Part 4: Fixing Golden Sun: Part 1I'm going to try something out before my next update (which will probably be later tonight or early tomorrow). One of my favorite things about the Chzo thread was the discussion about how to improve the series, so I'm going to take on the challenge here and actually back up my statements that this shouldn't be difficult. I also want to further emphasize a point.
How to make Golden Sun less terrible: Part 1
Let's assume we can't change too much. That is, we're still ultimately setting up a generic "Find the rocks because a wizard said so" plot, nothing mindblowing.
-Get rid of the prologue. Show scenes of destruction over the opening credits and go straight to the town's recovery. Meeting S&M is useless because revenge never factors in and seeing the tragedy firsthand is pointless because you have no connection or feeling of control, so just expedite the whole first half hour.
-Have the recovery be three months later rather than three years. Instead of focusing on Dora (Isaac's dad being dead doesn't matter in the least), focus on Jenna to establish the Felix importance. Give the main characters personalities; Garet is hotheaded and speaks before he thinks, Isaac is shy and reserved yet with a drive to improve, and Jenna is closed up but gradually coming out of her shell. Yes, they're 2-dimensional, but now we have flawed characters who can grow instead of the half-implemented indistinguishable pseudo-archetypes we have now. Also, make Isaac speak; silent protagonists only work in games like Chrono Trigger where everyone around them is larger-than-life.
-Take advantage of this first conversation to establish the way psynergy works. Garet and Isaac were terrified that the town was almost destroyed, but they've only been at it for a few months hence why they can only do small things like moving wood. They start the conversation as Jenna opens up and starts finally talking about Felix, but she cuts herself off by suggesting they meet Kraden. Now we have an interesting setup for later character interactions.
-En route to Kraden, the S&M stuff can happen as normal (albeit better written and briefer). Kraden's heard about the stars but isn't allowed into a certain part of the sanctum, while the rest is open to anyone. Have SS be a much shorter dungeon that isn't actually a maze and cut out the forbidden element until the very end. The characters voice concern amongst themselves but let themselves listen to Kraden against their better judgment. Now we have meaningful interaction that makes the situation seem more real while communicating it's a bad idea.
-S&M show up as soon as you enter. They tried this a few months ago but screwed up and intentionally made natural disasters to cover their tracks. Now we've set them up as incompetent but powerful, letting them be decent villains while still allowing for the plot twist (they had good intentions but were terrible at enacting them and mostly immoral). They take advantage of the situation by taking you hostage and making Garet/Isaac get the stars for them. Each star causes a noticeable collapse, and after the third they realize everything is going wrong. Felix comes in and takes away Jenna before she can properly come to grips with what she's seeing, and Alex takes S&M's place for the last star.
-This part is harder, since there's no logical reason you need to have the star but if Alex gets it there's no reason to take hostages. Let's just say Alex is toying with you but realizes himself how terrible the situation is, forcing him to make a very sudden escape sans star and establishing him as arrogant but equally incompetent. You're trapped in the volcano and saved by the Wise One, who saves your life with a condition: you're going to stop them and get his stars back.
None of these revisions are drastic, but now we have a much shorter intro that fixes almost all of GS's problems. Kraden was foolish but not an idiot, S&M are legitimate villains, we have a number of reasons to go after the hostages (personal feelings for a Jenna who was just coming out of her shell, feelings of responsibility for going along with a poorly thought out plan, and a supernatural commandment that's only vaguely understood), we have guiding questions that actually make us want to know more (what exactly is the story behind Felix, who is the Wise One, etc), the main characters now have things that motivate them and opportunity for development, and the setting is actually slightly engaging. Even better, this would probably take a mere twenty minutes and be far more interesting. Not world-class storytelling by any means, but this is using the exact same framework, only given a bit more thought than "here is how I type words".
Instead, Camelot came up with two hours that give us nothing except a vaguely defined goal and a host of illogical actions through the most coma-inducing writing imaginable. That's why I dislike Golden Sun's storyline; not so much because it's generic, but because it's clear the writers didn't even try.