Survey: About Writing


Questions About Writing

1. Are you currently writing a novel?

I am, it’s called Fairy Tale.

2. If yes, what genre of the novel are you writing? 

As the name implies, it’s a fantasy novel.


3. Have you ever lost your inspiration? 

I don’t know that I’ve ever necessarily lost my inspiration so much as had to put the story away for a while and let it brew before I come back to it.


4. If yes, how did you gain it back? 


My characters go with me everywhere. When there’s any moment of quiet, they and their story are running through my head. In the shower especially, I’m never without them. So, an important thing to me was to learn that just because I have settled on one outline for the story doesn’t mean it’s the right one. You have to be willing to let go. You may really, really want your characters to travel to a parallel world, but sometimes the story itself decides that it doesn’t need a parallel world, and you just have to respect that and try something new.


5. what is your greatest challenge as an author? 


For me, it’s the actual writing of the story. I write the story aloud every day when I’m alone, I speak the characters dialogue and envision their journey, I think about them when I’m listening to music or when I’m reading other books. But to actually sit down and really get out what’s being said by these characters, and to accurately describe how they look and sound and where they are, it’s very tough for me. It’s like an exorcism, and for me it last sometimes up to two hours before I run out of juice and need to recharge for the night.


6. Why do you write?


A lot of authors say that they write because “they have to.” I don’t know if this is true or not. I say that I write simply because I want to. Is it possible that, like Raine Maria Rilke, I look within myself in the deepest hour of the night and ask myself if I must write, and come up with a positive answer? Possible. But I don’t really think that matters. I think that you should write if you want to write. It does no harm. Even bad writing is still something someone created, and no one who has ever written from their heart has never experienced the feeling of being proud of what you created. Not everything written is worth being published, but everything that needs to be said is worth being said.


7. If you are writing a novel, do you have the goal of getting it published? 


No. I believe art is created for art’s own sake. If and when I finish my book, I plan to publish it myself, and to make it freely available for anyone who wants it, as well as offer it at a price point on, say, Amazon or some other bookseller. I would offer a priced version so that people who want to support my art and support me as an artist are given the option to help, but I do not believe art has monetary value or SHOULD have monetary value. There are musicians who claim that giving away music for free devalues music. Those people are greedy businessmen and women who have no place in the art world. Art does not NEED to be priced, but there are so many people who have made so much money from art, that it’s become a business. There’s a music industry, a film industry, a literature industry. But these things are really free. There is no such thing as “intellectual property.” Ideas are ideas, and they’re free for anyone to have. So no, I don’t write with specifically the goal of getting published, I write with the goal of writing. I hope to try and publish my work, but I refuse to ever make it so that my work is offered ONLY at a price, without a free version available. I think it’s wrong, and that putting a price on art devalues it. Art is not a business.


8. When did you first show interest in writing? 


As a child, I used to write stories about Sonic the Hedgehog or other video game of movie characters that I liked. Then as a young teenager I began writing fanfiction, specifically about the Final Fantasy series, and was greatly inspired by a writer who goes by the name Lark, who created a Final Fantasy fanfiction series known as the Rambles. I tried to write my first original story when I was twelve, it was about a boy who loses his brother to a demon who is also the leviathan that brought about the Biblical “great flood,” and goes on a quest for vengeance, as well as an attempt to save the world. Literally, it didn’t get very far, but in my head the story went on for a long time. Though that story is pretty much gone now, at least one character invented for that story has made his way into Fairy Tale, and who knows, maybe the characters from that original story will make a cameo appearance in another work of mine.


9. Are you happy with the progress you’ve made up to this point? 


Yes and no. I’ve written over 50,000 words, which is very good progress indeed. However, when I attempted to start at the beginning of the story and write all the way through to the end, it ended up causing issues for me. For one thing, I don’t think about things in a linear way. My head is always off in the future of my book, thinking about what is yet to come, and oftentimes, I want to write about important moments that won’t happen for another ten or twenty chapters. Consequently, I lost interest in writing about the events I needed to write about to move the story along, so at Chapter 21 of the story, I stopped, put everything I’d written together as a kind of initial and unfinished draft, and published it here on my blog. It’s a conceptual beginning to the story: some of those elements may stay, some may change. Some characters came to me during that draft, some characters actually left the story during it. The most important thing to me is to keep writing. I’m currently most proud of the most recent scene I’ve written, called Madeena, as it was exactly what was in my mind and my heart at the time, and that makes me proud.


10. What is your biggest goal as an author? 


The first is to express myself. By doing this, I hope to create something people can identify with. I want a young gay twelve-year-old boy to find a fantasy book in which he is represented, which I never had. But I also want there to be a kind of commonality that anyone can feel with certain characters. I want to express the loneliness of the spirit, the yearning for love and for comfort, the pain of loss, and the courage of hoping when there is no hope. And in the process, maybe I’ll get a little better myself.


11. When do like writing? (morning, night, after lunch, etc.) 


I usually write whenever it hits me. Often times, it hits me, and I immediately have to drop everything I’m doing to go and write because I simply know that it’s time. It’s a bit like intellectually giving birth, and it’s an emotional experience. As it happens, I tend to get more writing done at night, and when it’s quiet.

12. Where do you like writing? (a place you feel most inspired while writing) 

Usually it’s a place I feel comfortable, like the sofa or even in my bed where it’s actually not all that comfortable to write. I’ve written on a couch on a porch in the middle of the day with animals around me and not been distracted. Basically it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s quiet, or at the very least, I get to choose the ambiance.

13. Do you write within a specific genre? (do you mostly write romance? mystery? fantasy?) 

I love fantasy, however I’m not such a fan of “classic fantasy,” i.e. Tolkien or Robert Jordan (although in Jordan’s defense, I’m speaking only of a generalized concept I have of his Wheel of Time series, and I haven’t actually read them myself to know for a fact what they’re like), my concept of fantasy was shaped by video games, most notably the Final Fantasy series, Golden Sun, Breath of Fire, and others. My stories always have an aspect of romance to them, but I think it would be devaluing to call them “romance” stories, they just happen to have characters with real emotions and needs.

14. Do you like sharing your work with other people or do you keep your writing world a secret? 


I always share my work immediately after writing, usually without even proofreading it. That’s part of what this blog is about. I want people to read what’s there. I’ll worry about how and when to put it all together properly in the end.


15. What future do you see in your writing? 


The future I hope for is one in which I write as genuinely as I can. When I was in high school, one of my teachers, upon being asked how long our short stories, poetry, or other writing assignments needed to be, she did not answer, “Two stanzas,” or “Three pages,” she said, “It needs to be as long as it needs to be.” As long as I have something to express through writing, I’ll keep writing. If I have nothing to say, I won’t say it. I wish musicians would do that more often, by the way. A lot of great musicians make incredibly good, thought-provoking albums, but there’s this rush to have the next album ready within two years. Why? Do you ALWAYS have something profound to say every two years? Writers should avoid this too, in my opinion. Write what you need to write when you need to write it.


