
Back in 2001 (2002 in Europe) some players were left feeling short-changed when Golden Sun reached its abrupt ending. Developer Camelot â perhaps better known for the Shining Force series and, more recently, its Mario sports titles â expanded on its original plan and split the game into two parts. Those whoâd already invested in the story had to wait nearly a year and a half for part two, Golden Sun: The Lost Age, to witness the proper ending. Fortunately, newcomers to these JRPGs don't have to face the same agonising wait to see the story through to its conclusion.
Golden Sun: The Lost Age essentially continues from where the previous game ended â bar a tiny bit of overlap with the parallel storyline â although youâll be in control of a new party this time around, most of whom were introduced in the last entry. The lengthy and text-heavy prologue serves as a recap for those who played the previous game but will most likely alienate anyone jumping right into this second entry, due to the overwhelming influx of names and places.
The Lost Age does reward those who completed the first title with the option to import their levelled-up Isaac and crew via a rather lengthy password (although they won't be playable until later in the game). The original releases had the option of transferring the save data via a GBA link cable â obviously not an option if you're playing on other hardware, so let's be thankful the password system was implemented, however cumbersome.
In The Lost Age, youâll initially be in control of Felix, Golden Sun's antihero who happens to be the titleâs protagonist in this instalment. You are also joined by his sister Jenna, an elderly scholar named Kraden, and Sheba who was introduced towards the end of the last game. The story starts off with Jenna and Kraden rushing to rendezvous with Felix; however, due to prior events, a large piece of the land is detached and floats out to sea. A bit of fortunate timing leads to a tidal wave pushing the landmass onto a new continent known as Indra.
You soon discover that youâre going to need a ship to continue your quest by sailing to other continents, but fulfilling that objective is going to take some time as youâll need to do a lot of exploring and puzzle-solving before you can even leave Indra. Although the story in Lost Age is both well-written and engaging, it does take a while for things to get interesting. Thereâs little more that can be said of the storyline without giving too much away.
The Lost Age, like its predecessor, plays like a fairly standard RPG; much of your time will be spent walking around, talking to people, taking on side quests, solving puzzles, and fighting in turn-based, menu-driven random battles. The latter will rarely challenge you, though, as youâre likely to survive unless battling a boss. One of the main criticisms of the original Golden Sun was that it took a long time for the game to get going; fortunately, The Lost Age launches you into action almost immediately by throwing in some scattered battles alongside the introduction.
The second entry is also more challenging than its predecessor, as there's a greater focus on solving puzzles using Psynergy â Golden Sunâs equivalent of magic â of which different types can be found in the gameâs many temples. As there is little instruction on using Psynergy in the overworld, this adds another challenging element to the game. It can be used in battle to wear down your foes quickly and also to revive any member of your party â the latter being the Psynergy type youâll likely get more use of.
As with the last game, the elemental creatures known as Djinn â representing earth, wind, fire, and water â can aid you in battle, either by employing special attacks of their own or by simply changing the stats, class, and Psynergy of the party members they are set to. However, capturing them won't be so easy this time around, as once you've cornered a Djinni (a challenge in itself) youâll have to face off against them and defeat them before they run away. If they do manage to flee, you won't see that particular Djinni again, so be sure to save your game before challenging them. Later in the story, youâll also be able to combine Djinn, which will provide you with some fairly devastating attacks as well as visual flair.
Naturally, being an RPG, there is a lot of dialogue between characters. Fortunately, this is usually quite humorous, providing light relief to what can be a text-heavy narrative. As with the previous entry, there is also the occasional Yes-No question fired your way, presumably an interactive element intended to keep you engaged, though your answer is of little consequence.
Musically, Lost Age contains a mixture of new and older compositions that are both varied and memorable, suiting their environments perfectly. Even though the sound effects are nothing special within the RPG genre they remain effective, especially when landing a blow in battle.
Although at first glance The Lost Age appears to be more of the same, graphically speaking, it does appear to be slightly enhanced. With the vibrant environments and rich sprites offering more detail than before, this is certainly impressive considering the original Golden Sun was already one of the best-looking games on the GBA at the time. Like its predecessor, the overall presentation is very much a nod to its 16-bit counterparts, with additional effects that push the hardware a little. This is most noticeable when a pseudo-3D effect is engaged when entering battles and whilst traversing over the zoomed-out map of Weyard.
Even though Golden Sun: The Lost Age plays much like any standard RPG, there is something special about it. Even with its lack of structure towards the beginning of the campaign, its accessible, engaging nature keeps you wanting to play and experiment. The Lost Age is very much a 'Part Two' â a continuation of the first adventure â but builds, modestly, on almost everything from the original Golden Sun: a longer campaign, extended Djinn mechanics, greater challenge, clever puzzles, and minor graphical improvements. Newcomers would do well to start with the first entry, as the game does take for granted that you know the basics, and the plotline will make little to no sense â at least initially. However, for those who've played and enjoyed the first instalment, this concluding chapter is a real no-brainer.