Sea of Stars is the Golden Sun remake that we will never receive
I had been keeping an eye on Sea of Stars for quite some time. While The Messenger never appeared on my radar, as I don't particularly have a nostalgi...
I had been keeping an eye on Sea of Stars for quite some time. While The Messenger never appeared on my radar, as I don't particularly have a nostalgic feeling for classic pixel-platformers, Sea of Stars is a whole different story. It revives the nostalgia we hold for legendary RPG adventures like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy, and Golden Sun. It is a modern interpretation of those gems, with a deep understanding of where the genre has been and where it needs to go in order to feel fresh, relevant, and immersive. Sabotage has accomplished it, and the game is an absolute delight.
To gain a better understanding of what makes Sea of Stars so great, you can read Andrew King's review. However, I would like to delve into a very specific comparison with a Game Boy Advance classic that has long been forgotten. Golden Sun and its sequel were both developed by Camelot and released in 2001 and 2002, respectively, while an underrated DS remake appeared in 2011 with rather muted resonance. Both the original games complemented each other with similar ideas, characters, and an unfolding story that provided ample reason for you to invest yourself. I recall playing both games through an emulator on my parents' PC and completing the first part with a sense that it felt like a weekend, only to discover there was a sequel that I had to play.
Similar to Golden Sun, Sea of Stars is intentionally modest in its early hours. You play as one of the two Solstice Warriors, Zale and Valere. They are the only two children in their village blessed with magical powers that will one day be used to protect the world from evil. So, after awakening your powers in the first moments, you are brought to a magical school floating in the clouds, spending every waking minute preparing for a possible pilgrimage. It is a harsh fate, but one that immediately establishes the stakes for the upcoming adventure.
Due to a prophecy that the duo neither understands nor can prevent, Zale and Valere are deprived of their childhood. Nevertheless, they persevere, hoping that something might change. Similar to Golden Sun, these humble beginnings give way to a much grander odyssey. With its compelling story and characters, you won't want to stop playing, while the gameplay itself introduces fresh and exciting elements, building upon the predecessors of the genre.
The greatest advantage of Sea of Stars may lie in its environments themselves. The pixel aesthetics are brimming with intimate details, and a dynamic lighting system imparts a modern touch to the presentation that should technically be decades old. The characters move with impressive animation and sharp design, perfectly complementing the humble villages and magnificent temples of the early chapters. The spirit of Golden Sun is evident in the freely navigable nature of the environments, despite their initial simplicity. Cliffs and platforms can be effortlessly scaled, while the act of flipping switches in dungeons to solve puzzles can bring a greater versatility to certain parts of the level that would otherwise remain hidden. Golden Sun blew me away as a child because it didn't feel like the GBA should be capable of depicting dynamic environments, and even years later, it still amazes me.
The narrative foundations also remind me of Golden Sun, and how the younger members of this fantasy world must grapple with the sins of their fathers and the archaic systems they have erected to protect themselves, even if it means sacrificing their own descendants to make it possible. Darker forces are at play, ones that I have yet to uncover, and it will be fascinating to discover how much the heroes are aware of their fate and how it can be subverted. The opening hours brilliantly set the stage in Sea of Stars, promising a role-playing adventure that is both nostalgic and innovative, with great potential. Let us hope that it continues to channel that obscure Golden Sun energy while paying tribute to other forgotten classics of the genre.