Perhaps the most reassuring sign that Nintendo is serious about restoring some of the hardcore faithful's wavering confidence is the remake of a much loved RPG series last seen some six years ago.
Golden Sun was released in 2002 on the Game Boy Advance and since then anyone who played it has quietly pined for its near perfect blend of gorgeous looks and intelligent, refined gameplay which managed to keep the interest high for all of its 30-hour quest. Its sequel, The Lost Age, was released a year later, and while it was essentially a carbon copy of the original it was still highly regarded. Both were a throwback to the Japanese-style RPG's glory days on the SNES. So even though its announcement carried little fanfare and the shortest of trailers, we saw enough to be convinced that Golden Sun DS looks to be picking up exactly where The Lost Age left off.
Actually, you pick up more where the original Golden Sun left off. You play as Isaac, the hero of that first game, reimagined here in three very lovely dimensions, much like the rest of the game. The graphical overhaul is really something to behold. Golden Sun has a fine tradition of stunning looks and the sweeping, rocky vistas we clapped eyes on in the demo at E3 must be pushing the DS to breaking point.
Brains And Beauty
If Golden Sun was revered for its good looks, its brain was just as admired. The battle system is being resurrected too, though it'll be suitably updated to take advantage of its new home. It's based around the Djinn system that made the originals so popular. Djinni are elemental beings that give a different advantage to each character by being assigned to that character. They're found strewn through the world and have their own special abilities which can be used periodically in battle. But it's the potential for mixing and matching which offers so much depth. The various attributes of your party members can be altered time and again by simply flitting between each Djinn - attacks are bolstered, defences increased and special abilities are augmented, according to the Djinn selected. The challenge comes from balancing your party's specialities to deal with whatever challenge crops up.
In battle, the Djinni occupy the top screen, while your party members get stuck in down on the touch screen. Freely wandering through the landscape offers no such segregation - huge beasts tower over your party, spilling over both screens. On prettiness alone Golden Sun is a knockout. We can't wait to see how its bones have been updated, but we'll have to hang on until next year to find out.