E3: Golden Sun: Dark Dawn Hands-On

 

Here’s the lowdown on Golden Sun 3, which has now been renamed and rebranded as Golden Sun: Dark Dawn: it is really Golden Sun. This game is hell of Golden Sun.

 

If you’ve fond memories of the Golden Sun titles from the Game Boy Advance you’ll be pleased to hear that this latest entry in the series tips its hat with reverence to that original gameplay style, with Camelot using the amount of time that has passed since the last title in the series to use the new technology to improve the experience but keep the original elements intact.

 

 

When I arrived for my hands-on time with Golden Sun: Dark Dawn I was admittedly apprehensive about what I might find. As a huge fan of the original titles in the series I was worried that with the passage of time Camelot would be too different a studio to create a game that fits with what I knew and loved about the original Golden Sun.

 

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The good news is that this isn’t a reboot – the characters you’ll be playing as are descended from members of the cast from the first two games, and you’re in the same world with similar and familiar locations and elements.
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The demo I played was split into two segments – a battle segment and a field segment. The field gameplay saw me take on the role of an adept, and taught me about the basic use of Psynergy, which players of the original game will be familiar with.

 

 

With a time limit imposed, I had to run around and use my powers to move trees and burn myself a path through to the end of the section. It was all very familiar, with the same Golden Sun look and feel in moving around and solving puzzles, with one Nintendo DS twist.

 

 

Whereas in the old games Psynergy powers were directed by merely standing in front of what you wanted to use the power on and using the D-Pad, now all these powers are activated and directed via the touchscreen.

 

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While the top screen merely showed the game logo (here’s hoping that changes), the bottom screen held the action and thus allowed you to use powers on anything within a certain radius around Matthew, the lead character.

 

 

Moving a tree log, for example, involved merely hitting the button to activate the power (for me this was L, but powers can be configured to different buttons) and then hitting the item you want to move. Once that signature Psynergy hand appears, you just have to swipe at the screen in the direction you want to move the object.

 

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It’s simple and intuitive and it doesn’t feel like a forced use of the touch screen as has happened in some titles for the DS – in fact, using the touch screen for these things feels like a marked improvement over the original Game Boy Advance classics.

 

 

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Outside of the difference in control, the field gameplay was much the same as it always was in Golden Sun, and that’s no bad thing. A classic, traditional RPG is a welcome thing, especially on a handheld machine.

 

 

The battle mechanics are similar to how they’ve always been, too. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn brings pretty 3D graphics and touchscreen battle controls to the fray, but essentially everything is as it was.

 

 

In battle you’ll be able to use a basic Attack, Psynergy, Summon your Djinn and use Items. I had access to three characters in battles, and they were all controlled directly by me rather than handed off to any AI control.

 

 

You might be noticing a pattern here, but the base elements are still intact. My party consisted of a sword-wielding main character with Fire-based Psynergy and a Fire element Djinn, an Axe-wielding dude with Rock elemental stuff, and a staff-wielding girl who was capable of Healing and using Wind element attacks – it all felt strangely familiar.
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It’s traditional RPG combat with enemies that have various weaknesses and strengths, and it’s all about choosing your attacks wisely to win. My characters were pretty powered up in the demo – Level 14 – so I was able to defeat the various rounds of monsters with relative ease.

 

 

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Combat can be controlled with the touchscreen as mentioned above, but it can also be controlled by just using the face buttons as you would’ve on the Game Boy. Either control scheme does the job, and if you’ve played DS RPGs like Pokemon or Final Fantasy IV Advance you know exactly what to expect.

 

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My reward for getting through several fights without being defeated was to roam around a town for a short period – and again, this felt like Golden Sun. The town had little puzzles to be solved via the use of Psynergy and stores and houses to visit and plenty of NPCs to talk to.

 

 

Sadly that was all there was to do in this little demo, but the other thing that’s worth commenting on is the graphics and presentation. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is a pretty good looking game though it’s not quite on the same level as Final Fantasy IV Advance from what I saw at E3.

 

 

The lack of any use of the top screen other than the game logo was also disappointing – but slap a map on the top screen and tighten up the visuals some and you have a rival for one of the best looking RPGs on the DS.

 

 

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From what I saw at E3, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is an exciting proposition. It’s clearly got a way to go yet, but like the GBA originals, this feels like a love letter to the classic RPGs of the SNES – and that’s no bad thing. Check out the E3 trailer below.

 

 

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