Part 30: Bonus Update: Air's Rock Addendum
It hardly seems fair to rush through the game like I've been doing, and it also hardly seems fair to constantly present a one-sided "This game is marginally worse than cancer" approach. With that in mind, let's take a look at what some of gaming's most respected journalists said about this game's predecessor.
To explain the story in Golden Sun would ruin the enjoyment of the game for anyone interested in playing through this adventure, as the plotline has been so tightly integrated into every ounce of the adventure. Most familiar RPGs rely on extremely cut-and-dry storylines to simplify the game design...and while Golden Sun's layout is pretty straightforward, it's not exactly a snap to grasp the intricacies of why exactly you're on the quest unless you're paying strict attention to the unfolding story as it happens.
The one downside to the game design is that it literally takes about two hours to get into the meat of the game -- because the designers have written such a deep story involving dozens of characters (each with their own unique personality), the game has to unfold the introduction through both action and conversation.
Players will have to depend on their party members magical abilities to advance further into the quest -- finding the hidden passages requires some keen thinking by sliding statues, rolling logs, using magic to pull stones or blast away foliage covering the doorways.
The magic effects are just flat-out gorgeous, with exploding particle effects that blast all over the screen in an amazing lightshow...and the further along into the adventure you go, the more impressive the effects get. That's some incentive to continue, as if the storyline wasn't enough to keep you driving forward.
(Score: 9.7 / 10)
Extended Play posted:
There is a great deal of story -- so much so that the story doesn't end with this cartridge. It's not just a generic "to be continued" that ends the game either. It's rather a gut-wrenching cliffhanger that'll keep you on edge until the next "Golden Sun" comes out.
The quests beyond the search for Sol Sanctum are extremely involving and take you all over the game world. As much as I would love to gush about these quests, the trophies they bring you and the people that join your party as a result, it would be extremely unfair of me, because anybody in their right mind will rush out and buy Golden Sun at the first opportunity and play it for themselves.
(Score: 9 / 10)
While the game's setup is purely generic, the rest of the game is filled with interesting (not to mention gorgeous) places, wonderful characters, and tons of creative sub-stories and side quests that elevate the game far beyond its not-so-creative roots. Plus, as a cool twist, the rest of the world doesn't even know this whole "Psynergy" thing exists--to them, Isaac and his friends' powers look like random instances of the world goin' nuts. It's a nifty little plot device that Golden Sun knows how to manipulate for maximum dramatic advantage.
All of these abilities are worked seamlessly into the world's puzzles, both the major ones and the plethora of challenging and well-constructed 'optional' riddles. The game never leads you on, either'it just presents the world, lays down the rules, and lets your own logic do the rest; and a few of the more ingenious dungeons will actually leave you gasping at both the game's and your own astounding cleverness once you figure out the 'trick' to getting through.
(Score: 5 / 5)
Golden Sun holds its own against most full-sized console games. While the quest could be longer, the time spent in it is nearly all quality time--it has less shameless filler than other RPGs. The game offers tight graphics, polished gameplay, and a solid story, which provide a great showcase for the GBA. You'll be left wanting more, and judging by the game's ending, we may see a sequel. Fans of RPGs owe it to themselves to pick up Golden Sun.
(Score: 8.6 / 10)
One of the few issues that players had with the game was its abrupt ending and relatively short length. Part of the reason for that was the developer's decision to parcel out the game's story in installments, with the first Golden Sun covering the first chapter in the tale. For the next entry in the series, Golden Sun: The Lost Age, Camelot has followed up with an even more polished game that exceeds its predecessor's high level of quality.
Ultimately, Golden Sun: The Lost Age is an excellent follow-up to the original Golden Sun. The game makes some solid refinements to the series' gameplay, features a longer quest, and makes some nice tweaks to the series' presentation. Despite the fact that the Game Boy Advance library has seen some notable entries in the RPG genre--such as Breath of Fire and Breath of Fire II, Tactics Ogre, Pokèmon Ruby and Sapphire, and Lunar Legend--since the original game hit, Golden Sun: The Lost Age still manages to stand tall.
(Score: 8.6 / 10)
Well, if TLA can stand tall above other RPGs, including GS1, and GS1 could hold its own against full-sized console games, then perhaps the 37 minutes of Air's Rock should be able to hold its own against 37 minutes of other RPGs.
Remember when Faceguy and Ambisagrus did this exact same thing? This video is divided into four sections: In the upper left corner is the video of Air's Rock. In the lower right is the first 37 minutes of Golden Sun 1. In the upper right is 37 minutes of another RPG that some people think is kind of okay I guess. In the lower left is un-sped up footage of Breakdown; there's not really a reason for that, but I needed a fourth game and I've had unused Breakdown footage on my hard drive for about nine months now.
The next non-Air's Rock update will be up in a couple of days, both because I don't feel like making another update right away and because TLA needs some time to sit in a corner and think about what it's done.
Alright, to be straightforward, here are my problems with Air's Rock:
1. No forewarning. A marathon dungeon isn't really that bad when you can save anywhere, but there's no build-up to this at all. There's no indication of how much longer the dungeon will be or even where you're going, and after you get inside you never feel like you're actually getting anywhere until suddenly you get to the purple fog room and find that the dungeon just abruptly ends. It's far longer than either of the lighthouses in the first game, but at least those had a clear sign of progress (moving upwards) and were built up as being big events to prepare yourself for.
2. No story connectivity. You have no way of knowing what it is you're looking for or if Air's Rock is even the place to look, and the dungeon could completely disappear and you would never know there had been something there in the first place. As with problem 1, this means you don't even know if you're supposed to be there or if you'll get anything out of it. After getting 30 minutes in, this is still in the back of your mind.
3. Extreme padding. 2/3rds of this dungeon are just long twisting hallways or long climbs. In a dungeon built around getting lost and retracing your steps, this just adds a ton of tedium. Seriously, pay attention to how much of this dungeon is just going from one door to another by the most circuitous path imaginable and not even interacting with the environment at all.
4. Trial-and-Error. It's impossible to do this dungeon smoothly on your first try. You constantly have to do blind maneuvers like climbing to places you can't see and pushing blocks to where offscreen tornados can intersect them, and there's absolutely no way you would find things like the Flora summon (which mandates revisiting and resolving a room with a block pushed to the right position after activating a tornado statue) without dumb luck or a walkthrough.
5. Blandness. The dungeon has one gimmick and it vastly outstays its welcome. There are two or three interesting puzzles, like the one with the pillars, but mostly it's just vaguely different coats of paint. Even the spinning platform room isn't really a puzzle so much as a more tedious hallway that relies on the same thing you've been doing since the start.
6. It's a maze. I don't like mazes, and mazes where every room looks the same, backtracking is a requirement, and you have to spend 37 minutes even with efficient maneuvering of the maze simply aren't enjoyable in the slightest.
Really, I think Air's Rock is the distillation of everything (non-story related) wrong with The Lost Age. I can understand why someone would enjoy it, but I can't understand why someone would think it was well-designed or couldn't have been vastly more interesting.
For miscellany, yes, it was at 4X speed, and what that means will become much more apparent when I post the follow-up Air's Rock update later tonight/tomorrow (no, it's not going to involve watching the 37 minutes in real time; I wouldn't be that sadistic).