Man, how about that Gameboy Advance library, am I right? For being on the market for only three years until the DS came out, that little monster had an amazing selection of games. You got safe sequels and remakes like the Super Mario Advance game, but you also got good stuff like Mario & Luigi as well!
Then there was Golden Sun.
Originally meant for the Nintendo 64, Golden Sun tells the story of Isaac, a boy tasked with saving the world. Sounds pretty normal for an RPG! This time, the mission is to halt the bad guys from using four orbs, called the elemental stars, to light the four elemental lighthouses around the world of Weyard. Doing so would cause a cataclysmic death for all of Weyard as the elements of earth, fire, wind and water would go haywire.
Working with the bad guys is Isaac's childhood friend Felix. He's working with the evil Saturos and Menardi to keep his sister, Jenna, safe as they take her hostage as insurance that Isaac and company won't attack them. Without spoiling too much of the plot, the end of the game has a cliffhanger with Felix, Jenna, and others adrift at sea after the death of Saturos and Menardi.
This is where The Lost Age comes in.
The direct sequel to Golden Sun was actually meant to be on the same N64 cart as the original game. Due to size limitations, the game was split into two games. Which works out well, as the game was meant to have two "books" to begin with. Golden Sun: The Lost Age picks up right where Golden Sun ended.
Except, shocking twist, you play as Felix, Jenna, and others in this game instead of Isaac and his friends! Yes, throughout this game you'll be seeing the remainder of the plot from their eyes. It's the first of many surprising changes (and improvements!) to the first title.
It's not often you continue the same story in an RPG through the eyes of the very people you've been chasing for an entire game. However, there's more to Golden Sun: The Lost Age than just a shift in party. Major changes have occurred between the two titles, chief among them being map size.
Golden Sun takes place on the continent of Angara and a tiny part of the continent of Gondowan.
Golden Sun: The Lost Age laughs at this puny map and sets sail for a much grander adventure. This time, all of Weyard is yours to explore!
This isn't all, of course. Another huge addition to Golden Sun: The Lost Age is the unique summons that aren't limited to just one element. In the first Golden Sun, each element (Earth/Venus, Fire/Mars, Wind/Jupiter, Water/Mercury) had four summons of increasing strength. In Golden Sun: The Lost Age, you can find new Summon Tablets that teach you new summons. These unique tablets teach summons, which pull elemental damage from multiple sources. One summon may use Earth and Fire, while another heals you using Water and Wind.
Of course, the ability to class change is back from the first Golden Sun but many new classes are available, depending on the Djinn you have equipped. Without going into extreme detail, Djinn are collectible creatures of the four elements that you can use in battle to gain an advantage or do an attack. Using them primes a summon ability, which require a certain number of elemental Djinn be used before certain summons can be used.
The way you equip these Djinn to each party member determines their class. This also determines what type of Psynergy, this series' version of magic, each character can use. Give someone a mix of some earth and wind Djinn to use, and they can learn new Jupiter and Venus Psynergy (a fancy way of saying wind and earth magic).
There are plenty of combinations thanks to the expanded list of classes in Golden Sun: The Lost Age, along with new items that change your class simply by equipping them!
Speaking of Psynergy, along with all returning spells from the first game, Golden Sun: The Lost Age vastly expands the list of spells, which only encourages further experimentation. Now you can strike down fools with lightning, volcanic eruptions, fire whips, and earthquakes to your heart's content! Enjoy your godly might, teenage heroes!
But perhaps for me, the biggest shock in Golden Sun: The Lost Age isn't the expanded map. It's not the bigger list of Djinn or the new multi-element summons. It's not even the cool new list of Psynergy, or four superbosses to Golden Sun's one. It's that it manages to do all of this while staying perfectly true to the original title.
Despite both being the same game originally, the two are vastly different parts to the same story. However, in spite of this, Golden Sun: The Lost Age manages to prove that "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is a perfectly viable truth. Golden Sun laid the groundwork. Instead of starting over, The Lost Age embraces and builds upon it.
It's one of the best sequels ever because it doesn't necessarily stick to its roots and play it completely safe. However, it does use the original game's formula as a wonderful jumping off point. Where Golden Sun was more or less a basic by-the-numbers fantasy RPG (albeit a fantastic one), Golden Sun: The Lost Age moved beyond that to truly give the series its own identity far removed from other RPGs.