The Golden Sun series utilizes both common and unique RPG gameplay mechanics. However, players, especially those new to the RPG genre, may struggle with some gameplay concepts such as the battle system and utility Psynergy. This is a beginner's handbook to surmounting common problems of an ambiguous or technical nature - as the prologues in both games contain little in the way of tutorials. The majority of the troubleshooting guide has been written for those beginning the series with the original Golden Sun, but all of the following can apply to The Lost Age as well.
Effective use of Controls
D-pad: Not likely needing explanation, the directional pad allows the player to move about in 8 directions.
B: Hold to run. Also used to cancel out of menus within and outside of battle.
Start: Brings up the "Pause" menu, which allows access to Save, Sleep settings, and Window/Text settings. Note that this menu cannot be brought up during cut-scenes or battles, so it is recommended that the player saves before initiating either.
L and R: Most likely the most useful buttons to the player, the shoulder buttons can be set to activate a specific utility Psynergy of the players choice; one for both. They can be set by entering the Psynergy menu and viewing the list of spells for the particular Adept, pressing the shoulder button to set the Psynergy to, and selecting with A after scrolling to the desired utility.
Issues with Utility Psynergy
to one other than her mono-elemental Water Seer series will possibly discover the Douse utility in a different class chain. Switching back to water seer, however, will cause her to lose the utility. In his native Wind Seer class chain, Ivan has access to the Whirlwind utility. Switching to a different class causes him to lose this access, though the Ninja class that can be achieved late in the game by Isaac or Garet has access to the identical but cheaper Gale utility. Rectifying the problem requires switching classes to a series that has these utilities, and in the case of Douse, waiting until the Douse Drop is found. This problem is non-existent in The Lost Age, as the resident Mercury Adept will have Douse permanently embedded within the list of Psynergies, no matter what his class is. However, Piers does not innately know Frost except for in his mono-water elemental series so there is a second issue.
A common problem associated with Mind Read is that while pressing A with the intention of bringing up the Psynergy menu in front of a NPC will simply make the player converse with the NPC. A solution which is much faster than using the Select method is to use the L/R hotkeys.
Although seldom used to progress in the main quest, the acquisition of the Growth utility may be elusive to players. It allows for the accelerated growth of small, twitching sprouts so that the resulting vine can be climbed to reach high places. The Psynergy can be acquired the most quickly by switching either a Venus and Mars Djinn between Isaac and Garet, or a Venus and Jupiter Djinn between Isaac and Ivan, while in their respective mono-elemental classes. After the class change, Growth will be added to the players Utilities for as long as the above class change is in effect.
Issues with the Battle system
A large portion of the time the player will spend in Golden Sun will be battling both random and set encounters with monsters and the antagonists. As it is required for the player to defeat at least the game's mandatory bosses - which are much stronger than common enemies - the player will likely not be able to progress very far if only one or none of the following battle elements are taken into account.
The Psynergy you can use widely differ, dependent on the types of Class the characters are set to. You can use weaknesses against the enemy to fell them quicker. To spot an elemental weakness, keep an eye on the battle log at the bottom of the screen, the following punctuation indicate what effectiveness the attack is against an enemy:
".": indicates lowered effectiveness
"!": indicates ordinary effectiveness.
"!!!": indicates raised elemental effectiveness, and thus the enemy will take more damage.
Using elemental weakness can help to defeat enemies quicker. To get a wider variety of Psynergy spells, try experimenting with Classes. But make sure to always keep an eye on your PP meters.
EXP, or experience, is earned by adepts only after defeating a monster and/or it's party in battle. Adepts that have been downed at the battle's end will not receive EXP. It is strongly recommended that players participate, without fleeing, in 75-80% of the random encounters, as the party will almost surely be overwhelmed by the first encounter with one of the game's main antagonists if the necessary levels are not achieved. EXP can be earned in greater amounts by felling a monster with a Djinn of the element that the monster has the least resistance to.
Thus, a general rule of thumb is that it is better to struggle through most, if not all, random encounters, and to avoid excessive fleeing or use of monster deterring Psynergy/items such as Avoid or Sacred Feather, respectively.
Methods of Inflicting Damage: Weapons vs. Psynergy
Unless the player intends to complete the game using only Psynergy in battle, it is wise to upgrade each individual adept's weapon for attack. It is unwise to rely exclusively on Psynergy because the amount of PP the most recently learned spell costs is usually proportionate to the meter of the adept at that point in the game. It is generally accepted by fans of the series that Isaac and Garet serve as Warrior-style Adepts, because of their heavy hitting physical attacks but relatively low PP meters. Conversely, Ivan and Mia can be considered Mage-style Adepts, as they deal very light damage with their physical attacks, but can pump out an extraordinary number of high-power Psynergy spells that either do great damage to multiple enemies (Ivan's Plasma series) or healing spells that can restore HP for one or all adepts (Mia's Wish series). These battle types should be taken into account and used to their full potential. The player should also not neglect to utilize what is termed buffing Psynergy, which boosts statistics of one or more characters temporarily, such as resistance with the Ward Psynergy series. Raising resistance is helpful because it will decrease damage taken from elemental attacks, including most Monster Skills. Conversely, while boosting the attack stat can be somewhat useful, it is often seen as a waste of a turn in which the adept that cast the buffing spell could use an offensive one instead. This is of course a player preference.
