I wanted to go back and play a bunch of old games, and I figured I should start with a RPG. Golden Sun is a great RPG for GBA. I recommend it as a starting point for anyone new to role-playing games.
The graphical quality is pretty high for a GBA game, but I do not think that means much. GBA games generally look awful. Golden Sun is an exception! It looks great in general. The character sprites are crude but cute and lovable. The battles are animated very well and look very dynamic. The tile-based levels are seamless and look very nice.
The music is phenomenal. The sound effects are nice, and the battle theme, while repetitive, has a very nice hook to it that makes you simply want to hum along.
The battles are turn-based and not really very impressive in the sense of the actual options given to you, but the way the battles look is what really sells the game. It makes turn-based battles look fun, absurd as that sounds.
The inventory is fairly basic but not too basic. The items can be used inside or outside of battle, which is a feature I love to have for healing reasons. I also like how if you get poisoned in battle, the ailment carries over into the overworld environment, so you continue to be damaged even outside of battle, until you cure the poison effect or it goes away on its own. Of course, some poisons are temporary, others are permanent. Characters can be equipped with progressively better weapons and stat-changing clothing and trinkets. Some items prevent poison. Other items prevent other ailments, like slow and sleep, which are traditional battle-oriented RPG elements.
The game reminds me a lot of Pokemon's early days. You got your first creature, trained it up in battle, and it gained new abilities. In Golden Sun, the human characters do battle, and their creatures are like summons which do single attacks or help the party in some way. This can be a lot of fun for those who like Pokemon, but it is also very tempting and enjoyable to those who do not like Pokemon. It could convert some Pokemon haters!
Overall, I think Golden Sun is still worth a look, even though it is old. I has a decent amount of play time (about 20-30 hours), but replay value is somewhat low, and there is a grind to level up the characters.
This game plays beautifully in No$GBA and many other emulators, and it works well as a low end PC game in such a case.