The Golden Sun series utilises multiple Gameplay Mechanics and Modes. Most of can be found in some form in virtually any game of the role-playing genre, the following article describes them as they apply to the Golden Sun series specifically.
For a primer on how Golden Sun games' approach to the Role-Playing Game genre is similar to and is different from the norm, and technical problems the new player may face see General Gameplay Concepts and Troubleshooting (GBA titles) and General Gameplay Concepts and Troubleshooting (DS titles).
Main article: Adept
The player takes control of a party of between one and eight (but usually four) characters who have the ability to utilise magic (Psynergy). These characters are referred to in-game as Adepts. Each Adept has powers of one of the four Elements, wind, water, fire and earth (referred to in-game as Jupiter, Mercury, Mars and Venus respectively) Over the course of the game, the player assumes the role of the main character (either Isaac in Golden Sun, Felix in The Lost Age or Matthew in Dark Dawn respectively), and as such, this Adept is not given any scripted dialogue in-game, instead only being able to choose from yes-no inputs that the player can select from (though these are largely trivial decisions). In Dark Dawn this system changes, with the player being able to sometimes choose between four emotions to react to certain situations, on top of the yes or no answers. At the end of The Lost Age, both Isaac and Felix leave player control and are hence given scripted lines.
In-game, an Adept's abilities are largely defined by a set of statistics, having RPG staples such as, Attack, Defense, HP, etc. These generally grow as the Adept defeats more enemies and gains experience by defeating enemies in battle.
Two notable exceptions are the availability of Utility Psynergy (magics that can preform environment-altering tasks, such as lifting boulders) and Djinn. Utility Psynergy is generally only obtained by gathering the relevant items, and thus withholding these items until certain events are completed is way of controlling the player's progress through the games.
Main article: Djinn
Djinn are creatures that are spread across the world (referred to in-game as Weyard), which can augment an Adept's powers. As with Adepts, Djinni belong to one of the four elements. Djinni placed on a player are referred to as "Set" Djinni. These Set Djinni provide a simple statistical boost to the player. Furthermore, each Djinni has a unique ability that can be called upon in-battle to provide support (referred to in-game as "Unleash"ing the Djinni), such as an attack or a healing ability. Once called upon, Djinn go into a mode called "Standby", wherein they cease to give statistical bonuses, nor can they be unleashed, but each Djinni on Standby generates a separate resource which can be called upon to "Summon", that is, to cast what amounts to some of the most powerful attacks. Once a summon has been called, the Djinni that were depleted and placed on "Recovery" mode, wherein they cannot be used at all, either for Summons, Unleashes or statistical bonuses. Each turn in battle, one Djinni returns from recovery to set to allow the cycle to repeat. Outside of battle, Djinni can be swapped between Set and Standby at will, but will only return from Recovery to Set after a period of time has elapsed.
Also of note is that when Set, Djinn can have the effect of altering an Adept's Class, which can have many drastic effects on the Adept's natural abilities.
This Djinn system is perhaps the most unique aspect of Golden Sun's gameplay.
Main article: Weyard
The world of Golden Sun is called Weyard. It is an expansive world, with several continents. Rather than being a globe, Weyard is flat; its edges are called "Gaia Falls," where water dumps eternally into the abyss. ("Well," says the old Apojii Islands villager, "at least Gaia Falls will put an end to a few silly arguments. After all, if it's got an edge and you can fall off it, the world is clearly FLAT!") The original Golden Sun features only two large central continents - Angara and Gondowan - while The Lost Age focuses on the remaining continents and islands found across the seas. The civilizations spread throughout are generally small and are nearly devoid of technology, as indicated by how a sailing ship is a cutting edge innovation. Legends tell, however, of the "lost age of man," when Alchemy was commonplace and the world and technology flourished. This age nonetheless led to disaster owing to the inevitable overuse of power, which threatened to destroy all Weyard. Bold action led to using the Elemental Lighthouses to seal away Alchemy forever. In the time-frame of the first two games, some seek to restore this power. Later in Dark Dawn, the world changed due to certain events and the continents changed in form, new islands appeared and some parts of the land have raised, creating new waterfalls in the seas.
