Golden Sun: Dark Dawn

Join the decendents of heroes to save the world of Weyard
SeriousGamer - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:

Mild Violence: Bloodless violence against human and non-human characters with different weapons, enemies fall over and vanish upon defeat, dialogue hints at strong violence.

Fantasy Magic: Player characters use a form of magic called Psynergy with fantasy effects, characters get help from fantasy spirits.

Supernatural Elements: Player characters can become cursed, gods are mentioned and player can summon god-like characters, player fights demons as enemies. Plot mentions virgin birth and involves dark power.

Revealing Outfits: Summoned character is female and reveals back and leg, NPCs wear cleavage and midriff-baring outfits.

Adult Themes: Premartial sex is implied in dialogue.

Oppressive Atmosphere: Game settings become darker later in game, dead bodies seen in towns.

Mild Language: Swear word is implied

They say the night is darkest just before dawn. I’ve no doubt it’s true, but if that’s the case then the people of Weyard might have a really dark night ahead of them before the dawn even thinks about breaking. But when it does, you can bet you’ll have a, well, golden sun. Of course, the sun isn’t quite made of Alchemy either.

The story of the Golden Sun series began way back in 2001 with the release of the Game Boy Advance title, named Golden Sun. It was a different sort of tale, and the players must have enjoyed it because in 2003, the Final Fantasy knock-off as I like to call it gained a new chapter in Golden Sun: The Lost Age. In late 2010, the series saw its third chapter in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn.

The story of Dark Dawn ties in heavily with the stories of the first two games, so they reference it quite a bit.

Plot:

Thirty years have passed since the return of Alchemy, and the world of Weyard has changed drastically. Under the Golden Sun, new lands have appeared, and old ones have shifted. New species and races have also appeared. The old heroes of Weyard have settled down and raised families as well. All in all, the world has seen peace. But as with all stories, peace doesn’t want to last. And it begins so innocently too.

It all begins in the home of Issac, one of the heroes of the first two titles. He lives with his son, Matthew, in a cabin overlooking what was once Mt. Aleph, where his own quest began way back when. His friend Garet and his son Tyrell also live there. When Tyrell accidentally breaks an important hang glider used by Issac to reach Mt. Aleph, the place where Issac’s own adventures began, Matthew, Tyrell, and their friend Karis set off to help repair it. Little do they know that their quest is only part of a much bigger adventure.

All across the land, strange black holes called Psynergy Vortexes are appearing. The vortexes drain Psynergy from the environment around them, and that spells bad news for Weyard. In order to solve the mystery behind these vortexes and save the world from an all new threat, Matthew, Isaac’s son sets off with a band of his friends.

Gameplay

Dark Dawn almost plays like a Final Fantasy clone. Players wander around a large overworld with towns and dungeons scattered all over the map. While wandering around, you will on many occasions, be pulled into a battle. There’s nothing you can do to avoid this, however, so you had better get used to it, annoying as the random fights are.

In battle, you will select a move and an enemy to use it on, if you have more than one enemy that is. Your characters will move according to their stats, so typically the faster characters move before the slower ones. You can also only have four characters in your party at a given time. Each character also has certain skills that only they can use, so you need to think about what you’ll need. Of course, you can switch at any time.

In towns and dungeons, you will also sometimes find creatures called Djinns. These critters will enhance your party’s abilities. Different combinations of Djinns will change things like what abilities and classes party members will have. So you’re pretty much free to experiment.

Offensive Content

Mild Violence

Battles are fought against a variety of creatures, some human looking and others clearly in the realm of fantasy. Combat is handled with just about any weapon you can think of, including swords, axes, bows and arrows, staves, iron knuckles and also a variety of magic attacks (more on that later). In some cases, enemies get tossed around and land back on the ground, but there is no blood in any case. Enemies flash and then vanish when their health is depleted.

Your characters will fall over when their health is depleted, and they appear dead until you revive them.

Some dialogue hints at more extreme violence. Later in the game, a few words get exchanged about people being boiled alive.

Fantasy Magic

Players of the previous titles will have an idea of what sort of things Adepts can do. For those who don’t know, Adepts control a mysterious force called Psynergy. It’s hard to say exactly what Psynergy is or where it comes from, but it seems to be based on the powers of the mind. As such, the game presents Psynergy as a neutral force with the user deciding what purpose to use it for. In-game, Psynergy seems to allow characters to, essentially, cast spells. Some examples seen in the game are throwing fireballs around, striking enemies with lightning, healing allies pushing objects around with the mind, reading minds, and so on. Most of this seems to be well rooted in fantasy, but one sort of Psynergy references faith.

