Golden Sun: Dark Dawn will long be argued--mostly by fourteen year olds on the internet among a bedroom of anime posters and nacho cheese stained clothes--as the single greatest accomplishment of humankind. Which if nothing else should serve as testament to the a posteriori fact that some people have really stupid opinions about video games. But we can all forgive them for it. Dark Dawn is very nice looking and we were all fourteen at one point and thought things were good when they were not. (It's the only explanation that accounts for Nickelback being a top selling band and two sequels from The Matrix) So putting Camelot's best foot forward, let's talk graphics and presentation--two areas in which the Golden Sun series indisputably excels. Dark Dawn doesn't have the same impact as its GBA predecessors. This is to be expected on a system where the limits were already pioneered by RPGs like Tales of Innocence. So despite being constrained by hardware that was obsolete even by 2004 standards, Camelot makes it up in _style_. Their use of color and design is masterful and brings it to the forefront of a library brimming with so many cookie-cutter variations on the anime theme. Which isn't to say that Dark Dawn doesn't conform in its own way (particularly in character design), but they go about it in a very aesthetically pleasing way. From the starting area in its hazy golden hue to the world being cast in shadow, environments manage to paint the necessary atmosphere in order to relate the mood of the story. Towns have their own styles, and there are several moments that deliver a reaction bordering awe. The effects are another staple set by the prequels, and they produce some impressive eye candy. Golden Sun may be mired in traditional RPG mechanics to a fault, but they do it better than most and that may turn around to being one if its strongest points. Their adherence to battle summons--for example--are every bit as balance-wrecking here as their heyday among the Final Fantasy series, but on a handheld like this they look fantastic while doing it. Camelot upped the ante by adding brief effects to critical strikes, and there is enough diversity across the numerous weapons to keep one's attention even through countless random encounters. Level design is the area where Camelot have best proven themselves. Caves and towers are well conceived and executed, with paths that wind back into themselves, always presenting terrain that can be manipulated to provide easier access the next time around. The puzzles rarely tax the frontal lobe, but they're very fun all the same. It's been far too long since we've seen this sort of effort employed by the Zelda franchise, and this is why Golden Sun is the spiritual successor to it and other earlier games like Lufia. Dark Dawn is easily at its best when you're left to explore a level and utilize your abilities free from the nuisances of its burdernsome script. Lamentably, Camelot learned nothing after two games and it is the story that suffers most. I know people who were unable to get past the intro of GS1 specifically because of its long winded dialogue and uninteresting introduction. Golden Sun's plot can often be so transparent, so cliche, and so insipidly banal that it becomes intellectually offensive to read. And Dark Dawn only expounds upon this by conceiving an entire game based around these principles. The characters seem to foremost enjoy reveling in complete irrelevance. Most of them are downright unlikeable, such as the nagging female capable of displaying the full range of emotions from scorn to scolding. She acts as sort of a henpecking matriarch to the group in a role for which nobody ever asked. Your motley crew wouldn't be complete without a furry; a nerdy character (you can tell he's smart because he's the one wearing glasses) who despite his own premise doesn't ever do or say anything betraying an iota or semblance of intellect; and a couple others they threw in simply to fill the quota of two members per elemental but are lacking in personality and script lines. In fact you recruit them so close to the end that there is no other explanation than to write "eight playable characters" on the box. Considering the company they keep, it's no wonder Isaac and Matthew choose to remain conspicuously silent. But it doesn't even end at the playable cast: your party will never pass up a chance to exchange formalities with anybody they meet--from the most briefly relevant character to their own worst enemies. And they will continue conversing long after ones patience has expired, and far beyond anything useful or pertinent can be discerned from the conversation. At one point, they stand around talking while a child hangs from a bridge. In others, they find the time to chat while everything around them goes to hell. They will stand around talking every time one of them has an emotion or reacts to something, and then the others will share their thoughts about it. Nobody in their world can resist saying in twenty pages of superfluous speech what could have been said in a single sentence (or better yet not at all). The most surprising thing about Dark Dawn is that within these voluminous pages of verbose dialogue, Camelot somehow found no room for anything of consequence to transpire. In fact, approximately 75% consists of a simple _fetching quest_ and the many obstacles that conveniently present themselves along the way, such as a gate that you can't pass or a person who demands you to run other errands. By the time you get to the crux of the game, it feels like little is accomplished but a great amount of time has been expended. The final punchline at the end of this twenty four hour joke (on the first play--your times may vary) is that you never receive any sort of closure. You literally spend all your time working toward something that has no end result. Perhaps it was Camelot's intent to end with a cliffhanger, but what they delivered was an abrupt finale: imagine if The Return of the King ended immediately after the Minas Tirith battle, and never bothered to say what happened to the ring, or Sauron, or any of the characters. Ultimately, Dark Dawn is a very good RPG engine. It utilizes time tested mechanics that have proven to make good games even decades after their conception. But these are enjoyable despite the name attached. Dark Dawn also has very good production value. But being an RPG, one has to relate to the protagonist enough to want to experience events through them and be presented with a coherent story and sequence of events that doesn't feel like a chore to slowly plod through or mash the A button to circumvent as quickly as possible. Dark Dawn doesn't welcome you into it so much as plant you into the role and then force your character down a very linear path that culminates in absolutely nothing but a group of furries waving at you. So that is how I will remember Dark Dawn.