In summary, using the attack command is an excellent way to dispatch single enemies without using a single Psynergy point. When certain types of weapons are equipped, the results can rival even the most powerful Psynergy. See Unleash. Likewise, when facing multiple monsters, offensive Psynergy is very useful for whittling away at enemy health meters.
A major faction to the Golden Sun battle schematic that often goes partially or completely ignored is Equipment. There are three components of equipment in Golden Sun, and four in TLA. (This excludes key items).
Consumable items are used for replenishing health, Psynergy points, and for curing status conditions. Many players will neglect to make good use of these items, often relying solely on the healing Psynergy's of Mia (Ply, Cure Poison) and Isaac (Cure, Revive). They can be very useful solution to conserving PP, as they do not depend on an Adept's Psynergy point meter and can be bought quite cheaply. Examples of such items are Herbs (HP), Psy Crystals (PP) and Elixirs (Status).
In addition to common, purchaseable items, there are also limited quantities of consumable items that permanently increase a specific stat of one character. Players should use these limited "bonuses" strategically whenever they are found, rather than A) increasing the stats of the "powerhouse" characters Isaac and Felix that generally do not need them or B) selling them. Examples are Power Bread, which boosts maximum HP by a fraction, or Mints, which boost Agility. These are invaluable when building up an inherently weaker character HP-wise, such as Ivan, or the agility of an inherently slower character, such as Garet. Lucky Peppers in particular should be coveted, and either distributed among all adepts to boost luck, or have focused use on a single adept to grant higher resilience to status conditions like Sleep and Instant Death.
Weapons and Armour
Weapons, as covered above, are a key aspect to maximizing the efficiency of a player's battle style.
For beginning players, who have difficulties with battle tactics: weapons should be upgraded when arriving at every new town, at the cost of using a lot of money. That's why it is wise to play more strategically the more the game progresses, so you can focus yourself on discovering new artifacts, which are definitely more powerful than common stock because of their unique unleash effects.
Whether or not the player chooses to use and upgrade weapons, the game's monsters will most certainly use the attack command regardless. It is good practice to upgrade armor at every new town the player enters on their journey, and obsolete equipment can be sold for a generous amount of coins (75% of the original cost to buy) at vendors. Note that most common armor will not increase resistance, which is essentially the Psynergy equivalent of the defense stat, but mainly increase solely defense. Special armor often gives a boost in resistance to a particular element, however.
Class Changing Equipment (The Lost Age only)
The Lost Age introduces 3 different equipable items that will change an adept's current class to a predetermined class that contains unique Psynergy.
Note that attaining higher levels with the equipped adept will not change the class, but attaching a certain combination of Djinn will. Click here for an example of such equipment.
Utility Items (All golden Sun games)
That type of equipment mixes almost all capabilities of the equipments above, except of changing the characters their class. They slightly change or even improve a class it's function by granting extra abilities, eventually even multiple of them. As long as there is enough space in the inventory or you have multiple copies of them (1 item always takes one space).
You can find items that simulate supporting, attacking, healing, PP-restoring, ailment-inducing psynergy and in rare cases, also boost a character it's stats, being sometimes also an equipment, like the Hiotoko mask that simulates the attack of fire breath.
Being extremely helpful in/ outside (or both) of the battle, you can most of the time use them even when not equiped. The biggest temporary downside is they can break... Besides that, you can, for example add a healing/spirit ring or war ring (improving attack) to grant an abiliy to a character that is not or never supposed to be able to do in general.
Some very special and unique Utility Items, like the Cleric's ring, Lure Cap or Guardian ting only activate when equiping them. Those break the rules written above by granting a character a very useful passive special ability or effect, like being able to use cursed equipment, without consequences.
*small spoiler* There is 1 equipment that never breaks when you use it outside of the battle, you can have multiple copies of for all characters.
Issues with Djinn
- For an in-depth examination of the Djinn mechanic, see this article.
Perhaps the most complex and confusing aspect of the battle system in Golden Sun are the Djinn. It is sometimes not made clear to players that there are more than one Djinn for each element, and that they are essentially required for a normally leveled party to withstand the assaults of bosses. Djinn should be understood to work for the player in the following ways:
1) In most cases, they do not drain PP, except 1 PP by constantly changing stats - during a class change, the computer rounds the stat of a character up or down 2) they generally carry a useful primary effect, and 3) after they are unleashed, can be "stacked" to unleash a powerful multi-targeted attack on the enemy party called a Summon sequence.
Following Golden sun 1 there are 7 Djinn for each Adept in the first game; 28 in all In Golden Sun 2 and Dark Dawn, it has been expanded to a grand total of 72, or 9 djinni an adept.
Players should be made aware several things: that there are several found in the game's Mode overworld. Because many of these locations are usually out of the players way between towns, it is nigh impossible to know exactly where such Djinn are without either pure luck, or outside assistance. This wiki provides full coverage for the locations of all Djinn in Golden Sun series.
On the other hand, Class changes can alter the outcome of a battle, especially the more important ones greatly, after the use of a summon. It's very important to look at the effects on the class change when unleashing a djinni, or by summoning in general. This is especially true in Golden Sun 2 and beyond with those special summons that, to a greater extent influence several characters their stats at the cost of interesting boosts/advantages in a battle.
Recommended pages for reference