16. How has writing affected your life? 


It’s gratifying to see a world begin to take form, and characters begin to take on life, that came from your mind. My characters spend all their time hanging out in my head, and they deserve to have their own lives, and the best way for that to happen is for them to be expressed in some way. Writing is one way of doing it. It’s affected my life by allowing me to see what my mind looks like from the outside in, and I enjoy that.


17. What is your biggest fear as an author? 


That I will not be true to myself.


18. How will you improve yourself as an author? 


By reading, by studying, by expanding my knowledge and vocabulary, by trying again and again to achieve a perfect representation of who the places and characters of my stories are and what I’m trying to say, until I am certain that it needs no alteration or expansion.


19. What is your biggest pet peeve an author? 


When people use too many other words in the place of “said,” such as “Blah blah blah,” announced Character. ‘Blah blah blah!” replied Character. “Blah blah blah?” inquired Character. “Blah blah blah blah,” intoned Character. “Blah blah BLAH!” exclaimed Character. “Blah blah… blah.” sighed Character.


20. Do you think you’ll ever get tired of writing? 


I can’t say for sure, I kind of doubt it, but as long as I have something to say, I’ll find a way to say it.

Questions About Fairy Tale

1. Which character, who is not the main character, is your favourite and why?

I have an answer but I’m afraid to say, only because my favorite character hasn’t actually yet appeared in the story, but his name is Dexter. He’s a handsome, charming guy who is funny, witty, incredibly flirtatious, and snarky. He isn’t serious very often, but he has very strong principles. He was raised by an aristocratic family and broke away from them because he hated being surrounded by lies and control. He’s free-thinking and light-hearted, but incredibly loyal, and also a very good fighter. He’s the character I mentioned earlier who appeared in the first work I ever created, though he was added into the story years later and only really in my head.

2. When you envision your characters, do they look like invented people or known people? (ie. When I envision one of my characters, I see actress Leighton Meester.)

They’re actually a little blurry. Sometimes I don’t know exactly what they look like. My character Eric, however, was specifically based on a photo of a guy that I saw on a dating website, and Dexter’s hair color came from that of a Dexter I knew in high school. Most of them just look like themselves though, and not any actors or actresses that might portray them.

3. Are there any on-and-off relationships? Who are they? Are there any love triangles? Who is involved?

There are a lot of all of those things. Lucas is in love with Hephaestian, who is straight. Eric is in love with Lucas, who is gay, but who is too busy pining over Hephaestian to notice. Dexter and Bronwen have a complicated past and grew up together, and both have feelings for one another, but Bronwen isn’t the best at expressing feelings and Dexter doesn’t like being tied down. Eric and Lucas end up cuddling and being romantic on several occasions, but Lucas’s heart isn’t really in it, whereas Lucas and Hephaestian actually have sex, but Hephaestian’s heart isn’t in it. A character named Lisa will, later on in the story, be having sex with a character named Isaac in order to siphon away his magical ability, though she’s actually falling in love with him, and when he finds out she’s betrayed him, he comes to hate and despise her. Hephaestian isn’t interested in anyone but I get a feeling he’s a complete horndog. As for my beloved little witch, Imogen, I have a feeling she might be asexual, though she may be developing feelings for Hephaestian. Oh yes, I forgot about Alexander, who is going to become very interested in Eric later on.

4. Which city is your novel in? Or, what is the name of the city/world?

The world itself is called Eden, and it consits of two continents and several islands, and all along the edges of this world are steep cliffs that fall off into a fog-laden nothingness from whence no one can return. There is a reason for al of this, which will be revealed in time. The names of the cities are mostly modeled after real places, such as Alexandria, Madeena, Augustine, Canaan, Damascus, and Carthage, though I’ve come up with some of my own names, like Dulhan and Ivinda. I might changed Dulhan though. Time will tell.


5. Do you go into much detail about character appearances [at any time in your novel]? (Faces, figures AND clothes.)

I sometimes worry I do it too much. Does the reader need to know the hair color, eye color, and body type of every character? Well, they’re getting it whether they like it or not.


6. Do you like specifying the foods that your character eats/ate? (ie. “He ate lunch”, as opposed to “He ate three slices of pizza”.)

I haven’t given this one much thought, but I’ve written one scene in which a banquet was laid out, and I had difficulty deciding what was there, because I could not at that moment summon enough didn’t kinds of food from my mind, and ended up making it a feast of whatever I could think of right then.


7. Does your main character’s love interest ever change since the very beginning of your novel? (Your FIRST novel, if you’re writing a series.)

Yes. This is a bit of a spoiler, but my intent with Lucas is that he will begin by being in love with Hephaestian, slowly fall in love with Eric, and then in the end, learn to love himself. I plan on ending the story with Lucas being single, and comfortable with that.


8. Which of your characters is:


a) the smartest?

Probably Imogen, or Bronwen. Imogen lived a sheltered life, but she was bombarded with information about the history of her people, and has to be quick on her feet to decipher a language of fairies that is, for all intents and purposes, completely illegible. Bronwen is very experienced in a variety of situations, always has a plan, and is always ready for anything at a moment’s notice. Lucas is intelligent, but naive.

b) the most eccentric/quirky?

That would probably be Dexter. He’s hilarious in my mind.

c) the most dangerous?

There are a few characters who are the most dangerous: one is Inevra, who has pretty much lost all grip on sanity, another is Isaac, who isn’t necessarily a villain but who has a very short fuse and a lot of fire power. The third is Lisa, who isn’t nearly as innocent as she seems. Drosselmeyer is the villain and is in possession of terrible power, but whether or not he’s dangerous is difficult to say. He tends to be generally merciful, though incredibly intimidating, to people who aren’t directly involved in any of his plans. Varner is similar in this way, he’s actually very polite and reasonable, however people who get in his way, however briefly, almost always die.


9. What would your main character’s college major be?

Probably literature or history, because he is fascinated with books and is always eager to learn.


10. To what extent do you use slang in your writing style?


I try my best to have my characters speak in an elevated form of English similar to something like Victorian English, with a little bit of a modern vernacular twist. In general, the very well-educated characters are more well spoken, where the more earthy and worldly characters are more likely to speak in slang, curse words, and use colloquialisms. 

Advertisements

You Can’t Steal My Soul!

Dissidia 012 Q&A

I have now invested almost 60 hours into Dissidia Duodecim Final Fantasy, otherwise known as the sequel to Dissidia Final Fantasy, Square Enix’s RPG-style fighting game involving the entire cast of main heroes and villains from the Final Fantasy series. I found a blog where someone did a thirty-day Dissidia 012 survey they created themselves, and while I really don’t think I have the patience to give complete answers to all thirty questions, nor you the patience to read them all, I will answer some of my favorite questions.

