Golden Sun is a series of fantasy role-playing video games developed by Camelot Software Planning and published by Nintendo. Golden Sun follows the story of a group of magically-attuned “adepts” who are charged with preventing the potentially destructive power of alchemy from being released as it was in the past. Players navigate these characters through the game’s fictional world by defeating enemies, solving puzzles and completing assigned missions to complete a pre-ordained storyline.
The original two games, Golden Sun and Golden Sun: The Lost Age, were released in 2001 and 2002, respectively, for the Game Boy Advance platform. A third game, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, was released for the Nintendo DS platform in 2010. In Golden Sun, the player plays as protagonist Isaac and his companions as they set off into the world of Weyard to prevent a group of anti-heroes from releasing a mysterious power called “Alchemy” to the world. Golden Sun: The Lost Age follows the plight of the surviving members from the previous game’s antagonists as they continue to pursue the release of Alchemy by means of lighting four elemental lighthouses. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn takes place thirty years later and follows the path of the descendants of the previous two games’ heroes as they navigate a world adapting to the presence of Alchemy.
The series has received a generally favorable reception by critics. The first Golden Sun game has been widely lauded as among the best games for the Game Boy Advance, with the first game receiving Nintendo Power’s Best GBA Game of 2001 and ranking in IGN’s Readers Choice Top 100 games ever, as number 94. The Lost Age performed even better than its predecessor, ranking 78 on IGN’s Readers Choice Top 100 games ever. Dark Dawn, while still scoring highly on Metacritic’s aggregation of critic scores, was less well received. Sales figures for the first two Golden Sun games exceeded one million in the United States and Japan, a figure that Dark Dawn failed to exceed.
In the Golden Sun games, players guide a cast of characters as they journey through a fantasy-themed world, interact with other characters, battle monsters, acquire increasingly powerful magic spells and equipment, and take part in a building, predefined narrative. Much of the game’s time spent outside of battle takes place in dungeons, caves, and other locales, which generally require the player to find items that grant the bearer new forms of “Psynergy”, or magical spells, in order to solve the puzzles integrated into their layout. To complete these puzzles, players must either push pillars to construct negotiable paths between elevated areas, climb up and rappel down cliffs or obtain a special item to progress through the story and game world. Outside of these dungeons and locales, the player must traverse through a large world map as they navigate between forests, rivers, mountain ranges, seas, and oceans.
A key element in in-game exploration is the strategic use of the extensive pool of Psynergy spells available, which can be used both for battle and for solving puzzles in the game’s locales. A portion of the game’s Psynergy can only be used in combat; conversely, many spells are only used in the game’s overworld and non-battle scenarios. At the same time, there are Psynergy spells can be used in both situations; for example, the “Whirlwind” spell that can be used to damage enemies in battle is also used out of battle to clear away overgrown foliage that may block the player’s path. The player gains more Psynergy spells as the game progresses, both through leveling up and the acquisition of special Psynergy-bestowing items, and with each “utility” Psynergy spell the party gains access to more locations and secrets hidden in the game world.
Regarding battle, Golden Sun games contain both random monster encounters, featuring randomly selected enemies, and compulsory battles involving set enemies, which advance the story. When a battle begins, a separate screen is brought up where the player’s party and enemy party face-off on opposing sides. During a battle, the characters and the background rotate to give a pseudo-3D effect. Players can attack enemies directly using a variety of weapons and offensive Psynergy spells, or by summoning Djinn, powerful other-worldly entities that enhance an attached character’s hit points, Psynergy points, and other statistics, as well as determining what Psynergy the character is able to perform. Djinn can be set to standby, where players forfeit stat enhancements in order to unleash a powerful one-time attack where the player summons an elemental monster to inflict damage on every enemy.