Golden Sun: an introduction

Nintendo's E3 press conference had its ups and downs this year. But midway through, it had a big positive for a small part of the audience: Golden Sun DS. Though not as shocking an announcement as Metroid: Other M or as flashy as Mario Galaxy 2, it was easily the most important news for the DS, though that isn't saying a lot. But why did the third game in a cult GBA series last seen in 2003 garner such applause at the conference? This primer will clue you in on why Golden Sun is worthy of your attention.

It's real purty

They might not look too badass now, but the Golden Sun games were perhaps the two best-looking titles the GBA ever saw. Maybe that’s because Golden Sun was originally planned as an N64 game, and the developers wanted to keep the graphics bar as high as they could. Or maybe it’s because they just knew the system better than anybody else. Either way, it looked fantastic then and still holds up now.

All the people inhabiting the world of Weyard are pseudo-3D piles of pixels, ably giving the game a three-dimensional look . The overworld and each town take advantage of the GBA’s wide color palette, giving the game a depth that hides its flat actuality. But the real graphical showcases are the battles. Not only would the camera pan around between the heroes and enemies, but the magical spells, and especially the summons, were spellbinding.

Above: A collection of the summons from the second game

That was as good as it got on the GBA way back in 2003. And after seeing how much Camelot could squeeze out of what was basically a portable SNES, it makes us eager beavers to see what they can do with a DS.

Fun Fact: The world is flat!

Yes, the land of Weyard, with its many shifting continents, is a flat world. Like a disk, all the water on it just falls off the sides as it coasts through space. This revelation halfway through the second game made our heads spin, as we had foolishly assumed the world was round. Somewhere, those who doubted Columbus were laughing.

Above: The map from the Japanese version

A fine pedigree

For Nintendo fans, developer Camelot is mostly associated with Mario Golf and Tennis, while older Sony fans may remember it perfected its swing with the first Hot Shots Golf. Seeing its name on an RPG seems a poor fit, but long before it became a maker of addictive and arcade-y sports games, Camelot was the top RPG development house for Sega.

Above: Humble beginnings

Though Phantasy Star has a deserved place as the premier Sega RPG series, the Shining series wasn't far behind. Whether it was the series’ first, traditional RPG Shining in the Darkness, the Zelda-eque Shining Wisdom or the amazing strategy sub-series Shining Force, they were all big for their time. And they were all made for Sega systems, up until the last days of Saturn, by Sonic! Software Planning, which later became Camelot Software Planning.

Above: One of the most criminally underplayed games ever

Even after splitting from Sega, the development house focused on the Shining games until Sega pulled the plug on the Saturn right as Camelot was wrapping up its masterpiece in three parts, Shining Force III. America and Europe only got part one, though Japan did get the full story. After that, Camelot sided with Nintendo to make some fantastic Mario sports games, but after a couple years it returned to RPGs, and Golden Sun in particular. And now, after a six-year break, it's at last returning to the genre it knows so well.

Fun Fact: Camelot still functions

When Golden Sun DS was announced, we were immediately curious to know if Camelot was going to develop it. We had our doubts, because the developer released only one game in the last four years: We Love Golf! on Wii. Most troubling for Camelot's future with Nintendo was that We Love Golf! had Capcom as its publisher, and played like a lesser, reskinned version of Mario Golf. But confirmation quickly came through that Camelot was at the reins of Golden Sun once again, so we're pleasantly surprised to see the company back on track with Nintendo.

Above: Perhaps Camelot's darkest hour 

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  • candyman - July 14, 2009 8:24 p.m.

    And suddenly I remember why I loved it so much.
  • kompressorlogik - July 14, 2009 8:26 p.m.

    Yes. VERY yes.
  • Turkeykilla7 - July 14, 2009 9:18 p.m.

