Back in 2001 (2002 in Europe) some players were left feeling short-changed when Golden Sun reached its abrupt ending. Developer Camelot – perhaps better known for the Shining Force series – had to split the game into two parts due to the Game Boy Advance’s hardware limitations. Those who’d already invested in the story had to wait nearly a year and a half for part two, Golden Sun: The Lost Age, to witness the proper ending. Fortunately, with part one released on the Wii U’s Virtual Console back in April, and The Lost Age following it just seven months later (at least in Europe), newcomers to the JRPG have to not had to face the same agonising wait to see the story through to its conclusion.
Golden Sun: The Lost Age essentially continues from where the previous game ended – bar a tiny bit of overlap with the parallel storyline – although you’ll be in control of a new party this time around, most of whom were introduced in the last entry. The lengthy and text heavy prologue serves as a handy recap for those who played the previous game but will most likely alienate anyone jumping right in to this second entry, due to the influx of names and places. The Lost Age does offer a reward for those who completed the previous title by giving them the option to import their levelled up Isaac and crew via a rather lengthy password — however, they won’t be playable until later on in the game. The original games also had the easier option of transferring the same save data via a GBA link cable, obviously not an option on the Wii U.
In The Lost Age you’ll initially be in control of Felix, the anti-hero from Golden Sun who happens to be the title’s protagonist in this instalment. You are also joined by his sister Jenna, an elderly scholar named Kraden, and Sheba who was introduced towards the end of the last game. The story starts off with Jenna and Kraden rushing to rendezvous with Felix, however, due to the events at the end of the last game a large piece of land is detached and floats out to sea. Due to a bit of good luck and fortunate timing a tidal wave hits, pushing the land onto a new continent known as Indra. You soon discover that you’re going to need a ship to continue your quest by sailing to other continents, but fulfilling that objective is going to take some time as you’ll need to do a lot of exploring and puzzle solving before you can even leave Indra. Although the story in Lost Age is both well written and engaging, it does take a while for things to get interesting. There’s little more that can be said of the storyline without giving too much away for those yet to play it.
The Lost Age, like its predecessor, plays like a fairly standard RPG; much of your time will be spent walking around, talking to people, taking on side quests, solving puzzles and fighting in turn-based, menu-driven random battles. The latter will rarely challenge you though, as you’re likely to survive unless battling a boss. One of the main criticisms of the original Golden Sun was that it took a long time for the game to get going, meanwhile; fortunately, The Lost Age launches you into action almost immediately by throwing some scattered battles in alongside the introduction.
The second entry is also more challenging than its predecessor as there is greater focus on solving puzzles using Psynergy – Golden Sun’s equivalent of magic – of which different types can be found in the game’s many temples. As there is little instruction on using Psynergy in the over world, this adds another challenging element to the game. Psynergy can be used in battle to wear down your foes quickly and also to revive any member of your party – the latter being the Psynergy type you’ll likely get more use of.
As with the last game the elemental creatures known as Djinn – representing earth, wind, fire and water – are able to aid you in battle, either by employing special attacks of their own or by simply changing the stats, class and Psynergy of the party members they are set to. However, capturing them won’t be so easy this time around as once you've cornered a Djinni (a challenge in itself) you’ll have to face off against them and defeat them before they get a chance to run away. If they do manage to successfully flee a battle you won’t see that particular Djinni again, so be sure to save your game before challenging them. Later in the story you’ll also be able to combine Djinn, which will provide you with some fairly devastating attacks as well as some visual flair!
Naturally, being an RPG there is a lot of dialogue between characters. Fortunately this is usually quite humorous, providing light relief to what can be a text-heavy narrative. There is also the occasional yes-or-no question fired your way, presumably an interactive element intended to keep you engaged as your answer is of little consequence.
Although at first glance The Lost Age appears to be more of the same, graphically speaking, it does appear to be slightly enhanced. With the vibrant environments and rich sprites offering more detail than before, this is certainly impressive considering the original Golden Sun was one of the best looking games on the GBA at the time. Like its predecessor, the overall presentation is very much a nod to its 16-bit counterparts but with more of the prowess that the GBA had over the SNES or Mega Drive. This is most noticeable when a pseudo 3D effect is engaged when entering battles and whilst traversing over the zoomed out map of Weyard. Musically, Lost Age contains a mixture new and older compositions that are both varied and memorable, suiting their environments perfectly. Even though the sound effects are nothing special within the RPG genre they remain effective, especially when landing a blow in battle.
Even though Golden Sun: The Lost Age plays much like any standard RPG, there is something very special about it. Even with its lack of structure towards the beginning of the campaign, there is an accessible and engaging nature to it that keeps you wanting to play and experiment. The Lost Age builds on almost everything from the original Golden Sun – a longer campaign, extended Djinn mechanics, greater challenge, clever puzzles, minor graphical improvements, etc. Newcomers would do well to start with the first entry, as the game does take for granted that you know the basics in some cases and the plot-line will make little to no sense – at least initially. However, for those who've played the first instalment, recommending this concluding chapter is a real no-brainer.