Graphics: The game is definitely pretty from the first look at the game. The environment and characters in the world look great with the 3D models, the textures used on the environments are more detailed and unique in comparison to Golden Sun: The Lost Age. Because of the game using 3D models now, the cut scenes and events during the game can utilize more dynamic camera angles. Another thing that you see right away is all the emoticons that the characters will frequently use during dialogue. They don't really add to the gameplay much, but they're there to give a little variety to dialogues and keep things moving even without words through the characters showing emotions frequently. It seems a bit unnecessary, but it's neat in its own way.
However, I found that the game's pacing was rather slow as the game threw lots of dialogue at you, especially early on. Maybe it's to build more character early on to give a feel of their personalities, but the main character, Matthew, is just as same as Isaac and Felix was. Fairly mute, like most protagonists. The others tend to follow common archetypes as well, so character development isn't exactly all that impressive throughout the game.
|Matthew's means of communication.|
If battles aren't doing the game justice, what's left is the puzzles that made Golden Sun series so memorable. A couple of psynergies have been upgraded to have longer effect radii which is somewhat nicer. However, the puzzles the game provides also doesn't live up to the past two games' puzzles as they also tend to be easier. They don't offer the same complexity that the first two games had, especially later on, and on top of that, many psynergies were dropped that had many potential in this game. Sure, this game introduces new psynergies as well, but they seem so much more situational in comparison to those that were not brought back in Dark Dawn. Level designs don't seem any simpler, but the puzzles sure are, making me wonder whether if this was done intentionally to target the newer audiences again or not.
The Beauty of the Golden Sun series is the sense of being able to overcome obstacles and create your own paths with the use of Psynergy.
Around halfway through the story did the game feel like it started to pace forward and get more interesting. Without spoiling anything, a major event occurs that's much greater than collecting a feather to repair the Soarwing, which has absolutely no importance at all in this game other than the initial quest. This major event provides much of what the game lacked; an incentive to keep playing through story progression, and a slight spike in difficulty in combat. Unfortunately, this is short lived as the end of the game creeps up on you fairly quickly. It's disappointing that the game only felt like it got good until the latter half, and when you finally get to it, it ends shortly after.
The ending once again hints at a sequel, much like the previous two games, and a sequel is most appropriate as this game left many things open and unanswered. I just hope that the next game doesn't take as long as this game did. GS: Dark Dawn came out in 2010, while the previous games were released in 2001 and 2003. Heck, it's already over a year since this game came out now, so hopefully the sequel will be out later this year, or next year since I haven't heard of any announcements about another title being in the works yet.
All in all, this game isn't terrible, but definitely disappointing for someone who has come to expect the qualities of the first two games. The outer qualities like graphics may be nicer, but the depth of the game feels toned down for the new audiences, and I feel like that's the wrong approach to really get new fans of the series anyway. Regardless, if you're a fan, it's worth picking it up and aim for a low level run of the game with the Avoid psynergy. I was able to defeat Dullahan, the hardest, optional boss in the game, at levels 47 to 49 range. Game clocked at 36:33.
If you're new to the series, feel free to play either this title first, or play them in order. However, keep in mind that this game will spoil majority of the events in the first two games. My personal recommendation is to play the games in order for +20 Fan Respect Points. If you do decide to play this one first, I would award you with +5 Fan Respect Points for each previous games you play, for a total of +10 FRP.