Apart from making the jump to 3D, Dark Dawn looks and plays as you would expect. While I was prompted to use the stylus to perform spells, I'm happy to report that you can play the whole game with just the d-pad and buttons. Graphically, Dark Dawn retains the bright, colorful look of the series, and it looks very sharp for a DS title. Fans may decry the transition to 3D, but older gamers will likely be reminded of Camelot's Shining Force games on the Sega Saturn -- something I'm more than happy to remember.
The E3 demo was brief -- half an hour, maybe -- and was split into two sections: battle and adventure. I tried the adventure first, which tasked me with navigating a dungeon and solving some puzzles. Using elemental magic, I was able to move objects or start fires. The dungeon in the demo relied mostly on using telekinesis to move statues over switches which, in turn, opened new pathways. If you've played the previous games in the series, you should be right at home.
The combat, too, plays out as it has in the past. It's a traditional turn-based affair, with players selecting their actions and waiting for the enemy to respond. As in the other Golden Sun titles, you have a basic attack, Psynergy (magic) and Djinni. The Djinni are easily the stars of the show, offering powerful magical abilities and playing a key role in Dark Dawn's summoning system. Just like most RPGs, summoning spells bring forth creatures that aid you in battle. In order to perform a summon, a specific combination of Djinni must be standing by. Since you have to use a Djinn to put it in standby, combat isn't simply about the effective use of Djinni, but also using Djinni that will help you build a summon.
The payoff for a summon is a massive creature, spanning both screens, that brings the pain to any baddies foolish enough to get in your way. I only managed a single summon in my short session with the game, a giant Egyptian pharaoh that burst out of a pyramid and laid my foes to waste. It was, as the kids say, sweet. It also couldn't be skipped, which might get annoying after a while.
After the combat section concluded, I was given the opportunity to explore a colorful village filled with equally colorful people. The village looks great on the DS, with lots of details and background objects, many of which can be searched in classic RPG home-raiding style. The townsfolk didn't have a lot of information, but suffice it to say that some stuff went down at the end of The Lost Age, leaving the world changed and -- once again -- in peril.
Based on my short demo, Dark Dawn doesn't appear to add many new wrinkles to the Golden Sun formula, which is by no means a bad thing. As I said, Camelot is more than capable of creating an engaging RPG, and Dark Dawn certainly grabbed my attention in the few minutes I spent with it.