Most of the psyenergy abilities are also handy in combat. However, elemental creatures called djinn are the real perks in a fight. You encounter, and possibly collect, more than 70 of the critters during the adventure. Each djinn is also aligned with one of the four elements and can be "set" to characters to enhance all their statistics as well as used in combat. Each djinn is capable of executing an offensive, defensive, or enhancing move in combat that is always useful in some way. Once you've used a djinn in combat, it shifts to a summoning state that lets you use it to perform powerful attacks that call mystic creatures in for a beatdown of your foes. Although it takes a bit of getting used to, the djinn system is very useful and keeps combat interesting. One thing to note about Dark Dawn's combat is that it makes use of the time-honored random encounter system that finds you jumped by foes while making your way around the world. Although this gets a bit irritating early on, you come across items that help you manage enemy encounters such as feathers to avoid fights and a special hat to encourage them.
Making your way around the world of Weyard is a pleasant experience overall thanks to Golden Sun: Dark Dawn's presentation, which ranks among the best on the DS. The visuals have brought the 2D world of the GBA games into full 3D on the DS to good effect. The world, the characters, and especially the attacks in combat look great. Psyenergy, djinn moves, and summons are visual highlights thanks to short cinematic sequences that add drama to the action. While the summon cinematics can get a little lengthy, you can hurry them along by skipping straight to the damage-dealing conclusion. The game's audio, which is light on voice, is very appealing and includes a variety of music tracks that get better as you get further in the game.
The visuals in the game are some of the DS' best this year.
But for all its charm, there are some aspects of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn that dull its otherwise winning sheen. The game's localization is solid but inconsistent, with bland conversations and obligatory exposition mixing unevenly with flashes of the lively humor and sass seen in Nintendo's better RPG efforts. This inconsistency keeps Golden Sun from settling into a storytelling groove. In terms of pacing, Golden Sun is pretty deliberate which, given that you're looking at a 30-hour-plus quest, is both good and bad. While it's nice to have a meaty quest to undertake, some conversations go on a little too long. In addition, managing your inventory, psyenergy, and djinn can be cumbersome because of the game's menu system. The ability to use the DS touch screen is helpful but still doesn't quite cut it.
While it may never be considered a classic, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is certainly a DS RPG worth playing. The game's great visuals, solid gameplay, lengthy quest, and interesting story add up to a very solid experience. Longtime fans will be especially pleased to get the chance to adventure in Weyard again, while newcomers won't feel left out.