Characters

Question 1: Preferred Faction?

So, in Dissidia, you have two sides to the war: warriors of light, fighting for the Goddess Cosmos, and warriors of discord, fighting for the god Chaos. In the original Dissidia, there was a split down the middle between good and bad guys, with the two secret characters Shantoto and Gabranth being on the side of Cosmos and Chaos respectively, though both decided to flee from the battle and live in the void rather than fighting an endless war. It’s debatable to me whether Gabranth is really a villain anyway, even in Final Fantasy XII I never much considered him a bad guy, even if he DID kill the king, impersonate his brother and have him wrongfully imprisoned, directly bring about the downfall of Dalmasca due to his actions, murder his best friend Judge Drace, join the nation that destroyed his homeland and become the king’s lapdog, fight the good guys twice and stab Reks through the heart… well still, it seemed like his heart was in the right place.

At any rate, in Dissidia 012 there’s a sort of mini-faction within the warriors of Cosmos: the new characters, led by Lightning, who are seeking to find a way to destroy the manikins. And in the new game some of the roles are reversed, since this takes place before the thirteenth cycle of conflict seen in the original: Jecht is fighting for Cosmos, and Tidus, Cloud and Terra are all warriors of Chaos, though they all clearly don’t have their heart in it.

One thing that Dissidia 012 does do a great job of, though, is making the villains LIKABLE, which the first game did not. They were all pretty clear-cut evildoers who wanted to destroy the world, and while some of them still remain so (lookin’ at you Exdeath, ya bastard), most of the villains were given proper backstories and many are shown to want to end the war as much as the warriors of Cosmos. Kuja chooses to abstain from fighting and befriends Cloud, and even helps Zidane before being caught in the act by the warriors of Chaos. Golbez, even more so than in the first game, is constantly sneaking behind Chaos’ back and helping the good guys, even going so far as to come to Cosmos upon her awakening and inform her about the outcome of the previous cycle, complimenting her resolve. Golbez more than any of the other warriors of Chaos really shows that he isn’t a villain, just an emmisary of darkness who can’t quite reconcile himself to living in the light. Some characters like Jecht never really seemed evil at all and are even less so in this game, Jecht himself stating that he doesn’t care about the war, he just wants to end it so that the warriors of Cosmos (including his son) can go back to their homeworlds. Even Cloud of Darkness, a literal embodiment of dark energy that doesn’t even really have a personality or consciousness, helps the warriors of Cosmos by telling Laguna how to stop the manikins.

So as it goes, it’s difficult to choose a faction, since Cosmos herself doesn’t really seem to care too much about ruining the lives of her warriors, and does little but sit around looking sad most of the time, and Chaos is just an asshole. As it were, if I could count the outliers who choose to run away from the war as a faction (Gabranth and Shantotto), I would, but I suppose I’ll side with Cosmos… for now.

This is totally not the shot from Final Fantasy XIII where Lightning holds a floating dandelion spark thing on Pulse. Really, it's not.

This is totally not the shot from Final Fantasy XIII where Lightning holds a floating dandelion spark thing on Pulse. Really, it’s not.

Question 2: Favorite Characters/Least Favorite Characters?

There are quite a few likable characters and some personal favorites from the Final Fantasy series that show up in this game. For Dissidia 012, I’m so glad they chose Tifa Lockhart to add to the fray from the cast of Final Fantasy VII, as she’s perfect for a fighting game and has appeared in one already. As such, she is my first pick. Tifa’s personality is great, she’s as cheerful and determined as she was in her original game, and is one of the very few good guys to fight up close or to not use a sword. I really, REALLY wish her DLC outfit, “Enforcer,” was available in the US, but unfortunately you had to pre-order the game to get it, and that I know of there’s no other way of getting it. It’s based on her Amano artwork and looks totally awesome.

Then of course there’s Lightning. Final Fantasy XIII is still an interesting and divisive experience for most Final Fantasy players, but of all the characters in the game, Lightning really shines as a genuine hero. She was supposedly designed to be like a “female Cloud,” but she’s really nothing like him, and I’m pretty thankful for that. Apparently Cloud’s personality outside of his original game has been a sniffling emo kid who just whines about how useless he is, and Lightning is exactly the opposite of that. She’s extremely determined and never waits to take action. Whenever she doesn’t have an answer, she kicks some ass until she finds one. She is the perfect leading character and I’m not surprised to see her take on a similar role in this game to the one she held in her original Final Fantasy title: defying her fate and seeking to stop an endless cycle of misery, to save herself and her friends.

Onion Knight

Next, there’s my little pal, the Onion Knight. The first time I played Dissidia, I thought he was okay but didn’t pay him much thought after I’d completed his story. After playing the sequel however, I’ve discovered just how powerful he is. A lot of his attacks are either long range magic shots or a close-up barrage of small, weak swordswipes, but as he grows, every single one of his attacks gains extra abilities, and they can all be turned into easy damage dealers that are extremely difficult to dodge and make him one of the quickest characters in the game to plow through tough enemies and get out of nasty situations with. As a character, he’s a charming little kid who is a little bit full of himself, but is extremely intelligent and brave. In the twelfth cycle he is treated like a little brother by Vaan, which he doesn’t entirely like but I suspect gives him some amount of comfort, and in the thirteenth cycle he makes himself Terra’s noble defender, promising to stay by her always, and continuing to journey with her after she turns on him under the control of Chaos’ forces.

There are some characters who I really like that I hardly ever play as, like Kuja, who is my favorite Final Fantasy villain. He’s just as arrogant, self-absorbed, and fabulous as he was in his original game, though as I’ve mentioned he displays a desire to end the war and to help the good guys every now and then, but though I like his character, he’s very difficult to play as. When the computer is controlling him, he kicks my ass with an endless barrage of magic attacks that sling an opponent around the stage, but when I play as Kuja I have a hard time getting a hit in edgewise and have difficulty trying to control his magic attacks. Another character I love is Shantotto, who I’d never seen before this game because I’ve never played Final Fantasy XI, but who is hilarious and speaks mostly in rhyme, laughing and taunting all of the other fighters from both sides about how inferior she is to them, but I find her difficult to play as, as the line between her bravery attacks and HP attacks seems to be very blurred. Gabranth was one of my favorite characters in the first game just because he represented Final Fantasy XII in some way, but in both games he’s annoying to play as, capable of delivering HP attacks only when he’s in Ex Mode, which means you will have to end every single battle with his Ex Burst, and it gets a little old to not have any real options of how to fight. He’s also extremely slow in his normal form and his bravery attacks in that form are pretty underwhelimg and uninteresting. I still love him though, hound of hell that he is.

