The Golden Sun franchise created by Camelot Software Planning is my favorite RPG series to come out of the GBA, a handheld that was chock full o’ quality RPG titles. And one of my favorite RPG franchises of all time. Golden Sun introduced me to Djinn, which subsequently lead me to further investigate Middle Eastern mythology (something we’re seeing a lot of in WoW now). The titles tickled my frontal lobe with a story, while cliche at the outset, that grew in to an epic tale spanning multiple continents and told through different perspectives. Most memorable, the franchise racked my brain with increasingly difficult and complex puzzles that coalesced battle mechanics and puzzle-solving spells into a single ability, psyenergy.
Camelot wasn’t stupid enough to remove this award-winning element from Dark Dawn, the recently released third installment. Instead, the title is hamstrung by an incredibly lengthy introduction/tutorial campaign. The opening sees the young protagonists, children of the heroes from Golden Sun, besieged by First Day of School syndrome. You know, those boring first few classes where the only thing you “learn” is the upcoming curriculum and the professor’s name.
Players are told, in great detail, how to battle, use spells, psyenergy, djinn, etc. Instructions for new mechanics and franchise-specific changes to genre staples is fine, but even equipping weapons and using items are explained in great, unskippable detail. It’s as if Nintendo expected a horde of normal people, those that have never played an RPG before, to flock to the third game in a franchise.
The coddling continued.
After any greenhorn has had her mind thoroughly numbed by being told how to use items, the player is then forced to run through the Psyenergy Training Grounds. I’m serious, not only is that what it’s called but you can’t continue on without the “reward” for completing it. And there’s signs with tips to the puzzles strewn across the training course. I wish I could have just entered the Konami Code to prove my old-school nature, allowing me to skip two-move puzzles and target practice.
Maybe it’s just the length of the hand holding that is bothering me (hours). Or that it’s a complete waste of my time (an option for its depth of instruction would have been nice). Either way, I fear the the puzzles following the opening psyenergy tutorial hint at what’s to come. And the hint isn’t at challenging, memorable level design, but nerfed puzzles. I’m only six hours in, hopefully the difficult stuff is relegated to mid-game and late dungeons. As for the rest of the title – graphics, battle mechanics, djinn summons, collecting, story – I’m enjoying it.
It’s understandable, and expected, for games to have tutorials now. There’s a limit of how intrusive, bloated and lengthy they should be. Dark Dawn’s is so pompous that Camelot wrote part of the story to explain it. The implementation is how long MMOG tutorials should be, instead of the five minute affairs that incredibly complex genre offers its players.
Golden Sun is available now.