We Don't Understand Change

Brief life story moment: at present, I’m replaying both Golden Sun games. We’ve just got to the point where we’ve input the password into Golden Sun: The Lost Age. So, I remember these games *very* well, because the first one was the last game I played.

And in that sense, I’m disappointed in what I’ve seen of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn.

Here’s where the JRPG traditionalists, who want nothing more than turn based combat, the occasional not difficult puzzle, and expect new summon animations to be the height of innovation, will jump on me. “Of course you’re disappointed, you’re a fucker who said the JRPG was dying and it’s not dying and we don’t need to fix it by doing different things developers just need to remake Final Fantasy IV over and over again.”

(They talk very fast, these JRPG Traditionalists. They have many things to say, possibly because all the time they’ve spent in turn based combat systems.)

And I’m here to say that those people are idiots, and that a straight, faithful adaptation of Golden Sun will be a terrible game, unappreciated by modern gamers.

Second personal reveal: I recently bought Nintendo’s first American entry in another relatively storied RPG franchise, Glory of Heracles. It’s interesting because, playing it now, it plays almost exactly like Golden Sun: a battle system with a couple major quirks (summons in Golden Sun, available mana and a back row in Glory) but is an ape of classic Dragon Quest games, the story is very slow paced and filled with NPCs asking you questions where your answer doesn’t matter, and some minor puzzles. And a predictable plot, with a couple cool twists.

Admittedly, Golden Sun does nearly everything better than Glory of Heracles does. It’s just a better game. But it worries me about Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, because they are games with many mechanical similarities, and Glory of Heracles was nothing if not an abject commercial failure (I bought it for one dollar, ONE DOLLAR!, only three or four months after launch).

From what we’ve seen of Dark Dawn in trailers and what we’ve gotten in previews, this game looks to be a by the numbers sequel to the first two Golden Sun games (which were really one game, but that’s neither here nor there). with the same mechanics, the same stuff making it up.

And this sounds brilliant to people, but, you know what? I don’t quite see it. I like Golden Sun, sure, but I play it exclusively on an emulator (I do, in fact, own both cartridges, though) because it *desperately* needs a speed up button. You get to conversations with Garet in the first game and Kraden in the second, and they ask you so many questions that don’t matter.

Golden Sun, in fact, is the polar opposite of Epic Mickey: a game where you are given the illusion of choice, and these choices are permanently devoid of consequence. It’s a game powered by the desire for loot, and the desire to become overpowered by finding all the Djinni, which let you (finally) build a party that is satisfactory. There’s no other reason to play it. The puzzles are okay, but the battles are absurdly easy (the optional boss of GS1 killed me once, because I refused to heal. It was the only fight where I ever really needed to heal in the whole game) and the story is bogged down by absurd conversations.

And while it scratches a traditional itch, certainly, why would I pay 40$ for another game to do that, when I have multiple Dragon Quests, Earthbound, the original Golden Suns, Lufia and its sequel, and the early Final Fantasies to do that?

Then again, I’m sure the traditionalist JRPG worshipers will buy it, and love it. They’ll buy it, and they’ll love it, like they love Final Fantasy IX, and I will be endlessly confused.


  1. marvic

    It’s sad to hear this from you since I really like your blog and have been following it ever since I saw your comment on kotaku.

    We “JRPG fans” are usually a quiet bunch, until somebody insults us (that has been happening a lot in recent years) for our preferences. You obviously don’t like Japanese RPGs, that’s your preference, and probably the preference of most mainstream gamers. That’s fine, but don’t try to impose your preferences onto every gamer and hurl insults at other types of gamers just because they like some games you hate. I’d spend $40 on the next turn-based RPG for the same reason I’d spend $60 on the next Call of Duty, MoH, Battlefield, Starcraft or FIFA game. I just buy the games I feel like playing (not because I “worship” certain types of games).

    Yes I’ve spent a lot of time with turned-based RPGs, and no I don’t “want nothing more than turn based combat, the occasional not difficult puzzle, and expect new summon animations to be the height of innovation”. Please, no RPG gamers I know in real life are that stupid, stop generalizing us with some trolls you met on the internet. And yes I’m aware that most Japanese RPGs have been underperforming or downright suck this gen, but I hardly believe it’s because of turn-based combat.

    You calling us idiots or labelling us as “traditionalist JRPG worshipers” for the types of games we like is absurd. I know it’s not cool to play Japanese turn-based RPGs nowadays, but that doesn’t make us idiots or some satan worshipers for wanting to play them.

    • just so you know, the person who wrote that comment on kotaku isn’t the person who wrote this post–this website has about 7 different writers. the person who posted on kotaku was me, the editor of this site. The person who wrote this post is one of my writers, his name is Tom. My name is Patricia. Each post states who writes what underneath the title.

      Knowing Tom, he said a good deal of this in complete jest–he’s the biggest JRPG fan I know.

      I hope you actually get to red this!

    • Tom

      Two immediate responses: 1.) Hyperbole (it’s my job!) and 2.) I have almost assuredly played and loved as many RPGs as you have.

      A more specific response: I agree, maybe they haven’t sucked because of turned based combat. However, this gen has been kind of terrible. Like, Lost Odyssey is *the* successful game of the generation, and…eh. Most of my reaction to new JRPGs being announced is born of frustration, because the last truly groundbreaking game in the genre was FFX. That’s…over a half dozen years ago. Since then, there’s been emulation of that game (and Tales of Symphonia, which was released around the same time), the occasional far out of the mainstream game that did some different things in a very Japan centric manner (Persona 3), and failed experiments.

      And I recognize that Golden Sun: Dark Dawn might be fantastic. I’ll probably buy it the day it comes out. But I look at it, and it’s easily the most anticipated JRPG of the moment, and…I’m watching the genre go the way of the old school adventure game. No one’s willing to innovate, and while traditional sells well, I think that…innovation has moved too, in that Lost Odyssey tried to “innovate”, and DQIX has some innovation (and will sell absurdly well), and it kind of disappoints me when games don’t take chances.

      Finally (long response is looong), my general hostility to the JRPG traditionalists usually stems from their response to FFXII, which I felt was a wonderful start. My ire is towards the guy at the head of the line in Japan on FFXII’s release telling Yoichi Wada to “please remake FFVII”; the people who would complain immediately and loudly if, say, GS:DD featured real time combat. People who *don’t* want new experiences, rather than people (like you, I’d imagine) who want good games.

  2. marvic

    Sorry for the double post, my comments didn’t show up on my browser before for some reason so I posted a couple more times, please delete the duplicate comments. And no hard feelings there, he’s just voicing out his opinions and most of the stuff on nightmaremode rocks anyways 😉

    • Tom

      Additional comment: thanks for reading! I’m appreciative of readers, especially readers who are neither trolls nor ad bots!

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  4. Fernando Cordeiro

    Golden Sun could be much better series if both games were united as a single one or sold together and Golden Sun 2, more specifically, dropped the entire filler segment preceding Lemuria. There was this entire issue of Isaac being the antagonist that was handled pretty badly.

    As far as the lack of innovation is concerned, it is something I find secondary to a JRPG. Plot comes first.