Yes, you read the title right and it is one of the greatest game ever made on the GBA. A refined showing of adventure, puzzle and RPG elements mashed together to make a gem of a game. With it’s revolutionary way of letting gamers play with the elements; it’s one of the most unique design in any game in a GBA console. Challenging puzzles accompany those that dared playing through the game (you can always use a walkthrough though) often giving light to unearthly secrets from the standard chests to rare chests, it’s always a joy to get them (or a pain if the chest contains shit like 1 gold, weee~). Standard RPG fare is intact such as level, stats, equips, (sarcasm) long ass conversations, mute main character, damsel in distress, a kid destined to eradicate the world of baddies while the old mans sits at home letting the kid facing his demise (/sarcasm) and pretty strong story elements. That’s a lot of stuff to put in a single GBA game that many other tried but fall short (cough… KHCoM… cough).
Have you guess it? Think about it for a sec and try to guess which game it is. It’s fairly obvious from just looking at the title of the post. After you guessed the game or clueeless or just lazy, click on continue for an answer.
So, you guessed right? No? Were you expecting this?
Bet you were expecting Boktai more eh; with the post title a carbon copy of the sub title for the game. Truth be told, the above statement that I made is for both game but I’m concentrating more on Golden Sun (ref: GS) as I have never played Boktai and just around playing GS. Blame those GBA cartridges that are sold near my place; almost all of them are fake and I have been cheated more than once! RAGE!!! The one that I’m mad most is the cartridge for the game Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and a Pokemon compilation cartridge; both of which worked and usable but have different game inside which in turn means I cannot change the damn cartridge because it’s usable so I’m left with disgust. Since then, never have I trusted in buying a GBA cartridge; only borrowing them from my friends to play other games so yeah, I’m missing some big time titles since my friends doesn’t buy new game often. GS is one, Boktai is another and both I’ve never played.
After much pondering and things, I finally got around on playing GS and first impression, the game looks… ugly. The 3d sprites that the characters in the game possesses doesn’t look great, the environment looked bland and both looked stiff… I’m not complaining about bad graphics ruining a game, it’s more like I’m disappointed because 1) Using 2d sprites will make the game more lively, colorful and beautiful; fact, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past; 2) Doing it all in 3d is great luxury to be had for GBA gamers but a lot more polish could make the char model looked smoother and less jagged plus they could really make a lot more different char model because a lot of common char in the game looked the same except for those more important characters. Fact, seeing as this game is made in the early days of the GBA, it really is an achievement to the development team in trying to push the limits of the GBA, kudos to them. Fact, I’ve never taken graphics as what make a game really good, it’s the gameplay and oh boy, how the game unearthly become godly at that point. It’s like any niche JRPG; pubescent teen setting on a journey to save the world that none other adult cared to do themselves or those kid really does have nothing better to do. They don’t do school, they only study swordplays or herbs or magics and none boring school stuffs. But what really sets this apart from other JRPG, the sheer enjoyment of playing the game through the much cliche storyline. Yeah, the story is predictable but the way it develop is short of spectacular. Take the first few minutes of the game; you are immediately thrown into a frantic “save your village from the imminent disaster” right after you got up from bed. From there you are injected into the game, trying to figure out what to do, solving little puzzle and get the first taste of defeat, literally. It’s INTENSE!
The battles, the heart of a JRPG game other than the story. It’s unsurprisingly turn-based much like the earlier Final Fantasy without the slower ATB or Suikoden. You put in you commands for that turn and see your characters do your bidding hoping that the directions you gave them are the right ones to avoid defeat. This type of turn-based element is much harder because what you want your character to do is finalized and you cannot change midway of the battle sequence so there’s no room for errors. Take FF’s ATB for example, you can still cover up a mistake of one char with the other char because commands are given singularly according to the ATB meter but a traditional turn-based system needs you to input all of your char command on a single turn so you cannot know who to heal at the end of the enemy boss onslaught at the end of the turn so a slow healer will not do; you need your healer to go light speed so that they can heal at the starting of the next turn. The targetting system of the game also posses some challenges, basically you need to know how much damage/hit a monster can have before they die because 1) Excessively have everyone hack at a single monster will cause you damage because if the monster died from the attack of two char then the other char will have their command changed. Not change their target to another target like other JRPG but their command changes to defend meaning you miss two attack for that turn leaving the other monsters to free hit you. There’s also an option for you to use psynergy which basically means magic in the game. Everyone single one in your party can use psynergy so everyone can do multi hit area magic to all monster. This will basically ends the defend command problem of targeting with attack but it does impose a stiffer sacrifice, your PP which is MP. While PP can be easily replenish with running around because PP fill up over time but continuously spamming them will drain it in no time flat. PP recovery item are scarce so pick your strategy well.