In an interesting twist, I have always kind of disliked Warrior of Light for some reason, I don’t know if it was his outfit, the fact that he never really existed before this game, or his goody-two-shoes attitude of “Light will prevail!” but I just recently discovered that I kind of like him. I think his new alternate outfit that dresses him up in the classic warrior attire from the first Final Fantasy, complete with short red hair, made me warm up to him a little because he looked like less of a blameless hero. It turns out he’s actually extremely balanced and easy to play as, so he just may make it into my final party for Scenario 000.

Warrior of Light vs. Garland

As for my least favorite characters, there are a few. I dislike most of the classic Final Fantasy villains, as they’re pretty one-dimensional and boring. Garland is just an angry Chaos pawn who runs around wrecking people’s shit, the Emperor is a scheming bastard bent on ruling all of existance who is constantly stabbing his fellow back-stabbers in their already stabbed backs, Ultimecia is similar to the Emperor in that she’s mainly interested in usurping Chaos, and toying with the warriors while trying to kill them. Then there’s Exdeath, the single most one-dimensional villain ever. I don’t know if he has a single line that doesn’t include the words, “The Void.” Kefka is a maniac who you can tell the designers really wanted to be funny but who just comes across as mostly crude and silly, but not exactly hilarious. There are some heroes I’m not crazy about either: Firion is a character I didn’t know of before Dissidia, and he left basically no lasting impression on me other than his love of wild roses, which I expect would make much more sense to me if I’d beaten Final Fantasy II, but beaten it I have not.

I also really, really dislike Kain. I have no idea why. He actually seems pretty cool: he’s a dragoon and it’s apparently mandatory for Final Fantasy fans to like dragoons so alright I really don’t have a problem with that, he has some cool attacks, he whips his helmet off to reveal his beautiful flowing Pantene Pro-V hair and painted Amano lips in his Ex Mode, and he’s even voiced by the guy who later voiced Cauius Ballad in Final Fantasy XIII-2 (which lead to some very strange moments for me watching him interact with lightning). However I really disliked him. He is going around betraying the warriors of light, knocking them out and carrying them away to some secret hiding place, and though his reasons are explained later on, he just remains kind of unlikable to me. I’m glad they made him an assist character during the final chapter of Main Scenario 012, because I really didn’t want to play with him very much in the first place.

So as it goes, I love me some Final Fantasy heroes, especially obnoxious little guys like Onion Knight and Shantotto, and free-spirited characters like Zidane and Bartz, but all in all if I really have to choose a favorite from amongst the entire cast, I think I’m going to go with Golbez. As I mentioned before, he’s constantly playing both sides to try and help his brother and the rest of the warriors escape from the cycle of war, and though he serves Chaos, he really doesn’t align himself with either side for most of the game. He never genuinely turns to Cosmos’ side, but without his help, the warriors of Cosmos might never have stood a chance in the first place. As for least favorite character, I almost handed the title over to the Emperor. I find him annoying. He looks pretty and all, and may be representing the shall we say not-so-heterosexual side of Final Fantasy villainy, but I just don’t like him. But then I remembered that Exdeath exists and had to hand the title over to him, because not only is he so one-dimensional he makes President Shinra look like a complicated and complex villain, but he’s annoying to fight, even more annoying to play as, and he literally walks so slow that good luck if you ever try to control him on the world map.

Pandemonium: Top Floor

Question 3: Favorite Stage/Least Favorite Stage?

There are a few new stages in this game, and while some of them do get old rather quickly (I’m so tired of playing in Order’s Sanctuary, it seems to be the default location for every friggin’ battle in this game), many of the old stages still retain their charm and the new stages add some variety and fun. The Lunar Subterrane stage from the first Dissidia is still one of my favorite’s because it’s so huge and has so much room to roam around in, not to mention all the fun breakable rocks. I like The Rift for similar reasons, with lots of space to roam around in and crazy jumps from platform to platform. Planet’s Core isn’t much to speak of on it’s own, but it’s Omega version is much more fun, with shit flying around everywhere. As for the new stages, I am happy to finally see Final Fantasy XII represented, with the Sky Fortress Bahamut stage, that I at first thought was the bridge of the Palamecia from Final Fantasy XIII. They even included a stage that is so literally closed in that it’s just one small train car that you can’t burst out of (as far I can tell anyway…). All in all though, I think my favorite stage is probably Final Fantasy XI’s Empyreal Paradox, and it’s just a simple, open area with a giant crystal in the center, and that’s pretty much it. It’s fun to throw people around in and doesn’t really have any gimmicks (lookin’ at you Ultimecia’s castle, with your frickin’ broken floors and your clock tower gears). Another favorite is Orphan’s Cradle, as it’s just so much fun to be in an enviroment from a super HD game on a handheld console with the graphical power of a PS2, it’s like Final Fantasy XIII got a reverse graphical makeover that I really enjoy, and looks like it belongs with the rest of the games instead of out in it’s own freaky Paradigm-shifting universe.

And speaking of that, my least favorite stages, there are a few. I’ve already mentioned Order’s Sanctuary, which is so vanilla that it isn’t great but isn’t terrible either, and Ultimecia’s Castle, where every move you make knocks you into a gear, a wall, or a banish trap (they’re on the ceiling for God sakes), so I won’t bring those up anymore, but there are some others. Pandemonium is pretty, but very difficult to fight in, and the spikes on the floor in the Omega version make it even more difficult. Dream’s End is a cool place to be just because of it’s significance in Final Fantasy X, but unfortunately I get stuck under the main platform a lot and have a hard time finding my way back out of the FIERY PIT OF DEATH below. Speaking of getting stuck under the stage, this happens quite a bit in stages with high or floating platforms, but I tend to have the most trouble in Kefka’s Tower. Now, I do appreciate the variation in these stages and I’m glad they’re not all flat planes, so I wouldn’t want them to be gone from the game, but they can tend to be a bit difficult to play in.

Tifa's Enforcer Costume

Question 4: Favorite Alternate Costume?

The one you see above, Tifa’s Enforcer outfit, which I cannot have and which makes me very angry because I cannot have it. It looks so much better than any of her other outfits, and I didn’t even have a PSP or a job when this game came out so how was I supposed to pre-order it? I’ve considering importing the European special edition which comes with a download code for this outfit, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t work in the US and also I do not have the money to be doing that. But still, I’d like to find some way to get this costume someday that doesn’t involve illegally downloading the file from the internet, which I totally have not thought about doing. Totally.

Dissidia 012 does introduce some pretty sweet new digs for the characters, including DLC costumes for a buck each for all of the heroes and some of the villains. Lightning’s second alternate outift, the conceptual Guardian Corps uniform, looks great on her and though it lacks her trademark flowing scarf, I prefer to play with her in this outfit the most. Onion Knight’s blue recolor of his initial outfit is fun because… well, because it’s blue, what more do I need to say about that? Longtime fans of Final Fantasy VIII are no doubt thrilled to finally be able to wear his SeeD uniform in battle, and I am one of them. Cloud’s Advent Children outfit looks great on him, and comes with his sword from the movie and a different Ex Mode as well. Laguna looks much better dressed up in his Galbadian soldier uniform in my opinion, and Gabranth even has an outfit in which we can clearly see his face! For the whole battle, too!

