Golden Sun: Dark Dawn
|Golden Sun: Dark Dawn|
North American box art
|Developer(s)||Camelot Software Planning|
Yuya Sato (assistant)
|Distribution||Nintendo DS game card|
Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, released in Japan as Ōgon no Taiyō: Shikkokunaru Yoake (黄金の太陽 漆黒なる夜明け?), is a role-playing game for the Nintendo DS developed by Camelot Software Planning. The game was first announced as "Golden Sun DS" in E3 2009, and Dark Dawn was featured in Nintendo's E3 2010 presentation, where its official name and release window were revealed. It is the third title in the Golden Sun series, released 7 years after its predecessor, Game Boy Advance game Golden Sun: The Lost Age.
Dark Dawn is set 30 years after the events of the first two games and follows the path of the descendants of the earlier games' heroes. Players control characters as they travel through the fictional world of Weyard. The player uses magic (called "psynergy") to defeat enemies and discover new locations, help local populations and find elemental djinn which augment the characters' powers.
Dark Dawn, like its predecessors, uses the traditional role-playing video game formula. Players guide characters through a fantasy-themed world as they interact with other characters, battle monsters, acquire increasingly powerful Psyenergy and equipment and take part in a predefined narrative. Unlike the previous games, some locations become inaccessible after certain points. A new feature is the addition of an encyclopedia system, which explains and keeps track of concepts that are relevant to "Dark Dawn" and its predecessors.
Much of the time spent outside of battle takes place either in the game's overworld or within dungeons, caves and other locales with puzzles integrated into their layout. Like The Lost Age, Dark Dawn's gameplay involves navigating a ship across a large sea to visit continents and islands. To complete puzzles, players must either push pillars to construct paths between elevated areas, climb up and rappel down cliffs, or obtain a special item. Many puzzles revolve around the game’s resident form of magic spells, Psynergy, requiring the player to find items that grant new forms of Psynergy in order to accomplish tasks.
Whereas many role-playing video games limit magic to battles, Psynergy spells are used in puzzles and exploration. Some types of Psynergy can only be used in combat while some spells are only used in the game's overworld and in non-battle scenarios. Some Psynergy can also be used for both situations; for example, the “Cold Snap” ability can be used to damage enemies in battle, or to transform puddles of water into elongated pillars of ice as part of a puzzle. In non-battle scenarios, a light ring appears around the character and players can decide the direction of the ability by using the touch screen or buttons. Psynergy comes in four elements: Venus (rocks and plants), Mars (fire and heat), Jupiter (wind and electricity), and Mercury (water and ice). The player gains more Psynergy spells as the game progresses, either through leveling up or acquiring and equipping, or using, special items, and with each "utility" Psynergy spell the party gains access to more locations and secrets hidden within the game world.
Dark Dawn contains both random monster encounters and compulsory battles that advance the story. Battles take place on the lower screen, where the enemy party and the player's party are displayed on opposing sides. During battle, the camera rotates around the characters and backgrounds in 3D, unlike the pseudo 3D effect used in the previous games. The upper screen is used to view characters' stats and djinni information.
In battle, the player is required to defeat enemies via direct attacks with weapons, offensive Psynergy spells, and other means of causing damage, all while keeping his or her own combatant alive through items and supportive Psynergy that heal and support. Unlike the first two Golden Sun games, Dark Dawn features a smarter intelligent targeting system that allows one of two party members who initially target the same enemy to intelligently target a random undefeated enemy once the initial enemy is defeated by another member. If all the player's characters are defeated by losing all their hit points, the party is returned to the last village that the player visited and the player loses an amount of money. A battle victory yields experience points, coins, and occasionally rare items.
One of the most distinguishing features in Dark Dawn is the Djinn system, where the player collects and manipulates elemental creatures called Djinn (singular: Djinni). Dark Dawn features a host of new Djinn. They can be found scattered throughout the game. Each of the four elements has 18 Djinn, for a total of 72. Djinn form the basis of the game’s stat enhancement system, and Set djinn dictate the character’s Psynergy capabilities. Allocating Djinn among different characters modifies the characters' classes, altering hit points, Psynergy points, general stats and changing the available Psynergy for each character.
