Golden Sun: The Lost Age

The final chapter of a story arch divided into two pieces, Golden Sun: The Lost Age more than lives up to its position as the conclusion to one epic tale. As an immediate continuation to the adventure that preceded it, the title smartly preserves its predecessor’s visual prowess, musical quality, battle system, and gameplay staples. Yet, it is able to move forward and surpass it with style by boosting the scope of its mandatory and optional content; unexpectedly shifting the plot’s focus to the party that, in the original, played the role of the antagonists; and, most importantly, finding a way to augment the three traits that allowed Golden Sun to stand out from the crowd of role-playing games: its exploration, freedom, and puzzle-solving. Consequently, Golden Sun: The Lost Age is a work as ambitious and flooring as the Game Boy Advance is able to sustain, and in the group of RPGs released for Nintendo’s systems, it is hard to come across a game that is as good, because the balance The Lost Age presents between being traditional and breaking away from the mold is a rare and pleasant sight.

Full Post

Advertisements

Castlevania: Aria Of Sorrow

Thanks to localized improvements that work towards reducing both frustration and excessive backtracking, and due to a team of developers that knew how to look at the past in order to learn from mistakes that had been previously made, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow guarantees its place as the finest entry of the franchise for the Game Boy Advance. In addition, by implementing a very creative system of spells and magic that turn the soul of its many enemies into collectible and usable assets, the game carves out not only a personality of its own, but also a very noble place inside the long-running franchise of vampire hunters. Through those means, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is recommendable without reservation, for even though it does hold a few points that could have been smoothed out, it is a haunting quest that is fun and engaging through the entirety of its run, and a culmination of a three-year cycle that produced a trio of appealing Castlevania games.

Full Post

Castlevania: Harmony Of Dissonance

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance does have a couple of issues that make the size and complexity of its scope, which are undeniably its biggest qualities, not be as thoroughly delightful as they could have been. Still, by implementing punctual improvements in areas where Circle of the Moon was lackluster, and by embracing the intimidating value of its twin castles and turning the navigation of its map into its biggest source of challenge, the game succeeds in presenting a very satisfying and somewhat original take on the non-linear facet of the Castlevania franchise. Due to that trait, Harmony of Dissonance is bound to enchant anyone with a love for meticulously exploring a large map and using their wits to figure out a world that is itself one massive puzzle. To anyone else, though, its abundant intricacy, its frequent backtracking, and the long distances it sometimes forces players to traverse may be a bit too much.

Full Post

Castlevania: Circle Of The Moon

The punctual flaws that it displays in the main components of its fabric turn Circle of the Moon into a Castlevania installment that is good, but not great. The transplant of the Symphony of the Night formula into a portable is, in a way, a success, because the marriage of non-linear exploration and RPG elements makes traversing Dracula’s fiend-infested castle an appealing experience filled with discoveries, secrets, challenge, and unguided progression. However, the game could have certainly been more careful with the way it handled its elevated level of difficulty, its visual presentation, and the implementation of the central gameplay mechanic that it builds to call its own. With those problems in mind, Castlevania: Circle of the Moon cannot be universally recommended, as the Game Boy Advance itself holds a couple of entries of the franchise that are easily superior to it. Nevertheless, there is great enjoyment to be found in its imperfect Gothic quest if one has fondness for lack of linearity, is able to ignore its shortcomings, and can deal with some moments of grinding.

Full Post

Golden Sun

As it infused a traditional RPG with a brand of cartoonish cuteness that is usually exclusive to products made within Nintendo’s own walls, it is clear Camelot did not forget to back up those fireworks in presentation with deep strategic layers and opportunities for gamers to toy around with characters and their skills. Therefore, Golden Sun is a balanced game that knows how to appeal to the two audiences it could possibly reach: those that are experts in the genre and want to experience a competent and large handheld adventure; and those that, lured in by its charm, will fall into the grasp of a compelling role-playing quest they would have probably stayed away from had it lacked the Nintendo seal. And in both cases, Golden Sun will please, because its polished mechanics, lovable characters, and gameplay experiments are successful enough that it is clear they were created by a company that had spent a good portion of the decade that preceded its release fine-tuning their skills as RPG creators.

Full Post

Kirby And The Amazing Mirror

Independently of those shortcomings, which are likely the result of how the game marks the franchise’s first full-fledged foray into a fully explorable and intricately connected map, Kirby and the Amazing Mirror is a standout entry in the series. Not just because it boldly throws the character inside a large world with no guidance whatsoever, but also thanks to how it preserves the loose and light fun the pink hero is known for while presenting it in a rather distinctive format. And even if it is arguable the maze-like inspirations of its areas act against the all-encompassing accessibility the property is known for, the game succeeds in making its progression approachable for all ages. Kirby and the Amazing Mirror is, then, a well-executed and brilliant detour, as it finds balance between the characteristics expected from a Kirby game and new features that create its identity. As such, the result could not have been much different, as the adventure is one of the saga’s most notable peaks.

Full Post

Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising

Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising is still a blast, though. It is a fun, engaging, and challenging game whose value is a sight to behold. It may feel far closer to an expansion pack than to a true sequel, but it is a must-buy to either those who greatly enjoyed the original and are looking for more missions of deep strategic values pained with a charming cartoonish look or those that want to get to know the franchise and feel like starting with its most complete and well-presented installment.

Full Post

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

Superstar Saga, though, is not satisfied with one victorious idea. Although simultaneously controlling Mario and Luigi as they explore the overworld and tackle turn-based battles is indeed the main component of its fuel, the game is packed with clever concepts and engaging elements that either derive from that central pillar or adorn it. It is a powerful combination that still makes this Game Boy Advance gem feel fresh and unique, even if various sequels have built upon its central mechanic with some success.

Full Post

Wario Ware Inc.: Mega Microgames

Wario Ware Inc.: Mega Microgames is a game of such great insanity that it is not surprising it came out from where it did: a minor studio quickly put together by Wario and his peers. In the exploration of the gaming developers that had been lurking inside each one of them, though, they have come across a concept whose originality is hard to match, bringing a refreshing perspective to an industry that often lacks sense of humor and that tends to forget that its main products are not games themselves, but sheer fun and entertainment. Their packages of microgames, approaching varied themes, may have low production values, but what could have been an issue becomes a major asset, for it works as the perfect background to the craziness and untamed joy contained within the game’s cartridge. Wario Ware Inc.: Mega Microgames is engaging, addictive, fun, hilarious, and weird; it is pure gaming bliss.

Full Post

Advance Wars

Although it is technically simple, with its visual presentation lacking any considerable fireworks and its limited number of short songs quickly becoming repetitive, Advance Wars is a masterpiece of game design. It is a strategy title that absolutely excels in all areas that truly matter, offering gameplay that is astonishingly complex presented in a way that is accessible and charming. Given its sheer amount of missions, maps, units, and commanding officers, it is hard to fathom the degree of effort that Nintendo and Intelligent Systems put into making everything the title offers be as balanced as it is. However, even in the face of so many eye-popping victories, which are rarely found in such a cohesive conjunction in a single game, its greatest achievement is how it seamlessly brought a new franchise to new territory with so much quality and personality that the results could not have been different from absolute success and millions of enamored fans.

Full Post