It’s been seven long and arduous years since the last Golden Sun game. Seven years. During this painful stretch of time, Camelot has concerned itself with developing a slew of sports titles, including Mario Golf, Mario Tennis and We Love Golf! Now I’m not saying those seven years were badly spent, but the DS has been out for over five years now, and the distinct lack of a new Golden Sun game in the console's otherwise well stocked RPG catalogue is incredibly distressing. Many people regard Golden Sun as one of the best handheld RPGs of all time, and thus the third iteration of the series has been sorely missed. If I’m honest, I don’t think I ever expected it to see the light of day – but it has, and I’m lucky enough to have played it.
I felt a twinge of excitement as I took hold of the chunky DSi XL, the unit running the Golden Sun: Dark Dawn demo. My enthusiasm was stifled somewhat by a slight dilemma: did I want to play adventure, or battle? I flicked back and forth between the two options for a little while, but figured I’d play both before the day was out anyway, so selected Adventure mode. Here, I was tasked with completing an obstacle course of sorts; the Psynergy training grounds would test my skills as an adept (a user of Psynergy), allowing me to solve a few puzzles by tinkering around with a few spells.
Unlike the first two titles, Dark Dawn is a three-dimensional affair, but manages to retain the same quaint and colourful feel as its predecessors. You can take control with the stylus - much like how one might move Link about the screen in his DS outings - or with good old fashioned buttons. I chose the latter option, but still needed to make use of the touch screen for several Psynergy-based puzzles.
Psynergy, in case you were wondering, is Golden Sun's form of magic. Unlike similar RPGs, Dark Dawn allows Psynergy to be used outside of battle and is actually the source of the majority of the game's puzzles. The first puzzle in the adventure obstacle course involved directing a ball of flames to a target using the touch screen. Subsequent puzzles involve moving obstructive statues using a kinetic Psynergy. Sometimes you had to plan these movements so that moved statues came to rest on a switch, opening up the next section of the environment.
Obstacle course defeated, I was rewarded with a mini dungeon to explore, which allowed me to put to use the skills I’d learnt in training. It was all over remarkably quickly, however, so I decided to hog the DS demo unit that little bit longer to try out the battle side of things. This section of the demonstration was an altogether different experience, with three rounds of enemies increasing in difficulty as they progressed. The prize for surviving all three rounds was a trip to one of the game’s towns, so I made sure to take things seriously.