Collected Djinn can be assigned to a character of the player's choice and can be in three modes: Set, Standby or Recovery. In Set mode, the Djinni alters its corresponding character’s class, stats and Psynergy selection, depending on the innate elements of both the character and the Djinni. In combat, the player can choose to have a character use a Set Djinni during that character's turn. Each Djinni has its own special effect in combat. These effects include attacking, buffing or debuffing and healing as well as many other effects. After using a Djinni, it goes into Standby mode. In Standby, Djinn no longer affect character class and can be used for "Summoning" a powerful elemental spirit. This is the game’s most powerful method of attacking, and also the riskiest, as it requires Djinn to be on standby and therefore not available to bolster the its character's statistics. Once a Djinni on Standby has been used for a Summon Sequence, it must recover for several turns before switching to Set mode. Dark Dawn has a total of 30 Summon Sequences; 16 from the first game can be used alongside the 13 multi-elemental sequences introduced in "The Lost Age" and 1 new sequence, original to "Dark Dawn". Each of these must be earned individually; they are usually acquired by completing optional dungeons.
In Dark Dawn a total of 83 Djinn are introduced. 72 Djinn are obtainable by the player while 11 are unobtainable and only appear briefly in the plot. Djinn allow for a large array of possible class setups for all eight playable characters. This supports a variety of combat options.
Setting and Plot
Dark Dawn continues its predecessors' struggle in the land of Weyard, where alchemy is both a source of power for creating civilization and for destroying the world. Thanks to the efforts of Isaac, Felix, and their friends, the seal that contained the power of alchemy at Mount Aleph was removed at the end of The Lost Age. The power of alchemy, in the form of the Golden Sun, began to restore the declining world. Dark Dawn begins thirty years after the conclusion of The Lost Age.
Because Isaac and the others brought the power of the Golden Sun to Weyard, continents shifted, new countries emerged, and new species appeared. However, Psynergy Vortexes, which suck the elemental Psynergy from both the land and the power-wielding Adepts, are appearing all over Weyard. Dark Dawn follows the adventures of the descendants of Isaac and his friends as they attempt to resolve the problems caused by the Psynergy Vortexes.
When a flying machine crashes, Isaac's son Matthew and his friends Tyrell and Karis attempt to fix it, beginning an adventure and encountering a trio of villains: Blados, Chalis, and Arcanos. Their journey to stop the trio and fix the machine takes them across Weyard, where they are joined by the scholar Rief and his master, Kraden. Other adepts join the group to help them save the world.
After the group activates two Alchemy Machines, they come to the country of Morgal, where beastmen live. When they were tricked into activating the Luna Tower, the Grave Eclipse is triggered, causing death and suffering across much of the continent. Sailing the oceans of Weyard, Matthew's party learns that the only way to stop the Grave Eclipse is the Apollo Lens, an alchemy machine powered by the Alchemy Forge and the Alchemy Well. Upon finally defeating Blados, Chalis, and other adversaries, the Apollo Lens is activated and the Grave Eclipse ends. At the end of the game, Matthew's group parts ways with their new friends to return home; however, they return to find an unusually large Psynergy Vortex greeting them.
The primary group consists of the children of the heroes from the original Golden Sun games. The leader is Matthew, a silent and strong-willed Venus adept, the son of Isaac and Jenna from the original games. His initial companions consist of his childhood friends: Tyrell, a mischievous Mars adept who is Garet's son, and Karis, a Jupiter adept who is Ivan's daughter. Matthew and Tyrell reside at Lookout Cabin, where Karis visits them. The trio is later joined by the Mercury adept, Rief, the son of Mia, and Rief's mentor Kraden. As in his previous appearances, Kraden is not playable and only accompanies the protagonists on their journey.
