The Golden Sun DS Instruction Manual is 53 Pages Long

This manual is gorgeous. It’s all the things a good instruction manual should be. It’s full-color, it’s packed with all the information you need to know to play the game, it introduces you to the world, the essential backstory and the characters. It even contains a map of the world! That’s as quaint as it is useful!

Would someone like to explain, then, why the first two hours of the game are jam-packed with forced tutorials?

Actually, let me describe one of these tutorials in detail. What the game wants to do is show you how to use a special attack. The game does this by starting a mock battle, then hijacking the controls in order to make the requisite menu selections all on its own. By which I mean, it actually clicks the cursor over to the special attack button, sits there for a few seconds so you can see which one it is, then selects it.

However! This is a round-based RPG battle system, and you have two characters in your party. The game only wants to show you one special attack, so it makes the other character Defend. It does this by hijacking the controls, clicking over to the defend button, sitting there for a few seconds, then selecting it.

It. Makes. Her. Defend.

When the game is moving the cursor across the available battle options in search of the one it wants, it does so at a speed just slightly slower than an RPG-loving special needs student might do it. Which is to say, in the four or five seconds I sat there watching the game make itself Defend, I felt the urge to kill. Myself, some other mortal, a childhood pet — it didn’t matter. Something needed to die, effective immediately.

So the game painstakingly shows you how to equip armor, and how to use special attacks, and how to defend, and how to inhale and exhale as a means of avoiding asphyxiation. There’s one part of these fixed tutorials that really takes a cake, though. It’s the kind of thing that not only drives a man to kill, but drives a man to kill all game designers everywhere, as an aggregate, as punishment for the sins of the few.

The Djinni tutorial.

I won’t explain what Djinni are. It’s not relevant to the conversation, for one, but quite simply if you’re going to play Golden Sun DS and you don’t already know what Djinni are, there’s a wonderful explanation right there in the instruction manual. What’s important here is how the game handles the situation. Here we go: one character asks, “Do you know how Djinni work?” The game prompts you with a Yes/No box. I’ve played the previous Golden Sun games; I know how Djinni work. So I picked “Yes”.

Then another character nearby said, “Hmm. We’d better explain it anyway.” Cue incredibly lengthy and detailed forced tutorial cutscene. At no point during this scene was one iota of new information delivered to me. Every single thing about Djinni in Golden Sun DS is identical to how they worked in Golden Sun and The Lost Age. I sat there for four minutes watching the game click through menus and vomit forth information — which is already spelled out in the instruction manual — and the only goddamn thing I wanted to do (besides murder every game developer etc.) was skip to the part of the game that wasn’t a fucking boring, tedious rehash.

Why is the game written this way? Why does every RPG I play assume I’ve never touched an RPG before? Isn’t this the third Golden Sun game? Argh!

I get that this is a new generation of gamers, and that it’s not fair to expect them to send even a sidewards glance at the strange paper curiosity that comes in the game box. And I get that there are people out there who aren’t bothered when a game explains to them, for the fortieth time, what the A button is. Given all that, though, why don’t they just give me the option? “Do you know how to equip your pants?” (Y/N) “Okay, I won’t go through it in excruciating detail then!”

I know about timed hits, over here.

The next part of the game, after every pixel of the menu is shoved down your throat with nine paragraphs of unskippable exposition, is a fairly clever summary of the plot from the first two games. It’s presented as a theme park, which you get to play around in and interact with. You get to move puzzle pieces, explore highly condensed locations from the first two games, and fight a toy version of the final boss at the end. If you’re a new player this is a fun, informative way to introduce the third game in the series. If you’re a veteran player, it’s a cute, fresh way to explain things you already know.

Too bad that this point in the game comes after the incredibly long and tedious introductory text crawl, followed immediately by two NPCs repeating said text crawl in a super-long, once-again-unskippable conversation.

This is Golden Sun. This series has some of the best retro-style RPG gameplay you’re like to find, but you have to weather the storm in order to get to it. It’s like Camelot got paid by the text box over here.

10 comments to The Golden Sun DS Instruction Manual is 53 Pages Long

  • DragonShadow

    A-fucking-men, dude. Golden Sun, Dark Dawn in particular, is absolutely criminal when it comes to long, sluggish text conversations, tutorials certainly being no exception. I stopped playing the game solely because of it.

  • Kadj

    Aw, crap, something tells me I’m gonna have to be more sporadic checking in here if I want to avoid spoilers for this game, knowing your posting pattern. (Yeah, I’m like super slow in getting games I want. x: )

    Still, yeah, that forced tutorial sounds brutal. I think somewhere amidst all the RPGs with overly complex systems some dev might have thought “Oh, hey, these tutorials are a good idea in case someone hasn’t played an RPG before, I should probably include a tutorial about what experience points are.” And then it became a competition to see which game gives the most explanation about game mechanics.

    Was there even an equip tutorial in GS1/2? I know there was a Djinni tutorial(which if memory serves was skippable, but I might be mistaken), but I honestly can’t remember a forced tutorial for equips… Maybe a “Beginner House” somewhere might have said it, but not as a point of forced dialogue.

  • Nucular

    “skip to the part of the game that wasn’t a fucking boring, tedious rehash.”
    What part is that, may I ask?
    I think I may have missed it.

  • Destil

    Man, this is the one thing that keeps me off of this series as a whole, every time I try and get into it.

  • Elfir

    I was considering picking that game up, despite never really getting into the previous ones, just the other day. Now I’m glad I didn’t. At my current speed of play (with frequent interruptions) it’d take me a full day just to get through the tutorial!

  • Because developers know that many players do not read the manuals (and that many players don’t learn mechanics that way anyway). By also putting the instructions in the game, it helps reinforce how the mechanic works, and then they can look back to the manual for refreshers.

    I can’t think of ANY reasonably complicated game that I’ve purchased in the last while that didn’t have a tutorial for something that was in the manual.

    • Kadj

      The argument Brick was making was less against tutorials and more against forcing them despite being prompted(AND in the manual) to whether or not he knows the information. That the tutorial took forever to make small actions could only have worsened the experience.

      Let’s put it like this… How would you feel repeating a game with fifty tutorials and being told you’re stupid every time you replay the game?

    • Brickroad

      So it’s okay if a game asks if I need a tutorial, and I say no, and then it gives me one anyway because it thinks I’m a retarded liar?

      • Metal Man Master

        Yes. Now go watch the 180-hour tutorial on how to skip the tutorial-skipping tutorial for skipping the tutorial of the skipping tutorials tutorial for tutorial skipping.

        In all seriousness though, I don’t mind a game telling me how to do something, but I can’t stand it when a game takes for-friggin’-ever to explain a relatively simple concept or just takes control itself. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn sounds more and more like the kinda game where I’d play some other game on my DS while waiting for it to shut its stupid mouth and let me play again…Except that it’s for DS. =/

    • I was really just responding to the original statement, which was “Why have the tutorials if the manual says it all anyway?” That Golden Sun DS then goes and gives to you anyway even after asking if you need them is the developers thinking people are stupid.

      I don’t have a problem if the game has a tutorial even though it’s described in the manual, because I learn it better in-game. I do have a problem, though, if the presented choice to skip the tutorial is actually a lie.

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