Control the elements with your djinn in the rebirth of this GBA favorite.
Golden Sun Dark Dawn for the DS picks up 30 years after the events of the GBA games, with the original characters' descendents signing up for hero duty this time around. From what I played, the core turn-based JRPG gameplay remains largely unchanged, with the emphasis once again on collecting djinn. Djinn are creatures that give you access to different kinds of elementally-themed powers called "psynergy"; the more you find, the stronger spells you can cast. The djinn themselves also have abilities that can be used in battle, such as lowering enemy defenses or healing members of your party. When enough djinn have been used and put on "standby," they can all summon deities like Atalanta or Rameses, which do devastating amounts of damage.
Unfortunately, the demo I got to play was very short. First, I got to work through the basics of battle, attacking with weapons, casting spells, and summoning deities with my djinn. The combat will feel immediately familiar to fans of the series, but newcomers should have no trouble picking up Dark Dawn's strategy. I also got to try a level that focused more on how you can use the djinn's power to solve environmental puzzles. I had to navigate my way through a simple obstacle course using two spells: fire and move. Fire, as you might expect, burns things away and lights fuses, while move can shove objects at a distance. I had to roll a few logs in the proper sequence to clear a path, and move statues over fountains to save a djinn - nothing too taxing. I was a bit stumped when I saw a djinn trapped at the top of a tree, but the Nintendo rep suggested I think about what I would do if my cat were trapped up a tree. When I tried to use fire to burn the tree down, he shook his head. "You must be a dog person."
You can use the stylus, the stylus and face buttons, or just the buttons to interact with Dark Dawn; I absolutely hated trying to use the stylus to control the spells and quickly abandoned that approach for buttons-only. Perhaps it was just that the unit I was playing had fallen victim to thousands of Comic Con attendees, but I found the stylus to be sloppy and unresponsive. Once I switched to the d-pad and buttons, I had no problems at all.
Dark Dawn's look is completely in keeping with the previous Golden Suns - bright, colorful sprites, dramatic deities and adorable little djinn. I wish I'd gotten to play more, but I guess I'll have to wait until the game comes out on November 29.