Dungeons and Towns
See also: Towns and Settlements
In Golden Sun, as with many RPGs, players traverse a world map in order to reach various locations. These places fall into two general categories - Towns and Dungeons. Towns typically contain an Inn (where the player can pay Coins to heal their party), several Vendors (shops that sell various items), a Sanctum (where players can revive Adepts and cures certain specific status conditions), as well as several houses or other dwellings. Dungeons, on the other hand, comprise the other locations in the game, including caves, deserts, forests, ancient structures such as the Elemental Lighthouses, and other similar settings. Typically, a dungeon involves the player heading toward a destination, defeating enemies and solving puzzles (such as rolling logs or aligning pillars) along the way. Completing the puzzles within dungeons will almost always require making use of Utility Psynergy. Many dungeons feature a boss at or near the end of the dungeon, which must be defeated in order to finish the dungeon. Successfully completing dungeons may allow the player to progress to a new area, advance the story, reward the player with a new item which is needed to progress in the game, or award them a new Summon to use.
Main article: Battle
The Golden Sun games utilize a turn-based battle system, where the player chooses from a series of commands in order to conduct battle: Attack, Psynergy, Djinn, Summon, Item and Defend. The player is also able to Flee from most battles as well as view information on their party via the use of the Status command. Late in The Lost Age and Dark Dawn, the player gains the Switch command, which allows them to decide which of their Adepts will partake in battle.
Battle is usually undertaken in random encounters; when traveling in the overworld or through most dungeon areas, Monsters will appear at random to fight the player. These appearances can be made more common by using the Lure Cap, or potentially avoided by using the Sacred Feather item or the Avoid Psynergy if the player's party is at a high enough level.
The exception to random encounter battles are scripted Boss battles, which generally occur upon completion of their relevant dungeon or story event.
Golden Sun: The Lost Age introduces two new unlockable difficulty modes in which the game can be played. Although no option is given on the first playthrough, in the second game, the two other modes can be accessed once the game has been completed and there's a completed save file. In Easy Mode, you can play through the game again, with your party retaining all levels, stats, and coins from their completed save file, thus making the game significantly less difficult - this mode is comparable to so-called "New Game Plus" modes in other games. Hard Mode, on the other hand, reverts the player to their default starting stats and increases the toughness of the game's enemies, thus making the game significantly more difficult. No reward is given for completion of either mode specifically.
Main article: Battle Mode
Accessed from the main screen, the Lobby allows the player to fight either against a gauntlet of monsters that have been scaled to the player's level, or another player, depending on whether a Link Cable has been inserted.
This mode also provides access to the hidden Sound Test in The Lost Age. If the player talks to the woman in the lower-left of the screen while holding either shoulder button, they will be able to listen to songs from the game of their choosing. The full selection of music only becomes available once the game has been cleared at least once.
Main article: Password
The Password function allows the player to send data from Golden Sun to The Lost Age. This is accessible by pressing R, left and start in the opening menu of Golden Sun. There's three types of passwords:
- Bronze: Transfers the characters' names, levels, Djinn collection, utility Psynergy items, and the status of certain Golden Sun story events so as to add to and influence story events in The Lost Age. The Bronze password is only 16 characters long.
- Silver: Transfers all of the above, plus the exact stats of the original characters, so that stat boosts from items like the Power Bread are not lost. The Silver password is 61 characters long.
- Gold: Transfers all of the above, plus the total amount of coins Isaac's party has amassed at the end of Golden Sun, as well as every item in the four characters' inventories. The Gold password is notoriously long, weighing in at 260 characters, over four times the length of the Silver password.
This method allows direct data transfer from a chosen Clear Data file to The Lost Age via Game Link Cable. This is accessible by pressing R, left and start in the opening menu of Golden Sun. The Game Link Cable transfers the same stuff as the Gold password, plus Pause menu settings. In addition, while the Gold password transfers equipment unequipped and Djinn shuffled, the Game Link Cable transfers equipment and Djinn organized among the characters exactly as they were at the end of Golden Sun.