    I had forgotten all about Golden sun. Man that game was awsome. I got to go download the rom right now. SUPER PWNIES!!!! @The_Lurcher Blasphemy is claiming that you are better or have the attributes of God. Dont worry you didnt even touch the subject. Also Golden Sun Wasnt really that well known. Or atleast not as popular as titles like Final Fantasy. It was still super pwnies though. You should get an Emulator and try it out.
  • GamesRadarButtercup - July 14, 2009 10:23 p.m.

    Meh.,. annother game that undereprsnts equines
  • iKOemos - July 14, 2009 10:54 p.m.

    God I loved these games when i discovered them way back in 2004. They took up all my spare time. Since then I have been longing for a sequel but I was worried that it would be a waggle fest on the Wii. Good thing the game is still portable .... oh god I can't wait for this game especially after Bioshock 2 was pushed way back.
  • MechGyver - July 15, 2009 12:54 a.m.

    Bawitdaba da bang a dang diggy diggy diggy said the boogy said up jump the boogy, Bawitdaba da bang a dang diggy diggy diggy said the boogy said up jump the boogy, Bawitdaba da bang a dang diggy diggy diggy said the boogy said up jump the boogy,Bawitdaba da bang a dang diggy diggy diggy said the boogy said up jump the boogy...? Kid Rock is a retarded!
  • MechGyver - July 15, 2009 12:57 a.m. ...fukk
  • dweller - July 15, 2009 1:43 a.m.

    Man I love Golden Sun. I've played the two games several times. And I didn't have a link cable so writing codes to keep my stats and stuff took a looooooooooooong time.
  • GaMeRGuY1oh4 - July 15, 2009 1:44 a.m.

    BUTTERCUP!!! Anyways, I'm quite excited for this game. Do any of you know it's release date? The game does look awesome though.
  • idunno - July 15, 2009 1:57 a.m.

    Shining Force was absolutely amazing and now that I know Golden Sun is from them I will definitely try it out.
  • Hydrohs - July 15, 2009 2:03 a.m.

    When you guys Tweeted this at E3 I swear I came. I'm so excited. The other two characters kind of remind me of Garet and Mia. reCaptcha: Slinking commissions
  • winterwolf - July 15, 2009 3:48 a.m.

    I'm glad to see this series getting some attention, because it is DEFINITELY worth playing. I usually don't enjoy older RPG's with random encounters and all that, but Golden Sun rocks. Can't wait for the third!
  • Amnesiac - July 15, 2009 4:12 a.m.

    Golden Sun DS was my favorite announcement at E3. I am SO psyched about this.
  • Xeacons - July 16, 2009 9:03 p.m.

    Cannot wait. I can't. The thing that still amazes me after all these years was how I got to know Golden Sun. I picked it up on a whim. I thought it just looked like a cute RPG to kill time. Little did I know how I would fall in love with it's rich storyline, amazing graphics, and unbelievable gameplay.
  • Thirteenth - July 17, 2009 7:33 p.m.

    Played through the Golden Sun games once more last week, nice article. ^_^
  • Fuhjem - July 17, 2009 7:44 p.m.

    I love Golden Sun, sooo much! It's one of the only two JRPG franchises that I like.
  • SolidSpartan - July 17, 2009 11:19 p.m.

    That game was awesome. The first time I played Golden Sun The Lost Age was on a comp. Freakin bosses are hard! >.< ReCAPTCHA: "twitched standing" I've never twitched while standing.
  • EnigmaticMan - July 19, 2009 8:33 p.m.

    I don't understand, whats so special about Golden Sun. Fallout 1 + 2 which came out six years before were far superioir RPG's and there are a plethora of superior JRPG's on the GBA including Final Fantasy VI. While Golden sun is a typical Dungeon after dungeon JRPG complete with cliched characters and unituitive interfaces. Well, at least it was colourful.
  • Cyberninja - July 14, 2009 8:22 p.m.

    golden sun is awesome thanks for making the article
  • The_Lurcher - July 14, 2009 8:37 p.m.

    Finally I've been wondering why there was so much fuss over this game. I know it's blasphemy to say this, but i have never heard of this game, does anyone know if it was big in the UK? I know of certain games that are more popular in some countries more than others maybe thats why.

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