Part 1: Prologue
The year is 2001, and Camelot Studios has a noble goal: create
This is Isaac, the only character you can normally rename. By pushing select three times you can rename the other party members, and by pushing the incredibly intuitive and obvious Up, Down, Up, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, Up, Right, Down, Left, Up, Select you can rename three other characters as well. If you feel it's a bit odd that such a basic and ubiquitous feature was coded in only to be hidden from the people who would use it, just know that's how Camelot works. They also don't bother telling you about an elemental weakness system, a method of accessing a bonus dungeon, or anything about your motives or characterization at any point among the Trilby-length monologues about how rocks happen.
Incidentally, I'm not renaming them. If you want to capture the experience, feel free to copy the text of each update, go into MS Word, find and replace Isaac with Dongs or any other meme of choice (max 5 letters), and read the resulting document. The lack of copied screenshots will affect surprisingly little.
One "homage" to Chrono Trigger later and we find ourselves already crossing off about five entries on RPG Cliché Bingo™. Some games like to hold off on the inevitable tragedy until after we care about characters or know absolutely anything about any part of the game, but Camelot cuts right to the chase.
Isaac, you forgot something.
Well, more accurately, Camelot cuts straight to forced exposition about nothing.
Golden Sun is strange in that it is simultaneously incredibly linear and terribly easy to break. The entire game basically runs on the honor system when it comes to actually going places you're supposed to, but once you get roped into something you will not be able to alter it in the slightest. A grand total of one of these Yes/No options makes any minute difference, and most of them don't even result in branched dialogue.
(Heavy Rain: 2001 Edition)
Good for you, Isaac. A lost possession can be replaced; a lost life can't.
This exchange really doesn't work. Dora pulls her son out of bed, frantically teleports his cloak, and drags him down the stairs, then asks if he forgot anything as though he had any autonomy in the matter. Then she speaks exactly how people often so during a life-threatening emergency that (spoilers) really isn't that life-threatening.
I don't think so...You two go on ahead and take refuge in the plaza. I need to evacuate the other villagers.
Let me help you, Kyle!
It's too dangerous, Dora. Please, just take good care of Isaac!
Isaac is old enough to get to the plaza on his own.
You can find your way, can't you, Isaac? Just go south to get to the plaza. Be careful!
So, the plaza is south. There is a direct exit south. Guess what Camelot plans to let us do.
Camelot is bad at game progression. You know you're doing something wrong when you have to railroad the player into not following an explicit railroad set up a whole five seconds earlier.
This is Garet. He made a poor choice to needlessly drag a heavy chest to this alcove in the opposite direction as the evacuation spot right before his muscles spontaneously atrophied and made him unable to move it further. A pity about his poor planning.
Isaac, what do you want? I'm trying to save my things! What, you want me to just dump my stuff? [Yes] You think I should forget these things and save my own life? You know, you're right. OK! Let's get out of here!
By this point, you may think you're starting to realize how incredibly little choice Camelot wants you to have in anything. You haven't seen the half of it.
In case you haven't realized by now, Camelot doesn't know how to naturally encourage progression. What's especially hilarious is that, as I mentioned a few paragraphs earlier, they don't know how to force progression either. If you walk five feet out of line you get reprimanded and lectured for a few hours, but if you walk thirty feet out of line Camelot doesn't really notice and lets you basically walk all over what they pretend is the sequence. Several of the dungeons in this game are essentially optional.
With that said, I'll be taking pity on Camelot and playing along with their power tripping fantasies. Their excuses for why you're supposed to be going along with any of this are far funnier than sequence breaking could ever be.
Ugh... Ughnn... It's too heavy! We can't hold it for long! If our Psynergy runs out, Vale will be destroyed!
Psynergy is restored automatically by pacing back and forth a bit. The psynergy that can hold this boulder up in the air could easily move it slightly to the side or kill its momentum. People in Vale are terrible at this whole competence thing.
I'm hurt pretty badly... Do you think I'll die? [Yes] I knew it... This is it for me. Save yourselves...
I'm not sure why they attempt to justify monsters here when they don't bother to do that anywhere else in the game, but apparently monsters are capable of walking through boulders but incapable of getting over fences. The strength of wooden shields will not bother to reflect this.
By the way, the image I'm using for unimportant people without pictures is "sunshine.gif", which was included in the spritesheet I downloaded for this game and is presumably the name of a Lost Age character who very much dislikes his parents.
Battling is absurdly straightforward, doubly so because most of my options don't do anything yet. Even if they did, there's very little disincentive to just mashing A. The suddenly much darker backgrounds are nice though.
Other than some random battles, there's pretty much nothing to distract you from arbitrary gameplay padding in the tutorial of all things. Nobody seems to pay these slightly smaller boulders any mind, perhaps because suddenly finding meaningless forced obstacles is a common occurrence in the world of Camelot games.
