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Golden Sun: Dark Dawn's Hiroyuki Takahashi on the new game, hoaxes and 3DS


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It has been seven years since the last Golden Sun game, the GBA's Golden Sun: The Lost Age. Now, after that long wait, Camelot Software Planning has put aside Mario-flavored sports games (and Capcom's We Love Golf) to produce a new entry in the revered RPG series, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, available next week on DS. We spoke with Hiroyuki Takahashi, one of the two Takahashi brothers responsible for creating the series, and Nintendo assistant producer Yuya Sato about the new game and about bringing a seemingly lost series back to life.

Camelot, indeed, worried that the new DS audience was too far removed from the receptive fanbase for the Golden Sun series from back in the early 2000s. "During the development, we were concerned that players have generationally changed after seven years," Takahashi told Joystiq. "Although the success of the older titles shaped the direction for this title, we were not convinced that doing the same thing again would lead to success. What we wanted to do was not to follow our past glories – but to exceed our efforts in the past Golden Sun games in every aspect. Now that the game is launching soon, I'm eager to see how it is received by both longtime fans as well as those being exposed to the series for the first time."

Those longtime fans will be able to jump right back into the world, with a story that features most of the same characters, aged 30 years. The protagonists this time are their children. Though for the designers, picking right back up wasn't a simple matter. "In fact," Takahashi said, "it's not easy at all to continue the storyline for RPG games!" Aside from the new generation of characters, the series' trademark "Psynergy," has reached its next generation of complexity. "Some of the Psynergies in this title obtain plural effects unlike in the previous titles. So players can't instantly decide which Psynergy to use when you face certain situations – it challenges their imagination."

One of the faked "Golden Sun: The Solar Soothsayer" images.

Camelot may not have needed to worry so much about fans coming back. In 2007, in the absence of a DS Golden Sun, one fan went so far as to invent one. A fan going by the name "Opium" circulated a hoax about an upcoming game called Golden Sun: Solar Soothsayer, and later revealed to Vooks that he did so to generate more discussion about the series. Unfortunately, "Opium" can't take credit for the decision to create Dark Dawn, as Takahashi hadn't seen the Solar Soothsayer hoax until we pointed it out.

"'The Solar Soothsayer' sounds really cool," Takahashi opined. "I wonder how the story would go ... I want to see how it would turn out!" As an admitted fan of his own series, Takahashi mused about what it would be like to play a Golden Sun game without foreknowledge of every aspect. "I really love the gameplay and storyline of the Golden Sun series, so it's natural for us as developers and fans to be curious about how it would feel to play a game in the series without having spent years making it." Nintendo assistant producer Sato Yuya hadn't seen it before either, but said "We now understand that the fan who created this hoax image had a very strong desire for the sequel!"

Using 3D effects, if we can communicate the excitement of live sporting events or the emotion of RPG games, we can surely increase the value of these experiences.- Hiroyuki Takahashi

The move to the DS meant that Camelot could update the game with a new touchscreen-based interface. Dark Dawn makes full use of this functionality, with the ability to control the game entirely with the stylus -- but only if you want to. "We have designed Dark Dawn with the mindset that touch screen and traditional button controls should be basically interchangeable," Takahashi said. "I think some players may find themselves switching between the two input methods depending on the situation."

Of course, the DS's increased processing power also affords Camelot the ability to switch to a 3D graphics engine. "For many years we have been researching polygonal graphics, and Dark Dawn is the result of our effort," Takahashi said. "Even though polygons require a big workforce, it gives the player a big impact on the overall experience. For instance, the game world is the core of Golden Sun and required innovation." The change in graphics allowed Camelot to add a sense of "innovation" to distinguish the new game from the previous two. "Polygons also impact our storytelling, letting us make characters' faces more expressive."

Dark Dawn comes out just as developers are starting to work on the next iteration of Nintendo handhelds: the 3DS. While, of course, Camelot couldn't announce specific plans in our interview, Takahashi told us that the platform is "suitable for both sports and RPG games," both of the genres for which Camelot has become known. "Using 3D effects, if we can communicate the excitement of live sporting events or the emotion of RPG games, we can surely increase the value of these experiences."

Speaking from Nintendo's side, Sato said he understands Camelot "has a very strong interest in Nintendo 3DS," adding, "I would like to challenge them so that we can create something new together."

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