The Let's Play Archive

Golden Sun

by Quovak

Part 46: Ending TLA

How To End Golden Sun Less Terribly

As has hopefully been apparent, Golden Sun doesn't really have a plot, it just very loudly pretends that it does. Because it's been a while and because the writing wouldn't be very memorable if you read the whole thread last night, here's the entire plot of Golden Sun, condensed:

Isaac, Garet, Jenna, and Felix live in a town of psynergy users called Vale. Vale houses a forbidden elemental shrine which is ransacked by Saturos and Menardi, triggering a self defense mechanism that destroys much of the town and seemingly kills Felix, as well as several others. Three years later, S&M try again, but Isaac and the others are led by Kraden to basically do it for them. S&M coerce us into giving them three of the elemental stars contained therein and take Jenna and Kraden hostages so we'll eventually return the fourth. They're joined in this by Felix, who they rescued three years prior, and Alex, a mysterious enigma of mystery and enigmatic confusion.

S&M want to use the stars to light some elemental lighthouses, so a rock god called The Wise One sends us out to stop them from doing so (the theory is that doing so will basically make the world collapse.) We eventually recruit Ivan and Mia, encounter the group at the first lighthouse, and fail to stop them. Along the way, we're led on numerous meaningless detours of no consequence.

After a series of adventures with unimportant sages, terrible boating sequences, and caves, we arrive at Tolbi. Tolbi's ruler has kidnapped Sheba, a woman with a mysterious past, to coerce a neighboring village into helping him become immortal. She gets kidnapped by S&M, we follow the group to the second lighthouse, and another confrontation occurs. Felix argues with the group over Sheba's involvement, we fight and defeat the pair but they light the lighthouse anyway, natural disasters inexplicably separate Felix and the hostages a continent away, and Issac and co. get on a boat to find the remaining lighthouses and help Babi become a god.

260 characters of a password later, the perspective switches to Felix, Jenna, Sheba, and Kraden, awakening on a distant land with Alex supposedly in tow. Presumably trying to accomplish something, the group participates in dozens of ancillary vignettes, reads more words about boats than would be found a typical boat encyclopedia, occasionally runs into Alex so we can remember how mysterious he is, and finally gets a vague sense of a goal upon running into Piers at Kibombo. Piers convinces us to head to the mythical city of Lemuria, where Babi gained his longevity. We aimlessly sail around a hemiplane trying to find and forge the pieces of a trident, murder a sea god, and arrive in the city, where Felix "discovers" that he should be lighting some lighthouses since the landmasses are dying without the alchemy they unleash.

During this time, but before the Lemuria revelation, Alex confronts us to tell us that we aren't lighting the lighthouses well enough and that he's hired some mercenaries to ask us politely if we could hurry up. Karst and Agatio, two S&M stand-ins from the same village, remind us of the never-before-addressed fact that our parents are being kept as double-hostages, then stand around doing nothing so the game can pretend it has a villain. Alex also lets slip that Babi is dead, rendering the last part of the previous game even more purposeless than it already was.

Finally armed with a goal and a motivation ten hours into the game, Felix and company head for the third lighthouse. While there, we run into Isaac's party, anger Karst and Agatio somehow, and fight them for completely unexplainable reasons. Actually having a conversation for once leads to Isaac's party joining us in the quest to light the lighthouses, but we're forced to hurry so as to stop Karst and Agatio, who also want to light the lighthouses but maybe more evilly.

At Mars Lighthouse, the final area of the game, we learn that our parents have left their captivity (?) and that Karst and Agatio are tackling the lighthouse. We also get a boat that can fly and learn that an apocalypse is happening because the wind of the Jupiter Lighthouse is making things cold.


Now, this is a pretty terrible setup for an ending, but I've repeatedly said that Camelot has no excuse for making their story-driven game as incomprehensible as it is; excuses like "It's generic, but that's not a bad thing" or "It's not meant to be a world-class story" miss the point entirely. I've been offering simple fixes for this game's problems over the course of the LP, but for now I'm going to ignore them. The Lost Age's ending is an absolute insult to anybody who put up with two games of lead-up, and any random person on the internet who can't even put together an update on time could have done better, even with the terrible foundation. How do I know? Because here are a dozen better possibilities they could have worked into their ending with having to rewrite a thing:

TLA posted:

All my life, I've been looking for the answer... Where was I born, and why was I abandoned?
Sheba, you may not know this, but you and I are very similar... I was born in a poor village. My memories are hazy, but I still remember it. I was only four when Babi took me under his wing. You see, even though I was young, I was quite intelligent. Babi had heard about me... I was separated from my parents so early in life... I've never known the comforts of a true home.

1. Sheba makes peace with who she is and the lack of knowledge about where she came from, while Kraden does the same thing. The two of them have a similar backstory and a connection to Babi, so they compare how they've found fulfillment working towards saving the world while Babi became a tyrant because he wasn't at peace with the mortal man he was. By the end, Sheba and Kraden have (gasp) developed.

2. The world is going haywire due to wind being cold, so the rest of the planet has to buy us time. Hama and others begin spreading the word, an important figure like the King of Lemuria kickstarts a giant sheer-force-of-will-o-thon, and we get an inspiring montage of adepts the world over summoning any force they can to postpone the disaster. We get an inspiring shot of werewolves, black people, native americans, and boat captains joining in magical prayer, showing us that the vignettes have had purpose, creating a true sense of finality, and showing us the sense of urgency rather than telling us about it. For bonus points, lock us in the Mars Lighthouse as this happens and make us do Dullahan, etc beforehand.