Your player will also find Djinns in different places. For those who don’t know, the name comes from some sort of Arabian spirit in folklore (think Aladdin). With the aid of the Djinns, your characters can either enhance their attacks or use them to summon giant creatures, spirits if you will. Also worth noting is the presence of Alchemy, the force which sustains the world. This power shares its name with a form of occultism, but it bears no other resemblance to the practice. Alchemy is also said to be the combination of all four elements, earth, fire, wind, and water, and this theme  crops up a lot during the game.

One character you meet can use Psynergy to transform into a beast, but this could almost be considered a natural ability, considering this character is from a race of hybrid beings, part human/part beast.

Supernatural Elements

Not so fantasy-related are a pair of fortune tellers that you meet in one of the towns you travel to. As far as I know, you can only visit them once. In most major towns, you can visit some sort of temple where a priest will offer, among other services, to exorcise spirits from your party members. About that, on occasion against certain enemies, your part members may be cursed by bad luck spirits. When you finish at the temple, the priest will tell you how the gods are always looking out for you.

Speaking of gods, the game allows you to summon spirits with your Djinns, and some of these are referred to as the mother of earth, the goddess of vengence, and similar names. One spirit, known as the power of earth enflamed, could resemble a demon. The game gives no indication of where these spirits come from, though. One such god-like figure, the Wise One, is known as the by-product of Alchemy, so it appears that the real power in Weyard is Alchemy itself.

You’ll also meet a number of supernatural enemies, like ghosts, zombies, and reanimated skeletons. While these are largely based on fantasy, a few enemies you may encounter are referred to as demons. One of the Djinns you can call on is said to summon the souls of the dead into battle.

One character believes that he was born from his mother’s Psynergy, essentially a virgin birth, but he doesn’t believe it for long.

You’ll also find magic weapons, one of which is called the Witch’s Rod. Some items you find are cursed, and if you use them, the curse transfers to you.

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Part of the plot deals with what the game calls Dark Adepts who can manipulate aptly-named Dark Psynergy. It’s never made explicitly clear whether or not this is the game’s version of black magic, but it gives a few indications that it is. Darkness and light are a theme that plays heavily in the later parts of the game, with light being called holy and darkness threatening to swallow it. The final boss is an entity formed by dark spirits, so it could very well be a form of possession.

********************Spoilers End***************************

Revealing Outfits

One of the spirits that you can summon is a female hunter, and she wears an outfit that reveals a good portion of her back and some of her leg as well. The rest of her is well covered. A few NPC’s wear outfits that show some cleavage and a bit of midriff.

Adult Themes

A bit of dialogue suggests that one character was born to unmarried parents. The game gives no indication that his parents were married or not, but it’s heavily implied that the father left after the character was born, so it doesn’t sound like a marriage took place.

Oppressive Atmosphere

The later stages of the game take on a really grim tone. A dark mist shrouds several places, and in some towns, we see the bodies of people strewn about.

Mild Language

Near the very end of the game, we see a set of symbols in a text-box that usually indicate swear words, especially strong ones. This is the only instance of language in this game.

Positive Themes

It seems this game gives a good nod to family. The first look at some of the player characters show that they  have a healthy relationship with their fathers. Siblings also care for one another. One in fact goes to great lengths to save his sister, and although his methods could be questioned, one almost has to admire his dedication and love. Responsibility is also given a bit of time as a single careless act is what throws the quest into motion. There’s also the timeless theme of good versus evil and never giving in, even when it seems that the odds are stacked against you. Characters bravely face threats they meet, even when victory seems impossible.

Conclusion

I had never given much thought to the Golden Sun series. I don’t even remember seeing the first games up on store shelves. But I found the first one interesting enough, and though I never completed the second one, I looked eagerly forward to the third title. I have to say I was surprised.

It was surprising to me to see the game in 3D, blocky as it was. It surprised me to find a game that kept the twists coming, although I suppose I should have expected it considering the rest of the games were like that as well. I was also surprised to see how both screens were used, especially during the summons.

Unfortunately, I had a few other surprises as well, but not ones I was happy to find. The use of Psynergy always had a fantasy feel to me, but this time, it seemed to take on a more ominous tone, especially with the allusions to dark power and spirits. Adding to that, the idea of a virgin birth due to Psynergy seemed almost like a slap in the face to the Virgin Birth. While themes of courage and family shine through in this game, they seem almost eclipsed (no pun intended) by the darker shadows.

As I said, the night is darkest just before the dawn, and for the Golden Sun series and the Christian gamer, this is the darkest part of the tale.




Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.

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