You also get to dress a couple characters up in their original outfits, rather than their Amano-inspired Dissida ones. Warrior of Light’s Classic Red costume, which I mentioned earlier, is very fun to play with, and Bartz actually gets to look like himself in this game with his new Freelancer outfit. I have both of those characters’ DLC costumes, the former is Warrior of Light with his helmet off as seen in the opening sequence of Dissidia 012, and the latter is Bartz in his dancer attire. Even though Kefka dresses like… well, a sociopathic clown murderer (meaning: murderer who is a clown, not one who murders clowns), I even like his new costume. Cloud, Squall and Sephiroth all have their Kingdom Hearts gear, but unfortunately only Sephiroth’s is available for download in the US. Seriously it’s been three years now, Square Enix, can we please have the rest of the DLC?

Apart from Tifa’s enforcer costume that I probably love so much because I covet it and yet cannot have it, I really love Ultimecia’s new outfit, called Edea’s Corpse. It’s not a reskin but a completely new character model that uses Ultimecia’s attacks, and it’s basically like having Edea as a character, which frankly I’ve already thought would be kind of a better idea than Ultimecia, even though I know Edea is not the real villain of Final Fantasy VIII.

*sighs dreamily*

*sighs dreamily*

I’m probably forgetting a few, because unlike in the last game where the designer mostly just recolored the characters’ main outfits, they actually put some thought into these new ones, and it makes playing as these characters a lot more fun. The only thing negative that I have to say about them is that they can’t be worn in story mode anymore, which I guess I understand for continuity reasons but still, I would like to have  the option. Screw continuity, this is a game about all the Final Fantasy heroes fighting the villains together! It’s basically a fanfiction wet dream with a world map and button mashing. Note that these are all good things, and are NOT critcisms, because dammit I do love fanservice, and not the bare-breasted kind. Oh yeah, that reminds me, I think I ought to mention Tidus’ warrior of Chaos outfit. It’s Tidus, in his torn up pants, with no shirt. I really cannot explain it any simpler, and as I’ve always thought Tidus was a sexy beast, I quite enjoy it. It is at least forty percent of the reason why I ever play as Tidus now.

Red Mage

Question 5: Characters You Wish Would Have Made It Into Dissida/Characters You Would Like To See In A Future Dissidia?

RAMZA. Motherfucking. BEOULVE. Seriously, Final Fantasy Tactics got no representation in either Dissidia game, and even though I get that they’re drafting characters from the main series, he really should have been included as a hidden character. He’s literally the most competent Final Fantasy hero in the entire series, he’s the only hero who doesn’t suffer some deep existential crisis, he gets shit done, saves all of Ivalice, and still manages to have personality depth and remain completely likable. And on that note, one of my friends suggested that Delita would have made an excellent warrior of Chaos, and with this I completely agree. Since all of the Final Fantasy characters’ storylines tend to revolve around the same themes that permeated their stories in their games of origin, I could completely see Delita working for both sides of the conflict in an effort to make himself king, or kidnapping Yuna or some such lovely nonsense. Agrias Oaks would have also been an excellent choice, as there are quite a few swordplayers but none that use holy sword abilities, even our sparkly heroic Warrior of Light.

As for characters from the main series, I was actually quite surprised that there were no nods to the Red Mage in any way. I figured Warrior of Light would have had a Red Mage costume or something, but nothing. Because he’s such a versatile character, he could equip various weapons the way Vaan does and use all sorts of spells. All of them, in fact, since he’s a Red Mage. I’m also pretty surprised that the reboot Final Fantasy III characters got no representation, other than being the names of a couple of Onion Knight’s alternate costumes. I get that he was already an established character, but there’s no reason that it couldn’t have been revealed in Duodecim that his name was really Luneth, or even Ingus.

Dissidia seems to have a problem with characters either being up-close sword weilders or long range magic users. Now to their credit, those are the already established characters that they have to work with, and they managed to make each character’s fighting style unique from the others’, but there could have been some more out-of-the-box characters included. Nanaki would have made an interesting addition, since he could be an up-close attacker and a fire magic user, although I imagine his grinding animation would be pretty hilarious. Similarly, Kihmari would have worked well since he has such a wide variety of Blue Magic abilities, or by the same token, Quina, even though I admit Quina would be ludicrously weird, but any of the token non-human characters would have sufficed.

"I feel pretty, and witty, and..."

“I feel pretty, and witty, and…”

A villain that I’m really surprised wasn’t included is Seymour, since he was really the villain of Final Fantasy X, and he would have been a perfect character. I could see himself allying with Kuja to try and manipulate the other warriors for his own ends, and having a cool Ex Mode that involves the Mortichorus or whatever the hell that thing that sucks his life out of him in Final Fantasy X is. I have a feeling I know why they didn’t include him and chose Jecht instead though, because as I mentioned they already had quite a few magic slingers and Jecht, though technically sword-wielding, is more of an up close beat-em-up character. Also from Final Fantasy X, Auron would have made a good addition because well, he’s just badass, and his Bushido abilities would be fun to play with.

Some more long range characters like Yuffie or Wakka with their throwing weapons would have been a cool addition, as Laguna and Ultimecia are really the only genuine long-ranged fighters, and speak of long ranged fighters, Sazh Kazroy would be a fanastic addition the crew and I would love for Balthier to make an appearance in a future Dissidia game if ever such a thing will come to be. Another character I’d love to see is Balthier’s ambiguous “partner” (make of that what you will, fellow gamers), Fran, who I just adore and who I would love to see included in more Final Fantasy media. And finally, from Final Fantasy XIII, the addition of a heavy magic user like Hope or Vanille (“I have to see this through!” *INSTANT DEATH*) would have been great, or if we could have just completely swapped Kain Highwind out for the much superior Oerba Yun Fang, that would be completely fine with me, thanks.

And there is one another character that I really, REALLY think should have been included from the beginning: the random battle monster. I know that this is a fighting game, but since you spend so much time wandering around the world map or fighting your way to GET TO the villains, it would have been nice to have some enemy-only monsters with simple movesets that were easy to beat, or some superbosses like Final Fantasy XIII’s incarnation of Adamantoise, or even the almighty Omega Weapon. It seems kind of silly to pepper story mode with crystalized copies of the enemy fighters, because this concept gets pretty old and boring pretty quickly, and throwing in fewer manikins and more classic Final Fantasy monsters as enemy-only fighters would have been a great addition to the game from the very beginning. Even just using five to ten of these simple monster designs and recoloring the stronger ones like they do in every other Final Fantasy game would be a huge step up from just fighting crystalized versions of your opponents, and since a Dissidia sequel would have to be something taking place outside the conflict of Cosmos of Chaos as we have come to know it, I think it’s a simple idea that could drastically improve a future Dissidia game.

