- Classic Hard Mode - Difficulty: *
- Challenge: Use of strong equipment and leveling up ; Djinn Boost Usage for Class change ; restriction: without unleashing djinn/ Summons - Difficulty: between * and **
- Character Nuzlocke or Solo Game - Difficulty * to *** (the more you reach the end)
- Minimum Level Challenge - Difficulty: **
- Djinn based restrictions; depends on situation. Lots of switching Difficulty: * to **
The end is defined as downing the end Boss and beating the main hidden ones, except the strongest of them.
1. Classic Hard Mode Edit
The classic Hard Mode is no different than a hard mode in any other game, although it is only accessible in Golden Sun: The Lost Age and not the original Golden Sun. To play Hard Mode you must start a new file after completing the main game. You start the game out as you normally would (with no stats carried over) but your enemies are far stronger - 1.5 times the amount of HP and 1.25 times the amount of Atk and Def.
It is recommended you know the game well, having at least ended Golden Sun 1 or having reached the point of defeating Briggs. One mistake can cause the loss of one or multiple of your current battling Adepts, when playing as an intermediate player. If you do not have a save File of someone else, you'll have to finish the game at least once to get access to it, beating the story-scripted end Boss.
For intermediate players, it is also recommended that you level up as fast as you can and as high as you can. It is also highly advised you enter a Password in this mode in particular so that the power of the original Golden Sun party is noticeably higher than it would ordinarily be, and allows access to all the Djinn. Boss battles, in particular, will be sharply more challenging. Interestingly enough, the only two enemies that do NOT get as significant a challenge boost as others in Hard Mode are Dullahan, the strongest optional superboss (The maximum amount of HP the game's code allows any enemy to have is 16,383 and, because Dullahan ordinarily has 16,000 HP, this restriction keeps his HP from being increased as dramatically as it is for other monsters.), and Valukar (for similar reasons). It is also worth noting that any monster spawned mid-battle (such as the balls Star Magician summons) will retain their original normal-mode stats, and thus will be significantly easier than their Hard Mode counterparts.
Hard mode only exists for optional challenge value, as the the trial road in Shaman village offers a slight different challenge to the player, in comparison to the normal mode and also depending on the path you take.
Other difficulties (self-made challenges) written down below are not formally introduced by the developers of the game. However, due to the game's nature, you are able to implement those difficulties below yourself.
2. Challenge: Play a Normal/Hard Game using only equipment and leveling up Edit
(1) Use Djinn Boost for Class change but not for Summons ( * and 1/2 ) Edit
(2) Do not use Djinn & Summons ( ** and 1/2 ) Edit
Even if the overpowered Djinni are not used at all, or to a lesser extent in that game mode (only for Class/ stat boosts only). The game is still playable without Summons as well. By using very strong equipment, combined with high levels, good items, you'll learn to make good use of the unleashes your equipments provide.
The only thing that becomes a challenge now, ESPECIALLY if you wish to battle the end boss that way, is the huge amount of money you need to collect, in case you wish to use items to protect yourself. A good way to improve your characters even more, is by using stat-boosters.
That's the extra, added and hidden challenge of the game :) It would be best to use it at the highest possible level, or ... 99. The reason: stat boosts, due to equipments, etc, plus not knowing what stat will be capped will be shown, when you'll reach that level, so you do not waste those precious resources.
So, YES! Leveling up and gathering the money and resources, end-game wise for waters of life, Mist Potions and gaining experience is exhilarating.
3. Nuzlocke, character Nuzlocke or Solo game: Edit
(Progress dependent: * to ** and 1/2, Superboss *** )
It's a game for all players: a test of luck, combined with ability - How far can you go?! Being able to end the game like that, with one or more characters left, shows you are at least a very good player !
It's an idea inspired by the Pokémon game. You play the game like in real life, that, when one character is "downed", you give yourself the rule to count that character as "dead". When having the first 4 characters of course, especially in TLA and Dark Dawn, it wouldn't be possible to put your characters in the back row or in the PC, like in Pokémon.
That's why you can use the placement of your unusable or dead character strategically in the front to lessen the damage of multi-hitting psynergies.
The biggest difficulty is the one you set up for yourself. I think it would be fair to point all the instant-down moves as instant kills, even in scripted encounters, except the one in Prologue (Golden Sun 1). To lessen the difficulty a little bit, choose for yourself if you wish to see your characters as "revived" by Alex, when you are at the Jupiter Lighthouse.
- If all Characters are downed, the challenge IS over. But, the game can still be played normally.
- If all your characters are KO'd, that challenge is over. Please restart the game from scratch.
