Thirty years ago in the land of Weyard, a group of heroes unleashed the power of alchemy in an attempt to save the world in the original Golden Sun and it's sequel, the Lost Age. Now, things have changed, but not for the better, as the titular Golden Sun now hangs above the world, creating problems for man and beast alike.
Such is the state of Weyard as you enter Dark Dawn, the latest game in the Golden Sun franchise. Playing as the son of the hero Isaac in the first game, what starts out as an innocent trek to fix a broken machine soon turns into, as these things often do, an attempt to right the world and defeat evil along the way.
If you've played any of the previous Golden Sun titles, then there's nothing here that will surprise you. The series' legacy shines through, both good and bad aspects, and it's safe to say that fans of the prequels will greatly enjoy this title. But like I said, good and bad.
First, the game is wordy. Really wordy. I'm not usually one to complain about having to read in a video game, but the people in this game just talk and talk and talk, often reiterating each other's points, giving useless tidbits of opinion, and generally just taking far too long to say, well, anything. From time to time you're given the ability to add in your opinion by choosing one of a number of emotions, which would be a cool little addition if it actually added anything to the conversation, or indeed, the plot at large at all.
A useful addition, however, is one that allows you to view encyclopaedia entries of a variety of topics in mid-conversation. As characters speak, certain words will highlight, and pressing a button opens up an entry for them, fleshing out Weyard and summarizing plot points from the first couple Golden Sun games. Ones that you haven't read are brighter than those that you have, and it feels like a great way to actually learn more about the world without feeling like you're actually reading a colossal encyclopaedia of entries, as some other games do.
The gameplay of Dark Dawn is what you'd expect from a stereotypical jRPG. You run through dungeons, get into random fights, kill enemies, fight bosses, and so forth. The addition of psyenergy, a sort of magic, to the series does give a bit of depth to the dungeon delving, allowing you to push objects from afar, make plants grow, freeze water, burn objects, and more. With Dark Dawn, you can use the stylus to direct your psyenergy usage; this makes things a lot more convenient, but it also feels like it cheapens the puzzles from the previous games somewhat: in those, your positioning was always key, and was usually half the puzzle, whereas here things seem a lot simpler.
Combat is, like the rest of the series, quite easy. Most random encounters barely put up half a struggle, and simply attacking for every action is often enough to take down any enemies in your way. To mix things up, your given Djinni, magical beasts with an elemental affinity that you can assign to a character in your party. Assigning them affects stats, abilities, and can also be used in battle for a (generally) unique ability, though this unassigns them temporarily. Use enough of them in battle and you can then summon a powerful attack to blast at your foes.
It's a risk versus reward system, since there's a chance you can lose abilities mid-battle, but the tradeoff of a single powerful attack can often be worth it. Still, this does make battles even easier, and a lot of boss fights can be completely trivialized by the fact that you're slamming their face in with beasts from beyond the heavens. It makes things just a little unbalanced. This is a real problem with the game, and anyone that enjoys a bit of challenge in their combat is not going to enjoy what Dark Dawn has for them.
There's not a whole lot to say about Dark Dawn. It's a polished, visually-appealing, cliche-filled, trope-ridden jRPG that is seemingly made exclusively for the fans of the previous games. It doesn't do anything new, but what it does do isn't too bad at all. It won't impress everyone, heck it might not impress many at all, but if you're hankering for a pretty standard turn-based RPG, this'll have you covered.