Warrior of Light

And so, those are some of my thoughts about Dissidia 012. It’s a triumph of a game, with so much content and so much to explore. I’ve invested 60 hours and I haven’t even completed half of the total storyline, and there are still a ton of unlockables for me to achieve, not to mention every single character has a level that can reach 100, and every day you get a new message from the Mognet moogles and prizes in their letters. Add this to the museum of unlockable cutscenes, the exclusive weapons and (sometimes) armor available for each character, the giant list of Battlegen items and Accomplishments, and Dissidia 012 really makes for an extremely solid RPG fighting game, perhaps truly the first of it’s kind, with an interesting story that weaves together the Final Fantasy universes and gives longtime fans a chance to experience their favorite characters in a new way. Getting this game was certainly one of my decisions as a gamer, and I genuinely recommend it to any fan of the Final Fantasy series, and I think that newcomers to the series would enjoy it too.

Review: Golden Sun: Dark Dawn

Golden Sun Dark Dawn

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn

Platform: Nintendo DS
Genre: Role-Playing Game
Publisher: Camelot Software Planning
Release Date: November 29, 2010
Modes: Single Player

The Golden Sun series is easily one of the most underrated role-playing games of the last decade, and the two Game Boy Advance titles, Golden Sun and Golden Sun: The Lost Age, provided some of the best gameplay and graphics the Game Boy Advance had to offer. I personally began playing the first game when I was 12 years old, and it’s still one of my favorite role-playing games to date. Dark Dawn is the third installment in the series, a follow up to the pair of Game Boy Advance titles and the first Golden Sun title to appear on the Nintendo DS. Did the game live up the expectations set by the first two titles? No, I don’t think it did. Was it still an overall enjoyable experience? Certainly, though the game has a lot of a flaws and offers little incentive to play again.

I feel that before I begin pointing out any of this game’s flaws I should mention that it actually inherited many of them from it’s predecessors. The painfully slow storyline sequences, overly lengthy tutorials, blithe dialogue and somewhat basic RPG plot elements all existed in abundance in Golden Sun as well The Lost Age, but perhaps because I was so much younger and perhaps because that game was at least it’s own original story that didn’t borrow from any previous games in it’s series, I find those things to be less annoying in the originals, and somewhat charming. However, though this game retains some of it’s predecessors’ charm, it ultimately feels shallow, with no identity of it’s own, and doesn’t hold up without being paired with the Game Boy Advance games.

Dark Dawn 1

Story

The game begins with an overview of the events of the first two Golden Sun titles: the world of Angara is built upon the four elements of Earth, Wind, Water and Fire. The name given to those who are aligned with each element and are capable of using magical abilities derived from these four elements are called Adepts. Ages ago, Adepts warred with one another for dominance over the world, and the clashing powers of all the Adepts threatened to tear the world apart. To prevent the destruction of the world, the ancients sealed Alchemy’s power away in four elemental lighthouses, and hid the keys to activating each lighthouse in a temple at the peak of a sacred mountain. Though Adepts continued to be born after the sealing of Alchemy, most of them lived in a small, hidden mountainside village, aptly named Vale, resting at the foot of the mountain.

During the narrative of the first Golden Sun, two Fire Adepts broke into the temple and stole the four Elemental Stars, intent on using them to light the four lighthouse beacons, and a young Earth Adept named Isaac set out on a quest to stop them. They were ultimately unable to stop the Fire Adepts from lightning the first two beacons, and in the second game, the Lost Age, the narrative switched to another Adept named Felix, who learned that without Alchemy, the world of Angara was slowly withering and heading toward it’s ultimate death. Ultimately Isaac joined Felix and together they finished lighting the beacons and caused an event called the Golden Sun, a beacon of pure elemental power that rejuvenated Angara and returned Alchemy to the world, at the cost of dramatically altering the planet’s landscape, destroying many cities and villages and creating new mountain chains along the two continents.

And so we have the setup for Dark Dawn, which takes place 30 years after the events of the first two games. Isaac and his companion Garet live on a mountaintop overlooking the sacred mountain where Sol Sanctum was built, and with them live their two children, Matthew and Tyrell. Tyrell, who is somewhat dense and foolhardy, attempts to fly using an invention called a Soarwing, which is intended to be used only by Wind Adepts, crashes into the forest below and is ultimately rescued by Matthew’s party. In order to repair the Soarwing, Matthew is sent on a quest to retrieve a feather from a legendary bird called a Mountain Roc, and the events of Dark Dawn begin to unfold.

The problem with the story of Dark Dawn is that is it is entirely too reliant on the original Golden Sun games. The four main characters are all clones of the original four main characters of Golden Sun: Matthew, Tyrell, Karis and Rief are all clones of Isaac, Garet, Ivan and Mia respectively, both in terms of battle abilities and personalities. Not only this, but throughout the story, the main characters spend most of their time discussing the adventures of their parents, encountering characters and places from the original games, and trying to live up to the legacy of their parents, who are now known across the world as the Warriors of Vale. This all ends up feeling very shallow and contrived, and I’m left wondering why the story wasn’t told from the point of view of the original characters in the first place.

Though the game takes place thirty years in the future, it’s revealed that none of the playable characters from Golden Sun have aged at all; they’re all still young and capable. The entire story of Dark Dawn could have been done with the original main cast of Golden Sun and the narrative wouldn’t be changed whatsoever, because none of the four main characters in Dark Dawn have their own identity. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate characters like Rief or Tyrell, but I don’t really see why they exist in the first place.

Ironically, though so much of the game is spent discussing the Warriors of Vale and referencing them at every turn, we only actually get to revisit two of them: Isaac and Garet. Though many of the other original characters are mentioned, and some of which like Piers even are involved with the story, we never see or interact with them at all. Similarly, we never revisit any of the old towns or villages, except for Kolima Forest, which was mysteriously moved to another part of the continent and is an entirely different place now. The game takes place on the northern continent and at no point do the part ever travel to the southern continent, or even to the western area of the world. Angara is expanded and restored, but we never get to see it, because the story all unfolds on the northern continent.

The villains of the story are Blados and Chalis, who, like the villains of Golden Sun: The Lost Age, are basically just copies of the villains from the first game. These two are led by a “mysterious” masked man who calls himself Arcanus. Arcanus is literally Alex from the first two games, with a mask covering a quarter of his face. If his appearance didn’t make it blatantly obvious that Arcanus was Alex, the fact that he teleports, speaks like an aristocrat, and manipulated the two main antagonists for his own designs do. Kraden joins the part as an NPC as he did in the first two games, but though he clearly realizes who Arcanus is, he never mentions it to the main cast until right before the end of the game.

