Playing Golden Sun is like returning to your bedroom after being away for years. You'll still know where everything sits, and you can pretty much navigate the place with your eyes shut. Golden Sun presents that type of familiarity, especially with gamers who enjoyed the 16-bit era of role-playing games with the Super NES.
Mike is right—Golden Sun doesn't have a lot of technical wizardry behind it.If the game appeared on any other platform than the Game Boy Advance, it would probably be called a stripped-down role-playing game (RPG). But Golden Sun has proven that the less a game contains, less chance exists that something will go wrong. It's refreshing to see a game as simple and as enjoyable as Golden Sun released in the middle of all the next-generation RPG releases.
My main praise goes to the game's battle system. It's simple, and I like that. The heroes stand next to each other, facing down a horde of sprite-based monsters, and they politely wait their turn to attack. While that type of battle system is pretty much the basis for all current RPG systems, Golden Sun just gives you the base model without any extras. And believe it or not, it's a welcome feature. Most next-generation RPGs always have to add some twist to the battle system for the sake of being on the cutting edge. That cutting edge means the player is forced to learn a whole new battle system each time they sit down with a new RPG. Golden Sun lets the gamer settle back in simple command-based conflict resolution.
Secondary praises go to the music. Mike mentioned that Golden Sun proves that the Game Boy Advance, despite it processing power and size, is still capable of producing quality soundtracks. Plugging in a pair of headphones really brings the music to life. I'm not overstating when I say the game has one of the best soundtracks of any RPG I've played in the past few years. Full orchestras aren't necessary as long as game developers have a composer who can get the most out of a Midi keyboard. Again, simple but effective.
The only thing I wish simplicity had stayed out of was the story. I remember 16-bit RPGs more for their long and well thought-out stories. I was expecting something similar with Golden Sun, but in the end I was doing pretty basic RPG 101 activities. It might be a case of having been younger and more easily impressed back in the day, but I found Golden Sun's characters to be flat and acted a bit too predictably.
Those epiphanies may just be part of coming back to traditional, non-cutting edge RPGs. Even when sitting in a place like your old bedroom, you remember how much fun you once had in there. But although you know you'll probably never capture as much enjoyment from it now than you did then, it's still nice to come back.