3. Isaac and co. betray Felix and co. You're forced to choose which side to have fight against who, and the ending varies based upon who you side with. Both endings would be bittersweet without a definitive "good", and the question of whether you solved the underlying problems would be left ambiguous. Obviously this wouldn't work extremely well in conjunction with a clear apocalypse, but you could get around this by having Isaac filibuster an alternate suggestion (such as Alex being behind the destruction, or the apocalypse being entirely made up as another form of Alex-directed coercion)

4. Karst and Agatio are the smartest guys in the room. They double-cross Alex, seeking revenge for letting Saturos and Menardi die, and Alex is either defeated by them as a show of pre-Final Boss power or he rejoins with you for one last assault.

5. Alternately, Karst and Agatio rebel against Alex, joined by the rest of Prox. The Proxians don't recognize who he is (given that he came from Imil), and equally feel that he's up to nothing but evil, leading to a display of his full power and genocidal ambition, then to a final boss fight.

TLA posted:

When the four beacons are fired, Alchemy will be released, and our world, destroyed. My lord, you cannot possibly intend for these people to light the remaining beacons!?

6. Alchemy is unleashed with Alex cackling all the way, announcing his victory until the characters elaborate on a 4Kids-esque theme of "Evil will always exist; it isn't alchemy that made us that way. Alchemy can be a force for good or evil." We rebuke the earlier "Wise Men" who took such a dim view of human nature, and the current Wise One who shared the same Conservato-esque views is either A) converted or B) the final or near-final boss, as he holds the Kefka-esque view that humanity isn't worth saving and that alchemy will only make things worse. Huh, I wonder if this could tie into some of the character development I mentioned in part 1? For bonus dramatic irony, the now-immortal Alex can be locked inside Sol Sanctum, surrounded by happy alchemists, as both a fitting eternal torment and a possible sequel hook.

6b. The lighthouses are lit, just barely stopping the destruction. We get to see shots of ruined civilizations, but the characters point out to each other that they've been helping people this whole time, and being able to do so again is the entire focus of alchemy. Over the credits we see a montage of major characters going on one last adventure fixing up the world, finally ending with either a Vale homecoming or a look at Lemuria in its full glory.

6c. Lemuria, Vale, Tolbi, or some other plot-important city (no, come to think of it there's pretty much just the three) opens its doors and the various groups of people start to mingle, such that the game ends with Native Americans, black people, and werewolves living together in perfect harmony while singing Ebony and Ivory or what-have-you. To be honest, if they just did this out of the blue I would call bullshit on an overly contrived "You suddenly fixed ALL THE PROBLEMS" cop-out, but subdue the approach enough and show just the beginnings of it (some Mercury adepts from Imil going to live in Prox, for example) and you get a sense of growth through the shared understanding of psynergy and the big disaster forcing people to pull together.

7. The Hostage situation still comes into play. As the parents left, they were kidnapped by either K&A or Alex (notice how which villain does what doesn't seem to ever matter at all), and you encounter [villain] (probably Karst and Agatio) at the top of the lighthouse with your parents dangling over the edge, ready to meet the same fate as S&M. They threaten to kill your parents solely as a punishment for being inconvenienced (trying to get anything out of it makes no sense if they have the Mars Star and are five feet away). This becomes the impetus to fight, and as Karst and Agatio are defeated Alex finally comes out of the woodwork to declare you a liability and attempts to finally take matters into his own hands.

TLA posted:

But… once the lighthouses are all lit, you said the world would end anyway!
That… might be true, too... But if we do nothing, the world will definitely end. Nothing is certain. There is no way to prevent the world from reaching its natural end. However, we can fight to save the world from withering away due to the actions of men.

8. Instead of something clear-cut, we get an ambiguous non-ending specifically playing into the leap-of-faith nature of alchemy revival. The villains are defeated, the characters talk amongst themselves about the risk they've taken, and the game ends without clearly praising or condemning their actions. Taken alone, this could be an infuriating copout, but as long as it's done in conjunction with another sign of progress and treated as a finality rather than an abrupt cut to black (for example, with the characters actively saying "It could be years before we really know if we did the right thing" after the lighting happens), it would be an audacious and intriguing way to avoid answering questions.

TLA posted:

All my life, I've been looking for the answer... Where was I born, and why was I abandoned?
Sheba, you may not know this, but you and I are very similar... I was born in a poor village. My memories are hazy, but I still remember it. I was only four when Babi took me under his wing. You see, even though I was young, I was quite intelligent. Babi had heard about me... I was separated from my parents so early in life... I've never known the comforts of a true home.

9. Kraden becomes the new ruler of Tolbi, having fulfilled Babi's commands, researched alchemy, and opened up the way to Lemuria. Babi's will comes into play during this decision, Kraden helps orchestrate an opening up of the world, and Sheba returns to a home that no longer seeks to exploit her. As much as it pains me to give Kraden anything besides death by suffocation, it concludes his "arc" and gives the Babi story a much greater level of connectivity with the rest of the game, the new level of connectivity being "any".

Seriously, just acknowledge this; it's right there.

10. The game does an actual "generic, but not a bad thing" ending. We fight Karst and Agatio, then we fight Alex, then we save the world. It's bland, but it's functional, and it's far better than the ending that we're going to get.

The Lost Age tries to have about fifteen cakes and eat them too, going for an audacious ending but not wanting to actually take chances then wanting to resolve things without actually wanting to put in the work. The ending is even more of a mess than almost anything we've seen so far, with blatant narrative cheating, incomprehensible everything, and a completely unsatisfying method of cleaning up the clusterfuck the game has been left with, even when they could have at least attempted to finish the game strong had they just sat down, thought about it, and not been Camelot.

No spoiling the ending, not even in black bars.