Golden Sun: The Lost Age is an excellent follow-up to the original Golden Sun.
When Golden Sun was released for the Game Boy Advance last year, the game quickly stood out as one of the best titles available for the system. Camelot Software Planning's expertise in the RPG genre, honed on games such as Sega's Shining Force series, resulted in a stellar mix of cutting-edge graphics and gameplay that blended classic RPG elements with some fresh new ideas. One of the few issues that players had with the game was its abrupt ending and relatively short length. Part of the reason for that was the developer's decision to parcel out the game's story in installments, with the first Golden Sun covering the first chapter in the tale. For the next entry in the series, Golden Sun: The Lost Age, Camelot has followed up with an even more polished game that exceeds its predecessor's high level of quality.
For those unfamiliar with the Golden Sun mythos, the game is set in the world of Weyard. The fragile land was almost torn asunder in days past, when men abused a mystical power called alchemy. However, before disaster struck, a small group of wise men sealed alchemy's power into a sanctum hidden in Mount Aleph and charged the inhabitants of Vale with guarding it. Unfortunately, a pair of evildoers named Saturous and Menardi attempted to take the power of alchemy from the sanctum at the start of the original Golden Sun. While their efforts were disrupted by the intervention of two residents of Vale, Isaac and Garret, the elemental stars--key to the power of alchemy--were stolen. The evil duo intends to harness the power of the stars to light four elemental lighthouses spread throughout Weyard, which will break the seal on the ancient power and unleash it.
For those keeping score, the effort to halt Saturous and Menardi hasn't gone terribly well. At the end of the original Golden Sun, the pair have managed to fire up the first lighthouse and was well on its way toward carrying out their evil plans. If you haven't played through the first game, don't fret--Golden Sun: The Lost Age features a lengthy recap of events that covers the key points of the first chapter. The Lost Age actually picks up shortly before the end of Golden Sun. You'll take control of Jenna, a childhood friend of Isaac and Garret who was kidnapped at the beginning of the first game. The game will follow Jenna and her brother Felix as they explore a new continent and take a different approach to dealing with Saturous and Menardi's plans to revive alchemy in the world.
If you've played the original Golden Sun or clocked in time with most any RPG, you'll find Golden Sun: The Lost Age to be a pretty accessible experience. The game plays very much like its predecessor and follows the tried-and-true conventions of the genre. You'll travel the world with your party of three other characters, making your way from town to town and talking to people and solving their problems. Along the way, a fair share of puzzles will test your wits. This time out, the puzzles are considerably more challenging, and in keeping with the game's 16-bit influences, you'll find several classic RPG conventions used in the dungeon puzzles, such as having to go through rooms in specific sequence or change the flow of water or wind currents to open up new areas. You'll also find some puzzle elements pop up when collecting the elemental creatures known as djinn. While collecting the creatures was fairly straightforward in the original Golden Sun, you'll find that capturing them is much more challenging this time around, thanks to their predilection for escape.
As you make your way through the game, you'll find a liberal dose of turn-based combat to keep you on your toes. The Lost Age makes use of the same basic combat mechanics as the previous game, with a new twist. The game's turn-based combat is menu-driven and should be familiar to fans of the Shining Force games. Each character will have three types of attacks: standard physical attacks, psyenergy attacks (which take the place of traditional magic), and special moves performed by calling upon your djinn.
While the standard and psyenergy attacks all function the same as in Golden Sun, using the djinn has been tweaked slightly. In the previous game, the element-based djinn, which come in water, fire, earth, and wind varieties, could be assigned to members of your party and provided various stat enhancements that could also affect that character's class. In addition, the creatures provided you with two distinct options in combat: You were able to call on them once in a fight and unleash their abilities, which ranged from powerful attacks on an enemy to status enhancements that would affect you and your party. Once unleashed, the djinn would enter the standby mode, which would allow you to summon unique elemental creatures to fight for you based on the number of standby djinn you had. While those abilities are back in The Lost Age, you'll also be able to summon new creatures using ancient relics that will teach you different combinations of djinn for use in summoning creatures. In addition to looking quite sharp, the new creatures pack quite a punch and are very handy in combat. As before, combat is speedy and user-friendly, with a good amount of strategy thrown into the mix. It's also worth mentioning that The Lost Age doesn't feature intelligent targeting. As a result, members of your party will not target the next available enemy if their intended target is defeated before their turn to attack comes up.