- Still not hard enough?! That challenge is, for those who dare, even playable as a Minimum Level Challenge!
4.Minimum Level Challenge Edit
(1) Beating/ progressing the story with 1 character - Difficulty: ** and a half
Those are even more difficult game modes - To give an even bigger challenge than Hard Mode ... Accessible in Golden Sun 2 and Partially in 1 (only Normal). In short: it's a Hard mode, almost 100% minimum level game - for Gameboy Advance Players, without access to a VBA and/ or cheating device.
For those who do not wish to use the VBA, are not able to install it, or see the code below as cheating, there still is a way to give yourself almost the same gaming experience in Hard Mode as the one below, albeit being more restrictive in some ways, or ... Giving you also other options (seen from another perspective).
How can you play that way?
Play Golden Sun 1 (or 2 or 3) with a character you choose it has to level up (eventually even with stat boosters), so you can progress normally in the game. Keep your characters KO'd, until saving your game in front of the BOSS's and fight them:
- with the character you give the permission to level up. You do this to progress in your game.
- with the 3 characters you do not wish to level up: face the Boss and restart your game when done, so the basic levels are kept - to give yourself the challenge as closely related as the one below.
By playing Golden Sun 2 as well, the same way, and by combining the 2 games, you'll effectively have 2 characters being leveled up and 6 non-leveled, maximizing the gaming experience.
Tip: By looking closely at the Adepts their stats, you can see some of them have stats that are extremely similar, as well as their movepool. I propose you to choose to level up one of those characters, in case you do not know what characters* to choose for that challenge ! That way, every character will be able to contribute to the battle with his own and unique strategy in that low level challenge.
* = indicates a spoiler at the bottom of the page to those who wish to know which characters have a similar movepool.
Of course, the game experience will feel different than all the other game modes, but it will still give you a taste of both the Minimum Level Challenge below and simultaneously a good part of a normal gaming challenge, giving you effectively a ...
Bonus of minimum Level Challenge (Normal/Hard): Edit
(1) The battle with Maopa will, finally!!! Become a REAL challenge, comparably to the battle with Briggs. Having activated the (golden) PASSWORD, then the gladiators from Tolbi and the thieves from Vault will also prove to be entertaining ... When encountered.
(2) After having reached the meeting point with other characters, the game also gives an extra replay value as well in case you wish to re-travel all the continents with the party from Golden Sun 1.
(3A) In Battle Mode, you get an extra and really good challenge by fighting an extremely high variety (almost all) of monsters you already have encountered, due to your low level! This is NOT the case in the Easy, Normal and Hard game mode, where you more than surely leveled your party up! The reason behind that is because you are only able to fight monsters of the lowest levels, compared to those of YOUR characters.
(3B) Following that, you can try and test even more battling strategies! Tip: have a save file where you battled and another where you did not battle the Super Bosses, to give yourself an alternative challenge.
(4) The lower the level, the higher the encounter rate. Due to a higher monster encounter rate, it is easier to earn money. If you wish, it is also possible to have even more battles in case you have the lure cap. Having less to no battles on the world map and in dungeons is still possible with the psynergies "avoid", "sand" and sacred feathers. When at sea, by just selecting "hover" on a Jupiter Adept once you have it, travelling can also be done safely!
5. Limited Djinn Edit
"Impure run" * Edit
-> "Tri-Run" *
"Class-item run" (GS2 only) **-* Edit
"Reserve Run" *.5 Edit
"No Djinn Run" *** Edit
These are a set of challenges that are based on Djinn available. Tough not particularly difficult (except for possibly the Class-item run and the No Djinn run), these can be tiring to pull off due to constant switching. In essence, these involve only allowing certain set ups of Djinn. Due note that in order to allow the game to be completed, you are allowed to have all Djinn on standby (ready to summon) on a character to use their mono-elemental field abilities (such as Whirlwind). Similar changes are allowed to access Growth and the like. However, the player cannot battle with a character in a different state than the rules allow. (The player should either have the character only use normal attacks or run from the battle).
Impure Run: The least restrictive, the player can use any set up they want... only, they cannot have any character in their normal element (Ex: Ivan can use fire, water or earth classes but not the air ones). The djinn are allowed though (Ivan can have Jupiter Djinn on him as long as either a) their are on standby or b) he has a different element Djinn on him to give him a different class). The point is to get the player to use odd arrays of Djinn they wouldn't normally use.
The player may wish to turn an Impure Run into a "Tri Run" when the necessary Djinn become available. This involves strictly using only the tri-elemental classes (Ninja, Dragoon, White Mage, etc.) This iteration is much easier in GS2 due to the tri-elemental classes having multiple levels.