In the Serial 1-Up, Alie looks back on fallen games or game series that deserve a second life. This time she tells you why the Golden Sun series deserves to be revived. Where did the handheld RPGs go wrong? And is there any hope for a Golden Sun 4?
After three cool parts in this 1-UP Serial, I can take over from Johan. He already told you why Prototype, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale and Super Monkey Ball deserve a 1-Up. I like to supplement with Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, Golden Sun and Monkey Island. Today I’m telling you why the amazing Golden Sun series needs to be revived.
The Story of the Golden Sun Series
Golden Sun is a three-part series developed by Camelot Software and published by Nintendo. The original two games, Golden Sun and Golden Sun: The Lost Age, were released for Game Boy Advance in 2001 and 2002 respectively. After a considerable hiatus, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (2010) was released on Nintendo DS.
The Golden Sun series takes place in the world “Weyard”. Weyard is based on the mythological concept of the classical elements. All matter consists of combinations of the four basic elements: Venus, Mars, Mercury and Jupiter (or earth, fire, water and wind). These four building blocks can be manipulated by “Alchemy”. Alchemy enabled the development of great civilizations. However, the golden age ended in global conflict. Alchemy was thus sealed. As a result, the current Weyard is deprived of this power. At least until some people reveal the power to manipulate the elements through “Psynergy”. The users of Psynergy, called “Adepts”, often keep their powers secret.
The original Golden Sun revolves around Isaac and his companions, who must stop a group of anti-heroes from releasing Alchemy. Golden Sun: The Lost Age revolves around the surviving members of the group of antagonists. They still strive to release Alchemy. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn takes place thirty years later and follows the descendants of the heroes from the previous two games. They set out to solve the mystery surrounding the “Psynergy Vortexes”. These Vortexes are a danger to Psynergy and therefore also to Adepts.
The development and reception of Golden Sun
The Golden Sun games are from the Takahashi brothers: Hiroyuki and Shugo Takahashi. According to Shugo, Nintendo wanted to compete with the PlayStation through Golden Sun; at that time the platform for RPGs. The story of the first two Golden Sun games was originally intended to be crammed into a single game, told from the perspective of both the “good guys” and the “bad guys”. Just like the brothers did before in their Shining Force III. However, due to the limitation of the Game Boy Advance cartridges, the story was split into two games: Golden Sun (protagonists) Golden Sun: The Lost Age (antagonists).
Golden Sun and Golden Sun: Dark Dawn were both critically acclaimed. Reviewers praised the graphics, soundtrack and refined gameplay. The plot also garnered a lot of praise: it was rich and deep, but not too complicated. They called it a remarkable piece of craftsmanship; the GBA games could even measure up to console standards from that time on a number of points. The foregoing can also be said about Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. In some ways this game was even better than its predecessors, such as in the field of pacing and (logically) graphics. Yet there was also criticism of the third part in the series, as it was considered too easy by many.
To underline my argument, the Metacritic scores:
- Golden Sun 91
- Golden Sun: The Lost Age 86
- Golden Sun: Dark Dawn 79
The above also has nothing but happy memories of the Golden Sun games. For example, I played every day on holiday in Croatia for three weeks for the first one. Since I already got my tent out at 6:30 am every morning, I started the day in the shade with my GBA. I just couldn’t get rid of my feet properly. They were therefore exposed to full sun, resulting in scarlet, painful toes. However, the fact that I only noticed this when I put my GBA away, I attribute to the compelling nature of Golden Sun. I would even say that I haven’t played such a good handheld RPG since then.
Where is Golden Sun 4?
Despite the good reviews – also for Dark Dawn – it has been quiet for a while about the series. The fact that we have not yet been treated to Golden Sun 4 is probably mainly due to the somewhat disappointing sales figures. The first Golden Sun game is immediately the best-selling of the three. The Lost Age sold a lot less well… A downward trend that was continued with Dark Dawn. By way of illustration, the sales figures for the games in Japan: 338,000 (Golden Sun), 249,000 (The Lost Age) and about 80,000 (Dark Dawn).
The fact that a game sells less well than you had hoped, is of course disappointing, especially if it is a good game. However, it gets worse if the game has been in development for quite some time and has therefore cost a lot of money. And that’s exactly what happened to Golden Sun. The original Golden Sun was made in about a year and a half. That may not sound like long, but if you compare it to other handheld RPGs, it is.
Developer Camelot Software is currently working on some of Nintendo’s sports games, such as Mario Sports Superstars for the 3DS and Mario Tennis Aces for the Switch. With these games Nintendo can of course earn a lot more than with a Golden Sun 4. Since I (against my better judgment?), However, think that Nintendo is not all about the bucks, I look beyond the financial picture for my next statements.
In principle, Dark Dawn is a bit of an odd man out. The story that the Takahashi brothers were eager to tell was completed with the first two games. In later interviews, for example, the gentlemen also emphasize that they wanted to create an independent story with this third game. That is of course a different situation than with the first two games, where the idea for the double plot already arose while working on Shining Force III. Dark Dawn, however, had to be built from scratch.
For Dark Dawn, Camelot Software got a lot more resources at their disposal. More time and more money, for example to visit World Heritage Sites and to find inspiration for locations. In itself it is of course nice to get a bag of coins, but that also creates a lot of pressure. Especially since we know that Shugo Takahashi did not come out of the development of The Lost Age unscathed … The man got a serious burnout after the release of the game. Before the team even wanted to start on Dark Dawn, they had to really relax for a while. It is not without reason that there are eight years between The Lost Age and Dark Dawn.
How are things with Golden Sun now?
Disappointing sales figures, (perhaps a little) disappointing review scores for Dark Dawn and the burn-out of Shugo Takahashi… All in all, it is therefore not entirely surprising that we have not yet received Golden Sun 4. In addition, Golden Sun illustrator Hiroshi Kajiyama passed away earlier this year. He also worked on the aforementioned Shining Force series. In other words, Kajiyama and the Takahashi brothers have a long history.
And then there is the story about the trademark. When Nintendo renewed the Golden Sun trademark a few months ago, many fans hoped that Camelot Software would pick up the Golden Sun series again. Unlike, for example, with extensions of the GameBoy name, the Golden Sun trademark was far from expiring… However, it now seems empty hope: the trademark is believed to be related to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
With the above, I do not want to say that we should immediately rule out part four in the Golden Sun series. Hiroyuki Takahashi, for example, has stated in the past that he himself does not rule out a fourth game. According to him, it depends on the demand from fans. In other words: sufficient demand can lead to a new game. And there is certainly a demand for Golden Sun 4. So it was in early November #GoldenSunday. With this hashtag, fans wanted to celebrate the 17th anniversary of the original game. They shared their memories of the series and their wishes for the future.
Let’s hope the Takahashi brothers paid attention …
Have you played the Golden Sun games? Would you also like to see a successor? And how much chance do you give the actual appearance of this Golden Sun 4? Let us know this and a lot more in the comments!
The 1-Up Serial
Saturday, November 3 – 1-Up: Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
Saturday December 29 – 1-Up: Monkey Island
Previously in the 1-Up Serial
1-Up: PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale
1-Up: Super Monkey Ball