Rather than Felix being suspended in a river of Miracle-Whip or some far less interesting rendering error, the water is pure white because of a flash of lightning. Essentially, every possible negative weather effect is occurring simultaneously, though the subsequent plague of locusts was cut due to problems with the particle effect.
Felix will be all right. We'll find a way to save him...
The rope won't reach... We should use Psynergy. Do you have any left?
I've used all mine up. What about you, Kyle?
I'm drained from helping the other villagers...
Given that the most common type of help seems to be yelling at people to go south, I'm not exactly sympathetic to Kyle's excuse.
We have to get help.
Can Felix hang on long enough for us to find help?
There's nothing else we can do for him here, is there?
Things you could do for him:
-Swim up to him, grab him, and drag him to shore.
-Tie yourself to the rope, jump in, and pull him back to shore.
-Get a second rope or something similar (like a shirt) to extend the length of the rope you have.
-Reposition yourself to a more advantageous position to throw the rope.
-Pace back and forth a bit to get psynergy back.
-Have Dora use the Catch spell she was established as having two minutes ago.
-Remind him that he is clearly within arm's reach of the side of the river and invite him to not be an idiot.
Just a thought.
I have to go get help, before Felix drowns! Jenna has gone to the plaza to get help. Go join her.
This game likes being redundant in its excuses. Go to the plaza because you'll escape. And because it's the only way to go due to the boulders. And to save Felix. And because we drew these really nice plaza sprites and please pay attention to us.
Though we shall never be spared Camelot's love of dick moves.
Eventually, however, we come to the plaza, which is actually a field of grass with a terribly awkward viewing angle when people jump. I suppose that sounded less engaging in the tourism packets.
Garet, Isaac... You came to help me?
Jenna told me about Felix. Is that why you're here?
Great! I'm all charged up!
How are you? Have you recovered your Psynergy?
Enough to save Felix, thanks to the Psynergy Stone.
This is not how people talk.
Also, why Golden Sun forces all of this exposition and completely ignores much more important explanations is a mystery. For example, the Mayor is Garet's grandpa, Isaac is Kyle's son, Jenna and Isaac are very close friends, the people trying to save Felix were his parents, etc. But hey, who needs to establish characters when we can talk about rocks instead?
OK, Jenna, you heard him. Now hurry back!
We're glad you rushed to the one place safe from that giant boulder. We're also glad that you found exactly what you were looking for - someone to save Felix from that giant boulder. Now run back up towards that giant boulder. Hurry!
(No, there isn't some sensible reason for this command, like taking pieces of the psynergy-recovering stone up to the people who need psynergy to save the entire town. He's just sick of looking at you).
You're just in time. Come down here, so we can save Felix!
Alas, if only we had bothered to sensibly react to the crisis to any extent (or actually evacuate to the bottom terrace which would somehow keep us safe from a giant boulder falling down a set of terraces) we might not have been terribly crushed to death.
Actually, and luckily for all concerned, the boulder thunderstorm ends up causing mild property damage and a whopping
Also, in order to absolve themselves of the need to explain how this is physically possible, Camelot shows the destruction with a series of still images (the one above being the final one) then cutting to black and showing the end result with the boulder having disappeared before causing any other collateral damage. I'll assume it was made of paper mache and the river caused it to dissolve.
From here we basically run in a random direction until we satisfy what the plot wants out of us.
It's a miracle that even the two of us were spared...
That switch... It must have been a trap...
But to think it could conjure up a storm this powerful!
...Another demonstration of the awesome powers of Alchemy.
Regardless, we must not fail the next time we challenge Sol Sanctum.
These two guys are actually the protagonists; Lost Age will throw out a terrible, terrible plot twist about how these two were trying to save everything and you were essentially dooming the world but not doing everything they said. The reason I bring this up now is so you get a good idea of how little sense all this makes, since the very first time we see these "good guys" they're nonchalantly talking about kind of destroying a town, planning to do so again, and deciding to beat up children. Gee, Camelot, I sure wonder why I didn't see that twist coming.
And so, after needlessly railroading you, forcing you to read a few hundred words too many, and denying any degree of personal choice in the matter, Golden Sun forces you into an unwinnable battle and blames you for losing. True, this isn't exactly an uncommon trope in storytelling, but you have no idea how accurately this encapsulates the entire experience left ahead.
Camelot has an obsession with including flavor text and an inability to actually write any. This can make for things that are incredibly amusing until you realize somebody actually wrote them.
An Adept is somebody who can use Psynergy. I feel that, in this redundant and useless book, the entire game is distilled into its essence.
Next time, there's a time skip and we learn how not to mend roofs. Hope you enjoy my hopefully-not-terrible execution of an admittedly terrible idea; let's at least hope that somehow I do.