Golden Sun: Dark Dawn

There is no doubt Golden Sun: Dark Dawn could have been better. Its Game Boy Advance predecessors were landmarks for the system and for Nintendo on account of their impressive quality and of the fact they gave the company a traditional RPG franchise to call its own. And better yet, the saga uniquely tackled the conventional role-playing gameplay by introducing degrees of puzzle solving and exploration that at times made it interestingly flirt with the adventure genre. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn certainly carries those characteristics, meaning it is a good game. However, playing it is bound to be slightly bitter thanks to how, rather than pushing the franchise forward, the title shockingly tones down on puzzles and exploration while making a few notable mistakes that were not present in the prequels. For that reason, the third installment of the Golden Sun franchise is only truly recommended to fans, since everyone else is better off going for the superior Game Boy Advance epics.

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Mario Golf: Super Rush

Mario Golf: Super Rush is a mixed bag. On a positive note, the title pulls off the miraculous task of reinventing a sport, and it does so in three ways that are excellent. Contrasting with that energy, however, the game has such obvious holes when it comes to content that it works as a prime example of how the success of a franchise can cause studios to take a lazy approach to what they produce. And that lackluster nature sadly happens to be accompanied by gameplay stumbles that cause a perfectly established accuracy mechanic to be thrown out the window and replaced by a much worse system. Still, Mario Golf: Super Rush should not be disregarded. Its core is still good, and be it in the sports’ traditional setup or in its fun new variations, the game is likely to hook those with a love for multiplayer, whether it is online or in person. In a way, it is a testament to the strength of the series, which is able to deliver quality even in an effort that is so incomplete and problematic; yet, it is inevitably sad to see that the value that was meant to be the main driving force of the franchise is working to hold it back from greatness. Because Mario Golf: Super Rush could have been irrevocably marvelous if its brand, concept, and mechanics alone were not enough to guarantee its success.

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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.

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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.

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Mario Tennis Aces

With a good deal of extra care, Mario Tennis Aces could have easily been the best entry in the franchise’s history. Unfortunately, it is considerably held back by the fact many of its offline modes suffer from issues that are so primary one has to wonder how it was possible for a company as big and quality-focused as Nintendo to overlook them. Therefore, while the gameplay itself is stellar, presenting a perfect mixture of solid basics of the sport that are implemented in simple ways and absurd quirks that add a whole lot of excitement, splendor, and strategy to this world of rackets and courts, the content that surrounds it is, at best, problematic. As such, the recommendation of Mario Tennis Aces comes with massive caveats. If one is willing to jump into the game’s online mode and soak in all of the thrill and brutality of those courts, or if one wants to enjoy a great – though limited – multiplayer sessions beside great friends, the game has quite a bit to offer despite its hard-to-ignore faults. If one, on the other hand, is looking for a meaty single-player experience that brings equal levels of challenge, value, and enjoyment, Mario Tennis Aces will not satisfy.

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