Though the party originally goes on a quest to slay the Mountain Roc, they end up getting pulled into a lot of side stories, one involving a kidnapped Princess, one involving a pirate sentenced to death, one involving the war between two nations, among others, and none of these things have anything to do with the reason the children left on their journey: the slay the Mountain Roc. The worst aspect of this, however, is that the party does eventually encounter and slay the Mountain Roc, and take one of it’s feathers. And NOTHING HAPPENS. The feather isn’t used anywhere later in the game, and the Vale children entirely forget that they left home to find a means to restore the Soarwing.

Through a series of less than thrilling events, the party reaches a city of anthromorphic beastmen and bring about the appearance a huge tower that blocks out the light of the sun, creating the Grave Eclipse, a cataclysm that covers most of the continent in a darkness that calls forth terrible monsters, who destroy most of the cities and kill most of the people. The party escapes with the pirate’s ship, and spend the rest of the game sailing around the ocean, learning about the eclipse and gathering the tools to stop it. When the Vale children reach the final temple of the game, they attempt to use a device called the Apollo Lens to stop the Grave Eclipse, and they meet with Alex again, who reveals himself and attempts to help them activate the Lens and stop the Eclipse. The party are interrupted by Blados and Chalis, who fuse with a werewolf monster to try and stop the Vale children, to no avail. In exactly the same plot twist from the last Golden Sun game, the Vale children realize that the werewolf was actually the brother of a party member named Sveta, and with his last breath he sacrifices himself to activate the Apollo Lens and stop the Eclipse.

The game contains basically a watered down version of the plot of the first Golden Sun games, with virtually all the same twists, and as always, Alex manipulated everyone involved to make it all happen. But why? In Golden Sun and the Lost Age, Alex’s goal was immortality and control over the building blocks of reality, but in Dark Dawn, Alex goes to great measures to manipulate Blados and Chalis as well as the Vale children and the leaders of various nations to create the Grave Eclipse, and then manipulates all parties involved to stop the Eclipse. Why? He created a problem and solved it, without gaining anything, and disappears in the middle of a scene without so much a final word on anything.

Alex’s motives are not the only problem with the plot. When the game isn’t busy reminiscing about the adventures of the Vale Warriors, it’s creating characters and plot devices that are never used again. Blados and Chalis serve a ruler called the High Empyror who is never seen or heard from, and has no bearing on the plot whatsoever. The entire eclipse didn’t serve anyone’s purposes, if Blados and Chalis stood to gain anything from the ordeal I either didn’t understand or didn’t remember because the story left so little of an impression on me. The plot had so little substance or depth that it never stood on it’s own, and mostly used nostalgia to try and strengthen the weak storyline.

In the final scene after the credits, Matthew returns home, only to discover Isaac and Garet nowhere to be found, and a black hole floating next to the cabin, which is actually a Psyenergy Vortex, a plot device introduced early in the game that was never used again.The words “The End…?” appear on screen, and the screen fades to black. Why did the Psyenergy Vortexes exist? What was Alex’s purpose for creating and then stopping the Grave Eclipse? Where are Isaac and Garet, have they and the other Warriors of Vale been sucked into the Psyenergy Vortexes, and now Matthew has to go and rescue them? We don’t know, because the game never TELLS us any of these things, it creates a plot simply for the sake of giving the Vale children something to do.

The loose ends don’t stop there, though. Earlier on in the game, the pirate ship the party uses to travel during the latter portions of the quest is encountered as an old piece of junk barely capable of staying afloat, yet is mysteriously refitted to look like a Lemurian ship from the original Golden Sun games, but it’s never explained how or why this happened. Piers apparently traveled to Tonfon and amazed the people there with his ship, but why? Rief’s sister Nowell is only encountered during one cutscene, and is later revealed to have run away with Piers, but whatever happened with the two of them? Amiti’s father is heavily implied to be Alex, but this is never confirmed. Why would Alex, who has been shown throughout the series to be entirely concerned with gaining omnipotence, take a break to have a child with a woman and then vanish? What actually happened to Alex when he stood before the Golden Sun, why wasn’t he killed, and did he gain some new power from it? How does the Grave Eclipse play into Alex’s plan for omnipotence and what is the connection between the Psyenergy Vortexes, Alex’s plans for omnipotence, and the villains he manipulated? We don’t know, because the game never elaborates on any of these things, and leaves the plot up in the air with a completely unsatisfying ending scene of a town full of beastmen waving goodbye and thanking them for being just like their parents and saving the world.

Dark Dawn 2

Gameplay

Thankfully, though the story leaves everything to be desired, the gameplay is esentially unchanged from the previous Golden Sun games. Battles work exactly the same way, using creatures called Djinn to strengthen and alter each Adepts Psyenergy and also serve as Summons for the characters to use in battle. Unfortunately there are only two new Summons in this game, and all the rest are the same summons from the original Golden Sun, as well as most Djinn being copycats of the original Djinn with new names, but the same effects.

Though the battles work the same as the previous titles, one of the biggest elements of Golden Sun is puzzle solving. Characters use their Psyenergy to move blocks, create fire, and interact with their environment in different ways to solve puzzles and make it through dungeons. Unfortunately, the difficulty of the puzzles is incredibly easy. Since I’m not a fan of puzzle games, I admit to getting stumped in a few places, but never longer than a minute or two, and only a few times did I ever backtrack to try and find something that I missed. The Psyenergy itself was the unique aspect of the Golden Sun games that gave their dungeons personality, but all of the Psyenergy in Dark Dawn is just the same Psyenergy from Golden Sun, given new names and different animations. There’s not very much to find in this game that’s new or unique, not in the puzzles or the battles.

It’s also worth mentioning that though Psyenergy was quick and responsive in the original Golden Sun games, it’s tedious to use on the DS because the entire game is designed to be played with the stylus, and after casting a spell there’s a wait time while a circular area of effect appears around Matthew and the player is given the option to turn their character in the direction they want to use the ability. This doesn’t even play well when using the stylus because the Psyenergy abilities are still intended to be used with the L and R shortcuts, and are tiny boxes in the corners of the screen that are too small to touch comfortably with the stylus. Walking with the stylus is clunky and awkward too, and no matter whether you use analog or stylus controls, it feels like something is missing because the game was designed to be played the other way; Dark Dawn would have benefited greatly from simply being one control scheme or the other.

Though the four main characters are essentially clones of the original Golden Sun characters and have little personality of their own, there are four new characters that are basically one of the only bright spots in this game. The new Fire Adept, Eoleo, is the same baby who appeared in the Lost Age as the son of the pirate Briggs. Though I like him more as a character than the extremely dull-witted Tyrell, he is a warrior-style fighter who can’t use long swords, which basically makes him obsolete, and that’s unfortunate because I really wanted to include him in my final party. The new Wind Adept, Sveta, has the ability to transform into a beast during battle and unleash powerful abilities at the expense of using up her Djinn, essentially making this ability a summon that lasts several turns.