Now let’s talk about the revolutionary Djinn system which is basically means elemental spirits in JRPG niche which not surprisingly comes in 4 different elements; Venus (earth), Mars (fire), Jupiter (wind) and Mercury (water). Some for the awesomeness of you-know-who!
Djinn can be use in two ways outside battle; either you set them to the char so that the djinn can help by boosting that char base stats ranging from HP to Speed even Luck sometimes or by letting the djinn set on stand by mode which doesn’t boost your stat but can be used as a more powerful form in battle. Now that the usage of djinn outside battles are clarified let’s talk about their roles in battles. Like I have stated above, the set djinn give stats boost to your char but you can also use the set djinn to unleash a djinn specific technique; i.e., the djinn Flint when use allowed its user to unleash a devastating Flint powered slash to their enemy. After a set djinn is used, it will change its state into the stand by mode. You may think a stand by djinn is lame because it doesn’t help in any way and look stupid but truth is, there are 10 time more dangerous on stand by. In stand by, you can summon your djinn to unleash a more powerful and spectacular with 1 stand by djinn equal to a level 1 summon so having 4 djinn of the same element in stand by will net you a level 4 summon. I only had until level 4 so I don’t if there can be more. Nevertheless, you must be thinking that you must used up 4 turns to get 4 djinn to be in stand by mode, right? That’s one way but there’s another; you can set your djinn on stand by before a fight so stand by 4 of your djinn of the same element and go into battle against a boss or any monster and unleash the power of level 4 summons on your first round! Yes, you first round! OWNAGE! After using the stand by summon feature the djinn will be in a state of recovering which is not very long so it’s much worth every summon and yes, you can do it unlimited amount of time because djinn summoning doesn’t cost an PP, only a mere wee little recovery time so go ape shit summoning!
The adventure and exploration aspect of the game is well fleshed out and really fun, not tedious unlike some other game that try to do the same (Tales of series; if you blaze through the game, you WILL MISS 40% of the game, seriously). It’s again pretty standard JRPG niche exploration with the overhead view, world map view, dungeons, etc. But here’s a catch, some part of the game main storyline and a lot of other side items/quests puzzles require you to have certain psynergy to pass. That’s right folk, psynergy plays a very big role in the game and guess where do you get psynergy? From the fucking awesomeness of djinn of course… well only some so far but djinn is still very much vital. Some elements that you can interact in the game vary from puddles to rocks to logs to pretty much anything you can think of the bat when you design a puzzle for a game. Thing is, these puzzles are not extraordinarily hard nor does it’s extraordinary easy; more like some needs just a little bit of thinking while other will challenge even the most hardened of puzzle solver but never to the point where it cannot be solve after a few round of trying then you will get the logic behind the puzzle. At one instance you need to use psynergy “reveal” to find oasis scattered about the desert to cool you off before you are hurt by the heat. Other time you need to use the psynergy “move” to move objects around a specified path. There are also puzzle requiring you to freeze puddle of waters using “frost” to make a pillar to jump across. Some are more secretive like a tree bud on the ground; you need to use the “growth” psynergy to make the bud grow into a vine for you to climb up but no one in your party have “growth” but there is a way to get it. You need to set a Venus djinn on a char with a Mars djinn so that the combination of both djinn gives a new set of skill to that char and only then can you get growth and use it on that tree bud. Setting the djinn and evenly distributing them so that you can have your best combination of djinn per char to suit your play style is well worth the effort and will reward you later on in the game.
Next up, the locales and again standard JRPG fare so I’m not going to list any. But there’s one local living in a locale in the game is just hilarious. Seriously, if you don’t even get the joke behind it then you may not understand the substance of the joke but if you did then it’s hell funny. There’s a char in a town named Tolbi that goes by the name “Babi” and I’m dead serious, I’m not making this up. If you already started crackling hell now then you’ll understand the joke, to those that doesn’t, here’s a little run down; Babi is a malay word for pig and Babi is a pretty taboo word here in the Malay country so seeing a man named Babi is hilariously funny, hell if the man is called pig, it’s still funny. To those that are skeptical and want some prove, here’s for ya
Not enough to make you believe me? Then here’s more, and this one deserve the stamp of ultimate fuckingness!
On that notion alone make this game awesome really, any game that name their char Babi is fucking awesome. Hope you enjoy reading it and till next time! Cheers!