Towards the second half of the game, Matthew's group is joined by four other playable characters who are also adepts: Amiti, the enigmatic prince of Ayuthay; Sveta, a young woman who is part beast; Eoleo, the son of the pirate Briggs; and Himi, a priestess of Yamatai who is the daughter of the hero Susa.
The antagonists of Dark Dawn come from the mysterious country of Tuaparang, which is known only for its advances in science and its military might. The warrior Blados and Chalis, a woman of bewitching beauty, are the primary adversaries. They often act alongside a masked man known as Arcanus.
Talk of a third entry in the Golden Sun series began as soon as the second title was released. In 2003, Camelot stated that "the current status of a third game ... is still up in the air", while the studio's founding brothers Hiroyuki and Shugo Takahashi stated in a 2004 interview that the scenarios of the first two games were intended as "prologues to the real event yet to come", with rumours at the time suggesting a third title might surface on the Nintendo GameCube.
Lacking facts about new releases, hoaxes spread. These included the unveiling of a Nintendo DS game called Golden Sun: The Solar Soothsayer, which was reportedly shown off at a small pre-E3 2007 gathering. After officials announced it as a hoax, the hoax's author confessed he made it in order to generate more discussion about the series and a sequel.
Speculation persisted, as the Takahashi brothers commented in October 2007 that they still wanted to make a third game, going so far as to say that they "have to" and that Nintendo had asked them to make another. They claimed that they wished to give the title the development time it deserved. In April 2008, Nintendo Power magazine interviewed Shugo on one of his latest games. When questioned regarding a third Golden Sun, Takahashi replied "A new Golden Sun? Well, I personally think that I want to play a new RPG, too..."
Golden Sun DS was finally announced during Nintendo's press conference at E3 2009, with a release date set for the 2010 holiday season. Ensuing reports claimed that elemental Djinn and certain summons would continue from the previous games. At E3 2010, the title's name was announced as Golden Sun: Dark Dawn and a playable demo was made available to attendees. In an interview with Weekly Famitsu in July 2010, Shugo stated that unlike its predecessors, this entry is an independent work.
Golden Sun: Dark Dawn received mostly positive reviews from critics. It achieved 79% on Metacritic and 80% on GameRankings. The game was not as well received as its predecessors: Golden Sun received a 91% and a 90% on Metacritic and GameRankings, and The Lost Age received an 86% and an 87%. Edge said that "despite its lack of teeth... Golden Sun remains a franchise with plenty to say."
Dark Dawn's graphics, Djinn system and puzzles were generally well received. While 1UP.com felt that the battle graphics were "vivid ... [and] never [grew] tedious or overblown", GameSpot said the game's "visuals have brought the 2D world of the GBA games into full 3D on the DS to good effect. The world, the characters, and especially the attacks in combat look great." GamesRadar said the game's Djinn system made the game interesting enough so that "veteran RPG players [wouldn't] be bored with the gameplay". Game Revolution praises the game's puzzle setting like its predecessor that "are rarely very difficult, but the sense of satisfaction you get after grabbing your elusive reward is still like crack for the exploratory player". Besides, game's encyclopedia system would allow new players get familiar with the previous games, gaming blog Kotaku said it is "extremely newbie friendly".
Critics found battle too easy and cut-scenes dialogue too long. While Game Revolution said battle can "[use] the Djinn and subsequently summoning monsters ... pound on your enemies with attacks instead", GamesRadar complains that: "Not only are the actual battles themselves easy, but your psynergy recharges so quickly that you can use it liberally in healing and battles without ever having to use a single recovery item – you never feel stretched for resources or find yourself in a tight spot." 1UP.com said the game's long dialogue scene is just like its predecessors that "heroes and villains have an uncanny knack for saying incredibly simple things with about three or four times the words they actually need to convey those ideas". This entry adds an emotion system, so the silent character can respond other roles, however, reviews think it is unnecessary and does not really affect plot.
Dark Dawn sold 46,000 units in its first four days in Japan, and ranked fifth of the period. In the UK, the game was 23rd best-selling Nintendo DS game in its first released weekend. The game has sold 80,000 copies in Japan as of January 2012.
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