Mike's movie comment reminded me of a joke Johnny Carson had made when he hosted the Academy Awards one year. During the telecast, he called the awards show "two hours of sparkling entertainment spread out over six hours." That seems to sum up my experience with Golden Sun: The Lost Age pretty well. Just like Mike, I found the sequel much longer than it needed to be. This isn't a jab at the game, but The Lost Age doesn't really have that much in the way of depth, and it certainly doesn't have enough to stay interesting for the thirty to forty hours it takes to play.
With respect to story, I wouldn't go so far as Mike and call the plot convoluted. Perhaps it is compared to the Super Nintendo era, but comparing it to some of the current role-playing games I've played, the plot's not all that hard to follow. The problem is the extended dialogue sequences Mike mentioned, and how incredibly long they are. I'm generally good with extended dialogue sequences and cutscenes, but the dialogue in The Lost Age is so bland and uninteresting they're really a chore to read through.
Just like the dialogue, the dungeons are much longer than they need to be. Big, winding, and full of backtracking, I would have been much happier if they were shorter and took less time to navigate. However, there was one thing that made the dungeon crawling more bearable: the puzzles. Yes, as Mike pointed out, they can get pretty banal, and there are as many puzzles as the dungeons are long, but they gave me much needed relief from getting blitzed by random encounters—most of the random battles aren't very exciting at all. The djinn system is interesting but it offers nowhere near the customizability as some other RPG battle/magic systems. The Lost Age does offer quite a few options during battle, but in terms of tactics or strategy, there is very little. Boss battles in particular, slip very easily into the all too familiar cycle of hack, summon and heal. In later dungeons, I found myself constantly casting an enemy avoidance spell, and getting much more enjoyment from solving the puzzles than I did battling. Still, every dungeon had tried my patience by the time they finished, with or without random battles.
One last problem I also wanted to point out was the vague objectives the game gives players. Especially in the first half of the game, I found myself ambling around, unsure of what I was supposed to do next. Events occurred like happy little accidents, and sometimes I wondered whether I had happened onto a side quest or if I was indeed on the right path. I wasted a lot of time running from town to town, adding even more time to the clock.
It's all right if Camelot wanted to take three games to complete the Golden Sun saga. There may have even been technical issues such as storage capacity that made it a requirement to use more than one cartridge. But so much of The Lost Age felt like extra padding. So much of it felt utterly unnecessary. Mike was right to say the game shows all its tricks in the first twelve hours. It's twelve hours of glorious entertainment spread out over thirty.
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