I know a lot of gamers who still doesn't own a Gameboy Advance. I would say the main reason is that they haven't seen that ONE game that really excites them. Before I started playing this game I was actually warned. "If you like role-playing games and start playing this game you will loose thirty hours". So, what happened? Oh, I'll tell you all about it.
The story takes place in a distant fantasyland, split into two continents; Angara and Gondowan. In this very diverse terrain several more or less small towns are scattered about. Just beneath a sleeping volcano lies the secluded town of Vale. Here people live in peace, learning the secrets of the almighty alchemy. Their alchemy skills, or psynergy which it is also referred to as, enabled them to do supernatural things like moving rocks, attacking in spectacular ways and a in a whole lot other ways too. The sole purpose of the town of Vale is to protect the volcano, and the secret that lies within. People who have mastered alchemy and psynergy are called Adepts, and fostering Adepts is what Vale is for. You, the hero, starts off as a young boy, in love with the knowledge of alchemy. Your mother wakes you up telling you that you need to get up and get outside, right away! A huge boulder is starting to roll down against the town of Vale, and even though the most talented users of psynergy do their best to slow it down, they know what the future will bring - destruction. And indeed, the huge boulder does do great damage, and lives are lost. Your father, and the mother of your best friend pass away, leaving you in great sorrow.
Three years later the story continues. You, your best friend Isaac and your followers learn the secret of the volcano, which is a sacred place where no one is supposed to be. The world is based upon four forces: earth, wind, fire and water. These forces are stored in four stones, and if they are used at four lighthouses there will be total and utmost destruction of the entire planet. Obviously, the majority of the inhabitants on the planet wouldn't benefit from such an event taking place. You, being the chosen one, and your good friends set out to stop the villains who manage to steal three of the four stones, while you possess one. Throughout the story you move around in many different environments, doing sub-quests, adding people to your party, earning experience and basically what we've become accustomed to from role-playing games.
My first impression of Golden Sun was that it looked beautiful. This was really well beyond Breath of Fire, sporting very colourful and cute textures. What makes Golden Sun's graphics great is firstly that they use much more detailed colour gradients. Even small things like leaves look great, and the atmosphere really skyrockets because of this. Also, some of the effects that are used when fighting look truly outstanding, and I must say it amazed me how much this resembled playing a PC role-playing game. Controlling your party is done really nice and smoothly, so general movement shouldn't bring any real annoyances. There is just one thing that got to me though; when operating switches and when searching through baskets and such you have to be careful to stand JUST correctly. Say there is a basket a bit in front and to the left of you. In order to open it you may have to stand diagonally against it, or else it will just open the default menu. However, this is just a minor issue, and shouldn't be a problem when you've become accustomed to it. The battle-system should be easy to even newer role-playing gamers, but it does have a couple of nice innovations. Attacking is done in several ways - old-fashioned "Attack", using Psynergy, where you have spells that can attack one or several enemies, weaken the enemy, or even heal yourself or a party member. The major innovation is the use of so-called Djinns. Djinns are small creatures that sometimes join your party, and can be used by party members. Djinns have built in powers, which can be a stronger than usual attack, or adding resistance to the party. Secondly, Djinns can summon great powers, but these may take a good while to load. You see, the Djinns get tired after doing things, so your best bet is to use Djinns in the early stage of combat, letting them rest while you use for instance Psynergy spells, and then you can finish off with summoning something. Then there's the usual Items option, where you store healing potions and more exotic weaponry like smoke bombs and such. Finally, there's the option of merely defending.
The actual fights are usually relatively easy, so you don't always need to worry about stocking up on inhuman amounts of healing potions. However, some of the bosses later in the game are more challenging, so I'm sure even more "seasoned" role-playing gamers can find a challenge there. Regardless, what kept me playing was the great way the story unfolds, with just the right amount of dialogue and the right amount of monster fighting.
Aurally Golden Sun is also above par with a lot of other Gameboy Advance games.
Camelot Software Planning composed a lot of great sounding tunes, that not only fit the location or situation you're in, but for once doesn't become annoying. Most of the sound effects are played during fights, and I can tell you that the diversity Golden Sun offers, on such a limited console is really great. Of course, some of them sound a lot the same, but each spell has sound effects that fit the visible action.
For me this is the kind of game that would make me buy a Gameboy Advance. Being able to play through such a good story, with both great graphics and sounds is something I've been searching for. People have said that Golden Sun brings back the feeling of Chrono Trigger, back from the days of the SNES, which isn't a small feat! Hopefully in a few years people will be able to say; "this brings back the feeling of Golden Sun".
If you're mildly interested in role-playing games then buy Golden Sun.