Golden Sun: Dark Dawn Bits


Description: A typical JRPG with a strong emphasis on environmental puzzles.

Conveniences: An in-game encyclopedia is constantly referenced in conversations via underlined words. When tapped, these links open up entries in the top of the screen of the DS while leaving the action in the bottom largely uninterrupted.

Annoyances: Unskipable verbal diarrhea that’s only exasperated by animating emoticons.

Standouts: Fantastic variety and level design in numerous locations that rely on magic for puzzle-solving.


  • The silent protagonist can utilize emoticon responses in dialogues. Although these are a bit confusing and don’t result in any unique events, they add some extra flavour to the conversations.
  • The game’s first dungeon is an obstacle course that uses crude cutouts of the original games’ protagonist and villains. It’s a clever way of introducing newcomers to the mechanics and the lore of the game.
  • Full-screen storybook sequences are initiated by using optional book items; these further flesh out past events.
  • The Djinn system is quite convoluted, but it’s an interesting combination of Pokémon and Final Fantasy style summons. Equipped Djinn provide statistical upgrades as well as unique spells and can be summoned in battle. Summoning Djinn uses their special ability at no cost to MP, but it temporarily un-equips them and fills up an elemental pool. These elemental pools can then be used to summon creatures with increasingly more powerful abilities.
  • Although the Djinn can be mixed-and-matched amongst the characters, the player is limited by the rule that all characters must have a similar amount of Djinn equipped at all times. The advantages of keeping all Djinn of a certain element type grouped together further detracts from experimentation.
  • The environmental puzzles are well designed and integrated quite organically with the magic system as they rely on many of the same spells that are used in battle. This helps the gameworld feel like a consistent whole rather than a series standalone minigames.
  • Many of the areas feature optional paths that hold great rewards (e.g., a sword that raises the attack attribute from 8 to 44) and encourage exploration.
  • Although the maps are 3D, they’re superimposed over a grid that makes gauging distances much easier. This approach also forces a clear and unique limitation on magic as all spells can only affect objects on the same elevation level as the player.
  • An in-game item can be used to give the player hints as to how to proceed by highlighting any objects or entities currently on screen that can respond to spells. Although this shows which spell should be used, it doesn’t instantly give away the solution to a map-wide puzzle. The mechanic also removes possible sources of confusion without breaking the fourth wall.


, , , , , , ,

  1. #1 by brownkidd on August 30, 2012 - 11:10 pm

    Oh man! I LOVED the original Golden Sun. Sadly, I never got past the final battle because I was severely underpowered and saved an awkward spot that doesn’t allow for any backtracking.

    I never played the sequel, but I got Dark Dawn for Christmas one year. Only got through the first 2 dungeons before moving on to other stuff, but this is making me want to pick it up again.

    • #2 by The Management on September 3, 2012 - 12:46 pm

      To each their own, of course, but I found it much more pleasurable than most of other JRPG’s on the DS.

  2. #3 by Jerod on September 9, 2012 - 8:20 pm

    It was ok. After waiting so long for the third game of the series to arrive, it was a bit of a letdown.

(will not be published)