As you'll notice, the latest issue of The Merc includes a review of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. It runs roughly 330 words and as such does not contain the pages and pages of notes taken while actually putting together the review. Not wanting said pages to go to waste, I'm going to try something here.

Instead of just ditching all that material, I'm going to toss it up on Blogtown totally verbatim for anyone to see. Maybe you'll glean extra info on the game. Maybe you'll get some insight on how these reviews are put together. Maybe you'll see a wall of text and seize up like an asthmatic hamster.

Whatever happens, just know that we love you and are very proud of you.

Or something. Hit the jump.

Boom! Review notes:

- gorgeous graphics. on par with the flagship titles from the original PlayStation. visuals, esp during combat, are reminiscent of Final Fantasy VII and VIII. Also, Beyond the Beyond (as if anyone remembers that game)

- enemy AI is surprisingly clever. foes seem to target the weakest/most injured party members. this doesn't seem to apply as readily to bestial foes (animals, bugs, etc.)

- golden sun ds marks the first time that ive been genuinely excited to see long summon animations since Final Fantasy VII

- it wouldnt be a terrible description to call the game a mix of final fantasy vii (combat, jrpg elements), zelda (puzzles) and pokemon (djinni collection)

- the world/mythology is surprisingly well realized for a handheld RPG. definite shades of PS1-era jrpg stylings.

- the quest is, basically speaking, linear, but as you unlock more psynergy powers, it behooves you to backtrack and take routes that were inaccessible previously. an early examples are the puddles of water which can be frozen into platforms once you get the 4th adept to join you

- good storyline, as far as RPGs go. it manages to avoid most jrpg cliches

- backgrounds are semi-pre-rendered, while characters are all real-time. what that means is that while they are all in 3D and can be explored fully, you can only interact with very specific, obvious real-time rendered elements (trees, people, etc.) Thus the graphics utilize the infamous "high detail, no motion" backgrounds with less detail characters and items to make the aesthetics as quality as possible without devoting tons of processing power to re-rendering the background scenery a billion times over. neat trick.

- on the topic of epic summons: Judgment (4 Earth Djinn) — camera pans to the clouds where we see a totally badass looking angel in lion-themed heavenly armor and a huge sword flying around. youre thinking "ok, he's gonna fly down and cut some bitches apart." only then the hand holding that lion shield turns into a ridiculously huge laser cannon and he fires this ball of white energy that hits your foes and explodes into a atom bomb-style blast complete with shockwaves and mushroom cloud. totally badass.

- on the other hand you have Nereid (2 Water Djinn), which summons a girl riding across the waves on a seahorse (yes, it's a horse with fins. how did you guess?). After a bit of pun-tainted, yet graphically impressive swimming, your foe is hit with a tidal wave. It's sure not as ridiculously cool as Judgment, but given that this is about as lame as the game gets, you see the level of awesome we're dealing with here.

- each melee weapon has its own special skills (usually 2). these are mostly in the form of special attacks (which would be magical attacks in other games) that are utilized at random. you hit attack and you might get one. the potential for this to happen increases as a character uses a weapon more and more often so that once he/she has "mastered" that weapon (a process that takes a strangely short time in-game effort) you are getting these special attacks at least half the time. this makes it more important to have a broad range of weaponry, keeps weapons from becoming obsolete too quickly and almost prevents the game being a typical jrpg rush to have "the uber gear" as quick as you can, casting off everything else once you get it. clever trick by camelot.

- conversations have "links" — red, underlined words that look and function like HTML links on the 'net — that give you more info about the world and its history. it may sound out of place, and seem so at first, but its actually a pretty intuitive way of presenting a crapload of backstory. and, of course, it's all saved in the in-game encyclopedia once youve seen it.

- The game can be controlled entirely with the stylus or with the buttons and d-pad, though each method is better suited for certain actions. Selecting and aiming Psynergy powers is best utilized via stylus, while running and paging through menus is best performed with the directional pad and traditional buttons. I found a combination of the two control methods to be the most comfortable/quickest way to play the game overall.

- every stove, once opened, has a different, surprisingly detailed food description, most of which sound kinda delicious.

- More games should include items like the Sun Saga books that present the stories of their predecessors as small in-game films. It's a great way to recap story events.

Support The Portland Mercury

- Dark Dawn could really use a bank function. I often find myself having to shift items all over just to make sure I can carry stuff around. Seems like a full set of armor and weaponry takes up half your total inventory.

The above text is one of the smaller examples of my notes — the Gran Turismo 5 notes run 13+ pages — but gives you an idea what I'm trying to do here.

So whatcha think? Useful? No?

SLAY Film Fest
In person at the Clinton St. Theater 10/29 & 10/30