The new Water Adept, Amiti, has many of the same abilities as Piers from the Lost Age, but is equipped like a mage and can’t use long swords. Incidentally, he’s probably my favorite character to use in battle, as he’s balanced, powerful, and I always like Water Adepts. The final new Adept is an Earth Adept named Himi, who unfortunately is thrown into the game about an hour or two before the ending, and as such will probably be overlooked, if not because the player already has their final party order decided, then because she’s an Earth Adept and in order to have a balanced team would have to replace the main protagonist in the battle roster.

The new characters provided the most enjoyable aspect of the game that lends to it some replayability, because they join gradually and leave the player to decide whether to have a party using all four elements or whether to use which characters the player likes the most. Unfortunately they mostly all join about three-quarters through the game, and though they can be useful, the player spends most of the game without them. One of the annoying things  about the large roster of characters, however, is that when scenes trigger during latter portions of the game, nine or more characters may suddenly appear on screen at once, and during storyline events, EVERY character has to have something to say. There are constantly times during character conversations where all eight of the party members have to chime into the conversation in quick succession, or begin speaking in pairs, just for the sake of being a part of the scene.

The inclusion of three playable characters during the final third of the game leads me to another big problem: the pacing of the game. Though I spent 30 hours playing Dark Dawn (relatively short by any normal RPG standards), the quest was incredibly short. The party sets out to get a Roc Feather, then activates a few Alchemy machines across the continent for no particular reason other than to help out the people and find a way across the mountains, saves the Princess and the pirate, and finally collects some gear hidden across the world and activates the Apollo Lens. Though the game manages on paper to take you through several locations and many dungeons, it all goes by quickly and easily with little to no challenge and leaves the player with absolutely nothing to do postgame but gather the remaining Djinn, but even then there’s no motivation to do that because there’s not a single difficult enemy anywhere in the game. Apart from an early boss battle with some soldiers, the final boss was the only enemy in the game to ever KO me or provide any difficulty at all.

It’s not just the lack of difficulty in the dungeons that creates a gameplay problem, it’s the fact that as soon as the Grave Eclipse happens, all exploration drops off. The game makes it seem as though you’re given a ship with which to explore the entirety of the ocean, but in truth the ocean is just a big lake surrounded by the remaining towns you’ll need to explore, and of the entire world map, only about 20% or less is accessible by the ship. The game pads out it’s length by sending you on various fetch quests from town to town, making you travel the relatively empty and small ocean and revisit towns from earlier in the game that have mostly nothing new to see. In addition, battling and leveling up become extremely easy once the party is given the ship, the enemies get only slightly more difficult but the experience given by virtually every enemy in the world jumps into the ten thousands, and characters jump about twenty levels during the final few hours of gameplay.

Dark Dawn 3

Presentation

This is an area that Dark Dawn does fairly well in. The official artwork for the game is beautiful, done in the same art style as the original games, and the characters and settings are all very aesthetically pleasing. The colorful feel of the world of Angara is preserved from the original games, although since Dark Dawn takes place after a worldwide rejuvenation of elemental magic that animates all living creatures and places, I would think that the world would be much more full of life, yet the lush environmental feel of the original Golden Sun games isn’t taken to any new levels here. The in-game graphics leave a little to be desired, as the character models are done in a chibi style somewhat similar to that of the original Golden Sun games, but while that style lent itself well to the 16-bit graphical capabilties of the Game Boy Advance, it doesn’t translate into anything spectacular in 3D. Luckily the more detail battle models of the characters are very well-done, and battle backgrounds are drawn like paintings.

The summon sequences are exciting to see the first couple of times, but because most of them are recreations of classic summons and because the graphical abilities of the Nintendo DS are limited, the summons, which were one of the biggest draws to Dark Dawn, didn’t impress me very much. I liked them, but there was nothing very unique about the majority of the summons, and after watching each sequence once I usually skipped it every time thereafter. The Djinn, however, were each given their own cutsom look, and every Djinn is unique from every other, both in their official artwork and their in-game sprites.

One of the things that this game really accomplished with it’s art direction was make me want to play the classic Golden Sun games again, because I remembered how much I loved the art and environments of those games, which still hold up today. This could be seen as a bad quality, but the character portraits, Djinn art, and environments of the game were one of the biggest factors in keeping me interested in playing.

Dark Dawn 4


Conclusion

The original Golden Sun games were kind of a midway point between action role-playing games like the Legend of Zelda and menu-based role-playing games like Final Fantasy. The puzzles played virtually the same as those in the Zelda series, with Psyenergy serving the role of new equipment, and the battles worked basically the same as the Final Fantasy series, with Djinn serving the role of Espers or other summons. Though neither of the main game concepts were extremely original, the Golden Sun titles managed to not only blend these two concepts together coherently, but also push the graphical limitations of the Game Boy Advance and provide players with a storyline that, though riddled with classic RPG elements like Alchemy and elemental magic, was at least interesting and unique.

Dark Dawn unfortunately feels like a pale shadow of the original Golden Sun games, trying to recreate their unique feel without adding anything new or standing on it’s own legs. The plot battles, and puzzles are all virtually the same as they were in the classic titles, and Dark Dawn seems to be either relying on nostalgia for the old games, or a lack of exposure to concepts that have already been used before, to create a fun atmosphere for the player. The game leaves very little replay value because of the linear quest and easy battles, and could have benefited from a few superbosses or hidden dungeons. Ultimately Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is an alright game, but not an amazing game.

I’ve pointed out Dark Dawn’s many flaws here, but I still want to make it known that I did have a lot of fun playing this game. I felt like I was being swept up in the world of Golden Sun, and even though it was probably mostly nostalgia for the Game Boy Advance games, it was fun nonetheless. The game only appears to be riddled with flaws once the adventure is over and can be looked at with more objectivity, but during the story I really did want to know what would happen next, and I enjoyed the storyline sequences even if they weren’t anything amazing. The battle gameplay is still solid, the puzzle mechanics are unchanged, even though they aren’t very difficult, and the essential Golden Sun experience is all still there.

I would encourage fans of the original games to try Dark Dawn and I think that they would enjoy themselves; being a part of the Golden Sun world again is fun after all these years, even when Dark Dawn’s problems make it bittersweet, and new players who never played the originals may find themselves interested in the backstory and having fun in the well-crafted world of Angara. The thing that Dark Dawn did more than anything was make me want to replay the classic Golden Sun titles, and though it probably doesn’t provide the same depth of gameplay and story, it does accomplish what it sets out to do: it takes the player on an adventure, gives them challenges to overcome, and provides a fun escape into the fantasy world that captivated players of Golden Sun.